We are kicking off a brand new series called ONE. This series will take us through the end of November, right up to our Christmas kickoff in December.
Let me pray for us and we’ll jump into this new series.
Let’s take a little informal poll. All you have to do is raise your hand to answer these questions.
Here we go. Rock or country? How many of you say rock? How many of you say, “I love rock and roll, so put another dime in the jukebox baby?” How many of you say country? I’m with you…unless we’re talking about that bro country garbage. Then I’m out.
Coke or Pepsi? How many of you say Coke? Where are the Pepsi people?
Ok, this one really matters. Gold Star or Skyline? How many of you say Gold Star? Now, where are my Skyline people? That’s my tribe! How many of say neither one? I feel so sad for you.
Here’s another important one. Tea or coffee? How many tea people do we have? Where the coffee folks?
Here’s the point. We’re different! We’re all different. And the truth is that we actually have more significant differences than just where we choose to get our caffeine fix. We come from different backgrounds. We’ve had different experiences. We have different gifts and abilities, different likes and dislikes. We are different.
But here’s what is so beautiful about the church. In Christ, we have far more in common than we ever dreamed! What unites us is FAR greater than what divides us. And if our church is truly going to achieve everything that God has in store for us, then we have to grab onto that truth with both hands. What unites us is FAR greater than what divides us. We are ONE!
That’s what the Apostle Paul tells us in the book of Philippians. This book is in the New Testament in the Bible. It was actually a letter that Paul wrote to the church in the city of Philippi. Here’s what he told the believers in Philippi in Philippians 1.
Paul said, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” (Philippians 1:27-28a, NIV)
We’re going to spend the next three weeks unpacking these two verses.
In these verses, Paul was calling the church to be one. He said that the church stands firm in ONE Spirit. We strive together as ONE.
There is a unity, a oneness in the church that you simply can’t find anywhere else. When we truly understand who God is, who we are, and what we’re called to do, all our differences melt away because what unites us is far greater than what divides us.
And when you look at what Paul wrote here in Philippians 1, you see that the church has one mission. We are together, we are united, we are one because we have one mission. And Paul tells us exactly what the mission is.
Look again at what Paul said. He said, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” (Philippians 1:27-28a, NIV)
What is our one mission? It’s pretty obvious. It’s the gospel. Paul said it not once, but twice. We are to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel We strive together as one for the faith of the gospel.
What are we about here at Connect? We are about one thing. We are about the gospel.
What drives us? What is the fuel in our tank? We are fueled by the gospel.
What is our one mission? Our one mission is the gospel.
That’s what our church is about. In fact, it is the ONLY thing that our church is about. Our church is laser-focused on one thing: the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So if that’s true, if that is the one thing that we’re all about, we need to make sure that we all know what it is. What is the gospel?
The word “gospel” has really gotten messed up. It’s very misunderstood. There are a lot of people, and a lot of churches, who have really messed it up.
Here’s what “gospel” means. It simply means “good news.”
That’s what the gospel is. It is the “good news” about Jesus. And that is what our church is all about. That is our one mission.
So why is the news about Jesus so good? What is it that makes it such good news? Check out how Paul described it in Ephesians 2.
He said, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.
All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:1-5, NIV)
These verses tell us exactly what the gospel is. So let’s unpack it.
First of all, the gospel tells me that I’m a sinner. I’m a jacked up, screwed up, messed up sinner.
Paul said, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins…” (Ephesians 2:1, NIV)
I was DEAD in my sin. Not struggling with my sin. Not muddling through my sin. I was DEAD in my sin, because that’s what sin does. It kills. It is the killshot for our souls.
Our culture desperately wants to redefine sin. In fact, it wants to eliminate sin. There is no such thing as right and wrong. If it’s right for you, it’s right.
But it’s all a grand deception. We’ve been deceived into believing that we can live in a way that actually makes us dead. And that goes for ALL of us. Every single one of us. We’re all jacked up. We’re all sinners. And it’s like cyanide for our soul. It kills.
And here’s what makes it even worse. There’s nothing you and I can do about it on our own. Absolutely nothing.
But that makes sense, doesn’t it? If sin makes us dead, then how can we possibly help ourselves? Nobody in their right mind expects a dead person to be able to do anything for themselves, right?
I’m not trying to sound cruel or heartless, but just think about this. When you go to a funeral and you see the person lying in the casket with their best suit or dress on, their hair is fixed, maybe their makeup looks just right…do you ever look at this person and think, “Wow, she really did a good job fixing herself up for today? He really made himself look nice for his funeral.”
No, because that would be insane, right? You know that the funeral home staff did all of that, because dead people can’t do anything for themselves.
Well, if we are dead in our sin, then guess what…we can’t do a dang thing to help ourselves. Dead means dead.
And not only am I dead, but I’m also doomed. My sin requires punishment.
That’s what Paul said in verse 3 when he wrote, “Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.” (Ephesians 2:3b, NIV)
God is holy, and a holy God requires that sin must be punished. And if we’re all sinners, that means we all deserve punishment. We all deserve His wrath.
So here’s what we’ve seen so far. We’re all sinners, which means we’re dead and we’re doomed.
Does that sound like good news to you? Not hardly. And if this is all there was, then the gospel wouldn’t be the gospel. This is bad news. But the gospel is good news, so let’s keep going.
Paul told us that we were dead and doomed sinners. But then he said this in verses 4-5.
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4-5, NIV)
This is the gospel. It is a God who has great love for us.
Some of you are convinced you are unloved. You are completely unlovable. Maybe someone has told you that. Maybe you’ve told yourself that. But do you know who has NEVER said that about you? God. God has never said that about you. God has great love for you. Greater than you could ever fathom. Greater than you could possibly comprehend.
And Paul said, “Because of His great love us, God, who is rich in mercy…”
God doesn’t just have mercy. He is rich in mercy. He is overflowing with mercy. You remember Scrooge McDuck on DuckTales? Remember how he could swim in the all the gold he had in his moneybin. God is swimming in mercy. When it comes to mercy, He is wealthy. Loaded. Absolutely rolling in it. Filthy rich.
“But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions…”
In His great love and mercy, God made us alive even though we were dead, because that’s what God does. He makes dead things alive again. We were dead in sin, but God gave us life. And He did it through Christ. Through Jesus, His Son.
Without Jesus, there is no gospel. There is no good news. Jesus, God’s own Son, died on a cross, even though He had done nothing wrong. Even though He was completely without sin. He died as the punishment for our sin.
And in exchange, we are forgiven. Our sin is completely wiped out. Gone. Forgotten. And we are set free.
And then, three days after Jesus died on the cross, He rose from the dead. And His resurrection to life sets us free to live a new life. We were dead, but now we live a completely new life.
That’s the gospel. And Paul reminds us of why the gospel exists in the first place; why we can be made alive in the first place. Grace. “It is by grace you have been saved.”
In fact, a few verses later, Paul said, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV)
We are saved by grace, though our faith in Jesus. It’s not from ourselves. It’s not by our works. It’s not because of anything we have done or anything we could ever do. Because remember, dead people can’t do anything for themselves. It is 100% a gift of God.
And Paul said that, because we’ve been saved by grace, no one can boast. There are no superChristians. There is no room for self-righteous, holier-than-thou people in the church. That is the very definition of hypocrisy. How can we possibly believe we’re better than anybody else when all we are is a bunch of people who were dead, and the only reason we’re alive is because God had mercy on us? Because God lavished grace on us.
There’s no room to boast or brag about who we are or about anything we’ve done. There is only one thing that we boast can about, and that’s Jesus.
That’s why the very first core value of our church is it’s all about Jesus. Jesus is our hope. Jesus is our life. Jesus is what unifies us. Jesus is why we are one. And that’s why the gospel of Jesus is our one mission.
So there’s a crash course on the gospel. That’s what the gospel is all about. And that is our singular focus as a church. The gospel of Jesus. It really is all about Jesus.
So if that is our one mission, if our church really is all about Jesus, then that means there are some things we are not about. There are some things that other churches choose to get involved in, but we just refuse because we have one, and only one, mission. If we’re all about Jesus, if we’re all about the gospel, then there are some things that we are not about.
Things like politics. There is a great temptation for the church to jump into political matters. Even more so in presidential election years, like next year.
There are churches who will endorse candidates from both parties, even though that’s technically illegal because of their tax exempt status. They will host political rallies. They will get involved in all kinds of human political matters.
You won’t see any of that here at Connect. Now, that doesn’t mean that we don’t talk about political issues. We will talk about a political issue if it’s also a spiritual issue. If it’s something that we see spelled out in Scripture, you better believe we’ll talk about it. And there are times when that makes us very politically incorrect, but we don’t care. When we see something clearly spelled out in the Bible, we will talk about it. But we will not get involved in strictly political matters.
There are far, far too many Christians who put their hope and trust in politicians, political parties, and presidential candidates. I talked about this last week. We put our trust in Jesus. We put our faith and our hope in Jesus.
And you know what? If Donald Trump is the next president of the United States, Jesus Christ is still King of the universe. If Hillary Clinton is the next president, Jesus is still King. If Ben Carson or Marco Rubio is the next president, Jesus is still King. Jesus is the Lord of all. He is the crucified and risen King of heaven and earth. And He has no term limits. He is King for all eternity, and that’s why we’re all about Jesus.
Here’s something else that we’re not about here at Connect. Phony outrage.
I don’t know about you, but I am officially suffering from outrage fatigue. We have become so oversensitive as a culture, we are offended by the slightest thing. And Christians seem to be incredibly susceptible to that.
For example, apparently this is offensive. (Starbucks red cup) By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about it. There is some wingnut who used to be a pastor who posted a video online about Starbucks’ plain red cups. Apparently because there are no snowflakes and reindeer on them, Starbucks hates Christmas and Starbucks hates Jesus.
So he posted a video, and it blew UP. That video got thousands and thousands and thousands of likes and shares. People are talking about protesting and boycotting Starbucks.
But thankfully, most of the Christians I know said, “Oh my gosh, IT’S JUST A CUP!!!”
I get so sick of this phony outrage. Brian Morrissey wrote a blog post about this issue this past week, and he reminded us all that Starbucks is a secular company. They’re not a Christian company. They never claimed to be. Why in the world would we expect them to hold to Christian standards?
And by the way, since when are snowflakes and reindeer Christian symbols, anyway? It’s not like their cups used to have mangers and crosses on them.
“Well, I don’t care. I’m going to boycott Starbucks because their cups don’t say Merry Christmas.”
Well, then guess what…that means you need to boycott the Bible, too. Because I’ve got news for you…the words “Merry Christmas” are not in the Bible anywhere. If you want to go home and check, go for it. But it’s not there.
That’s why Connect just is not going to get involved in this kind of phony baloney outrage over stuff that isn’t even Scriptural. It’s a complete waste of time. It’s a complete waste of energy. And it makes Christians look like idiots.
Is that clear enough? Ok, let’s move on.
Connect is all about Jesus, which is why we’re not about playing it safe.
When churches get involved in politics, they’re playing it safe. You know why? Because they’re pretty much guaranteeing that the entire church will be made up of people who have similar political views. They have a “just like me” attitude. Everyone in the church should think and act and respond “just like me.” There is absolutely no risk there. It’s perfectly comfortable. It’s absolutely safe.
When churches get involved in phony outrage, they’re playing it safe. It’s really easy to yell and rant about the so-called “War on Christmas.” It’s a lot more difficult to have conversations with people who don’t know Jesus. Who might even be antagonistic toward our faith. That’s a whole lot more difficult and dangerous, so a lot of churches choose to play it safe. They’d rather scream at our culture rather than engage our culture. It’s easier, and it’s definitely safer.
Here at Connect, we absolutely refuse to go there. You can’t be all about Jesus and at the same time be all about playing it safe. That’s a complete contradiction.
Following Jesus is not safe. He never promised it would be. But think about it this way…aren’t you glad Jesus didn’t play it safe for you?
Jesus went to the cross for us. That definitely wasn’t safe. Jesus didn’t play it safe for us, and we refuse to play it safe for Him. We have one mission. It’s a risky mission. It can be a dangerous mission. But we have one mission: the gospel. And we will never play it safe when it comes to the mission of the gospel.
So here’s where we find ourselves. We are in a brand new location because God opened the door for us. In fact, God opened several doors for us to be here. Doors that we could have never opened ourselves. We’ve looked at this location for a long time. We’ve prayed about it for a long time. But the doors were always closed. But God has now opened the doors for us. We know that we’re not here by accident. We’re here by divine appointment. We are here by God’s purpose and design.
And here’s why we believe God has led us here. God placed us here to love and serve the families that make up this school, and the entire West Clermont school district.
We haven’t just been given a new location. We’ve been given a new and clarified mission. We are here to love and serve the families of West Clermont. And our love and service will open doors for us to reach them with the gospel.
So you’re going to see a very different vision and strategy emerge here at Connect over the next few months. But the cool thing is it’s already started. We had a chance to be generous toward a whole lot of families in the West Clermont district before we even had our first service here at WT! And there is an even bigger vision for it that is forming in our church.
We’re going to do things that we’ve never done before. We’re going to take risks that we’ve never taken before. It’s going to be audacious. It’s going to be risky. It’s going to be expensive. But you know what we believe? If it’s God’s will, it’s God’s bill. We are not going to play it safe. The gospel is our one mission, and the gospel simply won’t allow us to play it safe.
There are hundreds of families in this school district who are struggling to even put food on the table. There are tons of people who are addicted to heroin or other drugs. There are families that are struggling and hurting and broken. And Connect is committed to be a source of help and a source of hope for them.
And I know that not everyone here is part of the West Clermont district. We’ve got a lot of other school districts represented in our church. And we’re not writing them off, at all. God placed us here, so West Clermont is first place we’re going to focus. But if we can serve and help someone, if we can reach them for the gospel, we don’t care where they live. We’re all in.
And here’s what happens…when you serve, when you’re generous, when you love someone with no strings attached, it opens amazing doors to share the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. And that is our one mission. It’s all about Jesus. Always has been. Always will be.
And our church is united around that truth. It doesn’t matter how different we are. We are one in Christ, and we are one in our mission to connect more and more people to Him.