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Welcome to week 3 of WE.
The first week I explained to you what it is I’m doing. My devious plan about this new experiment in church membership. If you missed it, you really need to watch it because at the end of this series – on August 2nd – you will have an opportunity to opt in on this experiment and be a part of the ground floor. That means you get to help create and shape what WE will be as a church. It’s pretty much warm jello right now, and will be at first as WE – all of us – work together to make Reality Church resemble the Acts 2 church.
Last week, I talked about how the word WE implies UNITY, and that unity is the fundamental foundation of being part of the WE – that you and I are united in our beliefs and in our cause. Specifically, to be a member you must hold the same beliefs about God and the Bible as we do, and you must believe in and be dedicated to fulfilling our vision and mission.
Also, remember that this idea of membership starts with the fact that you and I greatly desire to grow spiritually, to become all that God designed us to be. No one is forced to become a member or believe in this stuff, but if you do and you want to be a part of this, you can. If you don’t believe as we do and you don’t feel compelled by our vision and mission, then don’t become a member. You can still attend and participate and enjoy what we do here, but trust me you will be missing out on the greatest part of being a child of God….the family. Which is what I’m going to talk about today.
After you get past the desire part, and after you get past the unity in beliefs and direction, there is still more to it. Up until now we’ve only been talking about internal desires and beliefs. Being a part of the WE is far more than just what we think and feel. All of that is pointless unless it translates into what we do. And part of that is what I’m going to share with you today.
If you remember from last week, I talked about how inside of the human body all the different systems and parts not only serve the person the body belongs to but also serve and interact with each other. The Muscular system requires the nervous system to get it’s orders, and it requires the structure of the bones and the energy from the oxygen in the blood, which gets it form the lungs, and so on. All the systems work interdependently. It’s an amazing display of teamwork and design.
It works the same way in the Body of Christ. As Paul says in
Romans 12
For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
1 Corinthians 12
24 But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
And again in our key scripture for this series:
Ephesians 4
11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.
12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.
13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.
15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.
16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
That last verse there really says it all.
As each part – as each member – does its own special work, it HELPS THE OTHER PARTS GROW, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
I, as your pastor am called by God to equip you to do His work, to build up this body, this church, this local body of Christ. But I can’t do it alone. I am merely one part of the many – just like you. It requires all of us together doing our own special work.
And that effort, on all of our parts goes in two different directions. I call them vertical and horizontal. Vertical we will talk about next week, but this week we are talking about horizontal. My part and your part in this body, just like in a human body, is to help each other grow. It is my job to help you grow. It is your job to help me grow. It is his job to help her grow, and so on.
So, how do we do that? What does that look like?
Well, the key is the last word in that verse…
16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
  • It’s what makes the world go round.
  • It’s what drove God to send his only son to die for us.
  • It’s what caused Jesus to lay down his life for us.
  • It’s the whole point of everything because as 1 John 4:8 says, God is Love.
What was it Jesus said would be the mark of his followers, of his disciples. I covered this for several weeks, so you should all have this memorized by now.
John 13
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
And remember this is not the version of love you see in our culture. If you were at our Wednesday Night Worship a couple months ago you learned that the love that Jesus is talking about doesn’t even exist in our modern dictionary. You can catch it on our website.
Love in the New Testament has nothing to do with
or sex.
It’s AGAPE love, which is defined in
1 Corinthians 13.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
We are called to AGAPE LOVE each other. Jesus showed the ultimate of this kind of love when he laid down his life for us.
For us, there are more practical ways to show this kind of love to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Because that is what we are. God calls us his children when we accept his son as our savior.
1 John 3:1
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
We become family, brothers and sisters of Christ himself and brothers and sisters of each other. This is why in the older churches that’s what we refer to each other as…brother, sister, etc.
And this family is based on biblical love, not sensual love, not worldly love, but sacrificial others-first AGAPE love.
And since this kind of love is not natural to us, in fact it is foreign to us. We don’t, in our own nature, know how to be selfless. We are naturally selfish and the world feeds that belief by painting love as something that’s all about making ME HAPPY.
When God’s love, biblical love, the kind of love we are called to is how can I make YOU HAPPY even at my own expense.
So, since this is not natural to us, the New Testament has given us a great practical guide of what this looks like in practice – even more so than the great definition in 1 Corinthians 13. It’s a long list and covers most of the NT, and we refer to them as the “ONE ANOTHERS.
And I’m going to cover each one in excruciating detail…over the next few years.
As I studied these, I noticed a certain pattern and was able to split the list into four loose categories.
One category is Unity, which I talked about last week:
  • Unity
    • Be devoted to one another (Rom. 12:10).
    • Be of the same mind toward one another (Rom. 12:16).
But the other three categories, I believe, spell out how it is that we love each other. It’s kind of like three directions of love.
The first is probably the most obvious kind of love. I call it POSITIVE LOVE. It’s me actively and positively loving on you.
  • POSITIVE LOVE – Actively do good toward others
    • Build up one another (Rom. 14:19; 1 Thes. 5:11).
    • Counsel one another (Rom. 15:14).
    • Be gentle with one another (Eph. 4:2).
    • Show compassion to one another (Col. 3:12).
    • Encourage one another (1 Thes. 5:11).
    • Speak truth to one another (Eph. 4:25; Col 3:9).
    • Comfort one another with the hope of Christ’s return (1 Thes. 4:18).
    • Seek good for one another (1 Thes. 5:15).
    • Serve one another (1 Peter 4:10; Gal. 5:13).
    • Show holy affection to one another (1 Peter 5:14).
    • Give sacrificially to meet one another’s needs (1 John 3:16–17).
    • Be kind to one another so as to preserve unity (Eph. 4:32).
It’s ultimately KINDNESS – the positive, intentional showing of love to another person. It’s doing what I can to meet your needs, to lift you up, to honor you, to help you, to treat you well. It’s going out of my way to make your life better. It has nothing to do with me or my needs or wants, and everything to do with you and your needs. It’s a positive flow of love energy via word and action toward another person.
So, to be a member of this family, you and I will be expected to positively love all the other members.
Remember it’s an action, not a feeling.
It’s a choice, not an emotion.
The second category of the ONE-ANOTHERS or of AGAPE LOVE is what I’m calling PASSIVE LOVE. This is all about how I react to the way you treat me, especially when you treat me poorly.
  • PASSIVE LOVE – React well to how other’s treat you
    • Bear with the inherent sinfulness of one another (Col. 3:13).
    • Forgive one another (Col. 3:13).
    • Bear one another’s sin burdens (Gal. 6:2).
    • Live in peace with one another (1 Thes. 5:13).
    • Be patient toward one another (1 Peter 4:8; Eph. 4:2).
    • Be hospitable to one another without complaint (1 Peter 4:9).
    • Act in humility toward one another (1 Peter 5:5).
    • Refuse to become resentful toward one another (1 John 3:11–12).
    • Submit to one another (Eph. 5:21).
    • Give preference to one another (Rom. 12:10).
    • Accept one another by withholding judgment (Rom. 14:1).
    • Accept one another by showing deference (Rom. 14:1–5; 15:7).
    • Serve one another by showing deference in matters of liberty (Gal. 5:13).
And from the love chapter:
  • Be Patient
  • Don’t be jealous
  • Don’t be easily angered
  • Don’t hold a record of wrongs
This kind of love is a bit HARDER than the POSITIVE LOVE, because our natural reaction to being wronged is to retaliate, to seek revenge, to hold a grudge, to get angry or upset. But AGAPE LOVE, the kind of love we are called to is again, not about ME. In fact, one of the key definitions in 1 Corinthians 13 is that LOVE IS NOT SELF SEEKING. In other words, even when others don’t love me in return or even when they are the opposite of love to me – I am to be return their evil with LOVE. It’s not about my rights or my pride. It’s about forgiveness and patience and humility.
This is tougher than the positive love, but this is exactly how Jesus behaved and he was treated horribly.
I’m not suggesting you be a doormat. You don’t have to put up with bad treatment and never do anything about it, but revenge or retaliation is never the answer. There are other avenues to deal with those situations.
So, to be a member of this family, you will be expected to commit to passively loving all the other members.
Paul summed this up in
Romans 12
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
It’s a choice.
The first two categories are great – me loving on you with positive love, and you tolerating me with your passive love. If that is all there was, then we would probably get bored and tired after awhile because we’re basically running in circles. While it’s all good, it lacks purpose.
Which is the third category of LOVE via the ONE ANOTHERS
  • PURPOSEFUL LOVE – Actively help each other grow
    • Encourage one another to forsake unbelief and hardness of heart (Heb. 3:13).
    • Spur one another on to spiritual growth (Heb. 10:24).
    • Encourage one another by faithful participation in your local church (Heb. 10:25).
    • Confess sins to one another (James 5:16).
    • Pray for one another’s spiritual and physical healing (James 5:16).
    • Participate in the holy walk with one another (1 John 1:7).
    • Fight fear together by growing in love (1 John 4:18).
    • Walk in truth together (1 John 3:18; 2 John 1:5).
1 Corinthians 13 alludes to this with:
  • Do not delight in evil but rejoice in the truth…for each other
We are not only on this earth to love on each other,
we are on this earth to grow and become more like Christ,
and we are not meant to do that alone.
We are here to help each other.
That verse in Ephesians covers this:
15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.
16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
The purpose of us doing this together is so that the whole body will be healthy and growing and full of love, and that we will grow in every way more and more like Christ who is our head.
Our love has a purpose.
And to be a member of this body, this family, you and I will have to commit to not only treating each other well, but to helping each other grow, to spurring each other on toward the goal of spiritual maturity, to deep relationship with Christ.
This is where the rubber meets the road. This is what the family of God is all about. This is what Jesus meant when He told us to love each other.
We are to be a body of believers who are united around Christ and sworn to love each other for the purpose of knowing Christ more.
Can you imagine being a part of a group like that?
Can you imagine being a part of a family where every other member has committed to helping YOU GROW, to LOVING YOU POSITIVELY, PASSIVELY, AND PURPOSEFULLY as defined in scripture, not by the world?
Well, you can be. WE can be. This is what WE is all about. It’s about unity around Christ, and loving each other as He has loved us. Could there be anything more beautiful? I don’t think so. Could it get any better? Amazingly YES! Which I’ll talk about next week.
One concern I’m sure most of us have is whether you will be able to do all of this loving, all of this giving of yourself to others. Perhaps your wondering “What about me?” How do I know that my needs will be met? Also, won’t I eventually run out of stuff to give?
Well, that is a perfectly natural question. We can’t help but be naturally concerned with ourselves, so it’s hard to really imagine a world where I abandon all self interest and only focus on the needs of others and somehow have my own needs still met.
To illustrate how this works, I’m going to use a phenomenon that probably only works in the English language.
What we’re talking about is the difference between a life focused and centered on ME and a life focused on WE. It just so happens that these two words when written in capitals are vertical mirrors of each other. You could say that the word WE is an upside-down ME or vice versa.  The E is inconsequential, but the M and the W depending on the font used are exact vertical mirrors of each other.
So, for a minute let’s look at the M and the W and picture them as containers of some kind. Imagine a 3-dimensional object that has depth and that the front and back are enclosed in clear plastic or something.
Kind of like this…
I know it’s not exactly what I was talking about, but it was free to make from stuff I had at the office…trying to be budget conscious… So humor me.
Notice that if an M were a container, it would probably be something like this, with the bulk of the containing space under the double arches or peaks. And if you flip it over, a W would be more like this with the bulk of the containing space above the double V’s. The E’s are inconsequential in this, but I put them on there to keep us focused.
Now, imagine that these colorful balls represent all that you have. Your time, your talent, your treasure, your energy, your willpower, etc. Imagine these balls represent the acts of love that we talked about today, the acts of taking care of needs or such.
I life that is focused on ME will keep all of these balls safely tucked away inside the walls of my M. This is ME making sure MY needs are met, and MY happiness is secure. Notice how it’s not easy to take these things away from you, but it’s also not very easy to give anything to you – how would we get it in?
Flip this over and look at a life focused on WE. This is a life that is open and gives freely of itself. Others can take or you can give out easily with this wide open top – but also notice that this makes it easy to put stuff in, for others AND GOD to add goodness to your life.
A wise man once said:
A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. (Proverbs 11:25)
(That was Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived…)
And to show how this works in the context of WE, I’m going to need four volunteers to come on stage with me…
Now each of you has a WE bucket that is full of all your good stuff. Now the goal of this exercise is that you are to attempt to empty your bucket by putting your good stuff in the other contestant’s buckets. You can’t throw them on the floor, and you can’t block the others from putting stuff in your bucket. You have to do your best to out-give the others until your bucket is empty.
Now GO (Play some fun song while this is going on)
Ok, you can stop.
Do you see what happened here? Do you see how it was impossible to empty your bucket when you were in a community of people who are also trying to empty their buckets? That is how this works. When I am ME MINDED, I hoard and hold onto and I sit over here to the side and miss out on all the fun. But when I am WE MINDED and Jesus calls us to be, there is no end to the love and help and encouragement I will receive from all of you as I do my best to empty myself in service to you. And on top of all that, God throws more goodness in there as we obey him and serve him (next week).
So, which do you think it is better to be? Isn’t it sad that most of us spend our whole lives being ME MINDED and we miss out on all the goodness that God and His People have to offer all because we are afraid of losing what little we do have.
A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
Do you believe the bible? Do you believe God’s Word?
16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
Do you want this? I sure do.
This is just one of the amazing benefits of being a member of the Body of Christ, of being a member here at Reality as we launch into an experiment to see if this can really happen here and now in 2015 like it did for the Acts 2 church.
Just a quick reminder about that since it’s been a few weeks since I read it to you:
Acts 2
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
We can be this. We are SUPPOSED TO be this. We MUST be this.
Could this change your life? Your family? Do you know anyone else who needs this?
Now is the time to quit wishing things would change. Now is the time to decide that the change will start with ME as I flip myself upside down and decide to be WE MINDED instead of ME MINDED.
Even if you don’t become a member here, this is a good way to live – but it will be harder to do if you are not actually part of the WE. I hope and pray that you will decide to be a part of this.
Let’s Pray.