In our last series, we talked about loving our neighbours, and stepped through six shifts. From stranger to neighbour to acquaintance to partner to friend to becoming “like family”.
It’s possible to become like family with a focused group of people, where you practice loving your neighbours within that small group, and see that spill over to others outside.
This series looks specifically at this stage of being “like family” with other followers of Jesus. It’s called the church, believe it or not. Important that explore what church means as we prepare to launch a new church in Ajax in 2014.
You probably have all sorts of preconceived notions of what that word means. Attached you’ll find a video of some people on the street who were asked about what they think of when they hear “church”.
You can find the video here:
Question: When you hear the word “church” what do you immediately see, or think? Make a list, there may be several. What experiences have informed you?
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This week we’re exploring how following Jesus impacts our lifestyle by one principle: grace. Grace is one of the most important, life-changing aspects of Christian story. Here’s how the Bible talks about grace:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:4-10 ESV)
Here is an easy way to remember the meaning:
A friend had a young child at home, and a baby on the way and his mother loved to help out by cleaning up the house. One particularly stressful time she was coming down to decompress the situation by cleaning up the house. My friend came home that day to find his wife madly cleaning up the house, before the mother in law arrived. She didn’t want her mother-in-law to see a messy house, even though she was there to clean it as a gift.
We so often we think that we have to have cleaned up our lives before we can accept what God wants to give us. We don’t have to have sorted ourselves out before we can accept God’s free gift of forgiveness, his grace.
When you ask someone why they don’t like Christianity…you’ll often hear “it’s just a bunch of rules.” I don’t need a book to tell me how to be a good person. If that was true, I wouldn’t want to be part of this religion either.
But it’s not true…that’s the religion that Jesus came to get rid of, and not his hope for us. Here’s the version of Christianity that people are usually describing:
Obey God’s laws
God will accept you
He’ll provide you with loving care
He’ll give you a new status, as a servant of God.
This is a law religion, the kind of thing the Pharisees liked to promote. Jesus didn’t have very nice things to say about that!
The problem is – no one has ever obeyed God’s laws perfectly enough to earn God’s love. Actually, there was one person – Jesus. He knew our hopeless situation, and did something about it. Jesus was all about grace. This involves the same steps, but in a different order:
God loves and accepts you…unconditionally
God will provide you with loving care. He wants to be part of your life today, not some day in the future.
God will give you a new status: Child of God adopted into his family
You now return God’s favour with thanksgiving and living in his way.
In grace…we are given God’s love, care and fatherhood as free gifts, even before having proven ourselves worthy, and that gives us a lot to live up to!
Question: Where have you typically seen laws and rules in your faith? As the way to earn God’s love, or respond to it? Why?
Reminder: Last week we talked about worship, and asked you to complete our online survey about worship here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/8TS7K93
Reminder: Earlier in this series, we saw the importance of reading the Bible together in sync, so our new daily bible readings start today in our mobile app and web site.
This series looks at becoming “like family” with others learning to follow Jesus. We're exploring how the church is not a building, institution or event, but a community of people. It's important that explore what church means as we prepare to launch a new church in Ajax in 2014.