Almost the Gospel

Forward02

The “Moral Majority” has been fighting for Christian values and principles in our nation for about as long as I can remember.

Is that working out for us?  Are we a more moral nation today as a result, or a less moral one?  Is our society improving, or deteriorating?  What went wrong?
Maybe we need a new way of thinking about our values and principles, and a new realization of what we should really fight for.

Lifegroup Discussion questions after the jump!

 If you’re the discussion leader, have everyone open to this page on their mobile device, and take turns reading the questions, verses, etc.

So, what do you think… Are we a MORE moral nation today than 50 years ago, or a LESS moral nation?  Can you support your answer?

On Sunday, I talked about how we get caught up in fighting for “values and principles” that look like the the answer our culture needs, but aren’t the real answer.  Maybe this esurance commercial can illustrate my point better than I can:

The early church faced a pretty big “current issue” within their group.  It was a very important one… One that could have gotten them off track and onto a whole different purpose as an organization.

Acts 6:1
But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food. 

So, there was rapid growth in the church, and there were needs going unmet. The church could have gotten swept up into this immediate issue, and could have very very easily changed from being a GOSPEL SPREADING, KINGDOM BRINGING organization into a food distribution program.

I know it sounds kinda crazy, but these big changes often start out in subtle ways.  One person gets angry at another.  This person feels unjustly treated, that one feels disrespected.  It is really easy to forget who the real enemy is, and to get onto the current issue, which always feels really important at the time.  It can SEEM like the real thing, but that doesn’t mean it IS the real thing.

Acts 6:2-4
So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.” 

Do you see the clarity of vision here?  Sure, this issue was very important, but it wasn’t the most important. People needed to be served properly. Women and children needed to be fed. But the apostles had incredible strength of vision here, and refused to get bogged down in the issues of the moment. They weren’t distracted by the “sorta the Gospel…”  They kept their eye on the ball… The spreading of the Good News.

Their solution was powerful.  Rather than create an entirely new complex ministry structure, they just basically said “let’s be the BODY of CHRIST. Let’s serve each other like the Body should.”

2000 years later, are we still doing this?  Let’s be honest for just a moment.  Do we handle problems within the Body with that kind of vision and leadership?  When we don’t like something or someone in church, do we handle the issue more like the Greek-speaking believers, (Acts 6:1) or more like the Twelve (Acts 6:2-4)?

What have you seen to be the results of how issues are handled within the Body of Christ?

Wouldn’t it be great if we could keep our eyes on the ball of spreading the Good News?  Wouldn’t it be great if we could let go of the issues of the day and just focus on what God has really called us to?  Look in the next few verses to see what the result of that kind of relentless vision might just be in the church.

Acts 6:5-6
Everyone liked this idea, and they chose the following: Stephen (a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit), Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas of Antioch (an earlier convert to the Jewish faith). These seven were presented to the apostles, who prayed for them as they laid their hands on them. 

Amazing.  They found some guys were were gifted and talented, and filled with the Spirit, and they delegated the responsibility of this issue to them, so they could focus forward as a group.  What comparisons can you make between this early church model and ours today?  How do we respond when someone asks us to use our talents and gifts for others?

These guys just did it.  They were all about doing what they could to foster the big picture.  The main thing.  And look at what happened as a result:

Acts 6:7
So God’s message continued to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too.

Recently, we taked about the fact that our church was way out of range as far as serving goes.  In the average church, 10-20% of the people actually serve each other.  In our church this summer, literally 40% of our people were engaged in serving.  Could it be that this is one of the big reasons that God is blessing The Orchard Church right now?

So what does this mean for us? What are the next steps that our group should take to make sure our eyes are “on the ball” of the MOST IMPORTANT THING?

1 Corinthians 15:3-4
I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.

Having this focus was vital to those apostles all throughout the rest of their lives.  Think about what they went through.  The difficulties they had to endure.  All to make sure that the Gospel was spread.  They had every issue you can think of that could have distracted them from their purpose, but they kept fighting the good fight.

2 Corinthians 4:8-18
We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 

11 Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 12 So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you. 

13 But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.”* 14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus,* will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15 All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. 

16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are* being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 

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