The Hole in Our Gospel – A Tale of Two Churches – Sermon

WELCOME

communion cup and broken bread

Communion Worship Service

Reminder: If you are planning to take part in the Lord’s Table at the end of the service, have your bread and juice ready.

Good morning First Baptist. We welcome you to worship this morning. Be sure to remember your brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the week as you pray for them, and as the Holy Spirit brings their faces to your mind. Be sure to also connect with them in the ways that are possible. And if you have any questions or would like to talk to someone, please don’t hesitate to contact the church through the church telephone and leave a message. (519-733-4144)

Songs

Call to Worship

On this day of memory, we gather to sing and to pray,
we remember the past and look to the future.
On this day when the guns once fell silent,
we come before God, seeking Your peace.
On this day of hope in the face of terror,
we come before God, praying with all our hearts:
God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come.
Open our eyes and the eyes of the nations
to find a different path through the disagreements of life in this world.
In this time of story, song, and prayer,
may we be re-committed to being people of Peace, true peace.
May we catch a vision of how the world could live together.
And so, we echo the old prayers,
Make us channels of your peace.

GOOD MORNING FBK & WELCOME TO WORSHIP!

Songs

Prayer

Prayer of Confession & Assurance

Lord of all,
the nations are Yours.
The poor are Your treasured ones—
widows, orphans, the aliens You protect.
Your justice reigns over all.
Forgive us when our ways
devour Your beloved.
We don’t mean to cause harm,
yet we do.
Forgive us when we consume
more than our fair share,
all the while knowing
that our excesses deny the poor
the things they need to live.
Forgive us for building bigger closets,
and not clothing the naked.
Forgive us for vacationing in leisure,
when multitudes long simply for rest.
Hear our prayer, Holy One.
May Your justice and grace
reign forever. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon:

We long to mend our ways.
Christ can bear these sins
for all who eagerly wait for Him.
His sacrifice on our behalf,
His grace toward us,
washes us anew.

The Hole in Our Gospel A Tale of Two Churches

Today's Message: Pastors Marlee Page and Dave Page

A Tale of Two Cities – have you ever read it? The classic novel was published in 1859 by Charles Dickens. It’s as story set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution. The novel tells the story of the French Doctor Manette, his 18-year-long imprisonment in the Bastille in Paris, and his release to live in London with his daughter Lucie whom he had never met.

As Dickens’s best-known work of historical fiction, A Tale of Two Cities is said to be one of the best-selling novels of all time.

Well, this morning, we want to tell you a tale of two churches. In contrast to Dickens work of historical fiction, the tale we share with you is one of prophetic truth, read as letters. Written by the Apostle John himself while he was in exile on the island of Patmos – near the end of his life. John wrote seven letters to seven different churches as directed and dictated by Jesus, given to John in a vision like, personal encounter with Jesus.

Here’s a question to get us started.  If Jesus were to write a letter to our church here in Kingsville, what do you think he would say?  Think of it: Jesus Christ, the Risen Christ Himself, dictating a message addressing the strengths and weaknesses of our local church, containing important information for the immediate future of the church. Wouldn’t we want to hear what he has to say to us? Of course, we would…As we said, John writes 7 specific letters, to 7 specific churches, but certainly meant for all of us. Both then in the 1st century and still today.

Here’s the 1st letter we want to share….

Scripture Reading: Revelation 3:14- 21

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 9:16-15

6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written:

“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
    their righteousness endures forever.”

10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

In the 4th Division of Richard Stearns book “The Hole in Our Gospel” (Ch 15 – 22), Richard Stearns shares his thoughts around the state of the North American church today. And He goes to great lengths (8 chapters) to point out that the greatest need of a local church is not to be more impressive by worldly standards of measurement—whether that means having a bigger crowd, a better building, or being more able to boast about all the great things we do, not that those have no value. However, compared to the greatest need of a local church, which is to be faithful to Jesus, to hold fast to the gospel, and to live lives that are pleasing to Him, what the culture around us today seems to place importance on, even the Christian culture in many places, pales in comparison.

Marlee and I came face to face with this a few years ago in 2016/2017. Many of you are aware that we were back and forth to Africa, specifically Zambia, working with both farmers and some churches there. And on our second trip we spent some extra time with a group of Pastors and 2 of their churches. To say the least their buildings, their resources, their crowds, were meager. What was most striking to us however was the contrast of these churches to another group of churches we had been at the previous year. Most of you would likely know of Andy Stanley and the Northpoint group of churches based in and around Atlanta Georgia. Marlee and I and some others were down there for a conference. The difference was striking.

At Northpoint, the building was steel, concrete, and magnificent.

At Monze the building was mud and fabric sheets and pitiful.

At Northpoint there were 6 services on Saturday and Sunday with approximately 9000 in attendance.

At Monze there was 1 service with approximately 30 in attendance.

At Northpoint the children’s area was called ‘Wamba Land’ it was like Disney World in a church.  

At Monze the Children’s area was a dirt floor beside the makeshift pulpit.

So, which of these Churches would you say was more successful?? Perhaps not a fair question but one certainly that applies to our discussion this morning.

While we think about this, it might be helpful for us to reflect on the state of these seven churches for just a moment. In these seven letters, only two of the seven churches were not reprimanded by Jesus, and when this letter was written, the apostolic age had not yet closed! So, you need to think about this in the light of the fact that the church has never really had a “golden age” when everything was right. In fact, from the very beginning of the New Testament Church there were problems—think of the dispute over the neglected widows described in Acts 6, or the problems with Gentiles and Jews in Acts 10 and 11. And while it might seem easy for us to underscore the reprimands of Jesus to the North American church today, possibly even to ourselves, what we want you to focus on is the unexpected encouragement we find in these letters today. Yes, it’s true that we struggle with many of the same problems Jesus addresses to the Church at Laodicea. But don’t be discouraged, don’t despair, because just as Jesus loved these churches enough to reprimand and encourage them (3:19), so also, He loves us, our church to encourage us as well.

Then, as now, the healthy churches were in the minority too.

The main problem with the last church addressed in these letters, Laodicea, seems to be complacency. Jesus does not want this. He wants Laodicean church to be zealous and repent or change.

Consider again what Jesus is actually saying to the Laodicean Church. Simply put, Jesus calls the church in Laodicea to rely on Him and His resources rather than on their own. Because of their wealth and seeming self-sufficiency, Jesus challenges them to consider their witness as His followers.

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:15–16.

Focus on this term lukewarm for just a minute. ABOUT six miles from Laodicea, is an area known as HIERAPOLIS, which is famous for its hot springs. The waters are as hot as 95 degrees Fahrenheit. By contrast, the waters of nearby Colossae were cold and pure. The site of Laodicea appears to have been chosen because it was a crossroads, not because it had its own water supply. It seems that Laodicea received water from an impressive aqueduct of stone pipes. Archaeological evidence indicates that the waters around Laodicea were afflicted with a calcium carbonate content that resulted in the waters being impure —that is, the water would often cause vomiting and people to spit the water out.

Laodicea was also a wealthy banking center. After a massive earthquake in a.d. 60, Laodicea needed no help from Rome in the rebuilding of the city. In this Laodicea seems to have demonstrated a certain pride – self-sufficiency. There are also some indications that Laodicea might have also been home to significant specialists in ophthalmology.

And finally, the city of Laodicea was also something of a center of style, “promoting a fashion in black glossy fabrics from the natural fleeces of an animal developed by its own breeders.”

Bad water. Big banks. Stylish garments. Eye doctors. Jesus speaks to them as they are, but don’t miss that He also speaks to the real needs they have.

“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.” Revelation 3:17–18.

It seems that the affluence of Laodicea made the church there particularly vulnerable to self-reliance. Given the enormous affluence of our own culture, we need to hear what Jesus says to the church in Laodicea. Richard Stearns affirms again and again that we need to be shown that the wealth of our culture does not meet our deepest needs and in fact it may be the very thing causing the hole in our Gospel. Jesus calls the church at Laodicea to recognize that their needs go deeper than what their resources can handle. Their problem is not physical and economic but spiritual. This is exactly what Stearns is getting at, our abundant physical and economic resources have dulled our true sense of need for God and the gospel, and Jesus calls us through this letter to Laodicea to recognize the deep need we have so that the church in North America will cease to be lukewarm too.

At the beginning of this letter, Jesus has introduced Himself to the church in Laodicea as “the faithful and true witness” (3:14), and He now gives them faithful and true testimony in 3:18: “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich.” The church in Laodicea didn’t need more worldly gold; they need the gold they can only buy from Jesus—without money and without price.

Here’s a question for each of us to consider: When you sense a hope, an anticipation, that your life is about to get better, what fuels that hope? What causes you to feel the anticipation?

Is it the thought of having more money, or is it the thought of having more of Jesus?
Do you think that more cash or more stuff will make you happier?

That’s what the world wants us to think! Or could you be, deep down inside, longing for a deeper understanding of God’s character, of the humble servant way of Jesus, of the wise plan that God is working out to increase your joy? We encourage you to wrestle with this question.

Do you want more financial security, or do you want the gold that only comes from Jesus – as He says, “so that you may be rich?”

Now, we promised you a tale of two churches didn’t we? And a message of encouragement too!

Jesus had Paul write another letter, to another church – at Philadelphia, in the Lycus valley not in Pennsylvania.

Scripture: Revelation 3:7-10

To the Church in Philadelphia

7 “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:

These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.

“I know your deeds” This is said of the other churches, too. But for most of the churches, it was a rebuke. They were observed by God and their failure and struggle was seen by Him. But in the case of Philadelphia, it was an encouragement that God saw. Oftentimes God’s people get discouraged because they feel no one knows of their interest and service for the Lord. But “I know your deeds” says otherwise. It’s a real encouragement to be faithful whether your service is on the stage or behind the stage. Your works may never be seen by others, but God sees them all and that is what counts.

And so, like Stearns throughout this book, Jesus in this letter to Philadelphia encourages us with the opportunity before us.

“I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.”  Revelation 3:8.

I think often that we get overcome by the fact that we are just the little church in Kingsville or in the rural landscape of Africa. So in our perceived littleness and weakness we may often feel we cannot serve the Lord as we would like and so we allow those thoughts to hinder us in our service.

Don’t let the adversary put that junk in your head!

God sees you and He is looking for character more than He’s looking for talent or resource and He will open doors of opportunity in service for Him, that are just right for us, and for you. And if you are afraid that someone will shut the door on you, God promised that no one would shut the door, no one would remove the opportunity. If you will simply be faithful to Him, you might be surprised at what opportunities God will give you despite our weakness, littleness, etc.

Our God is more powerful than any opposition and will keep the door open for you despite our perceived nothingness, in the sight of the world. Do you believe that? Amen!

And so, your God cheers you on – look at this:

“I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” Revelation 3:8.

What I think God sees in this is the person that is an overcomer. The person or the Church that uses what they have (be it much or little) to serve the Lord. Let us encourage you along with our Lord Jesus this morning because some of you need to hear this. You may not think you are much in the eyes of the world around you but be faithful to God with what you have.

“You have kept my word.”  Jesus says.

You may feel small and maybe even despised by the culture of the day, but we can still be obedient to God and be faithful to Him and be an overcomer for Him. There are a lot of famous and flashy Christians who have not “kept my word.” I promise you that obeying the Word of God is a far greater achievement than being famous or flashy in Kingdom work.

Do you know the promise that Jesus makes to faithful people…to Churches like Philadelphia?

“Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.

11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. 13 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. “ Revelation 3:10–13.

Do you see the point here? What Jesus offers is better than anything the world around us has to offer or would encourage us to pursue.
Do you want to belong to Jesus? It’s not hard to understand, but it is hard to do – Keep His word.

Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24).

Jesus has a plan for you and everyone else in this world and He has asked us to partner with Him in carrying it out.

…. you who have an ear, hear what the Spirit says to the churches…

Prayer

Gracious Lord, we dream of a world free of poverty and oppression, and we yearn for a world free of vengeance and violence. And we pray for Your peace.

When our hearts ache for the victims of war and oppression, help us to remember that You healed people simply by touching them… and give us faith in our ability to comfort and heal bodies and minds and spirits that have been broken by violence.

When the injustice of this world seems too much for us to handle, help us to remember that You fed five thousand people with only five loaves of bread and two fish… and give us hope that what we have to offer will turn out to be enough, too.

When fear of the power and opinions of others tempts us not to speak up for the least among us, help us to remember that You dared to turn over the tables of money changers… and give us the courage to risk following You without counting the cost.

When we feel ourselves fill with anger at those who are violent and oppressive, help us remember that You prayed for those who killed You…, and give us compassion for our enemies, too.

When we tell ourselves that we have given all we can to bring peace to this world, help us to remember Your sacrifice… and give us the miracle of losing a little more of ourselves in serving You and our neighbors.

Walk with us, Lord, as we answer Your call to be peacemakers. Increase our compassion, our generosity, and our hospitality for the least of Your children. Give us the courage, the patience, the serenity, the self-honesty, and the gentleness of spirit that are needed in a world filled with turmoil and terror.

Amen.

Communion

Come as you are old and young.
Just as you are: one family, right now,
each of you, every one of you,
and have a seat right here.

May we see the face of God today as we come to His Table- the table of welcome.

Bread :

Paul tells us, “On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

Cup :

In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it.”

Let us Pray….

Great God, of all the things You have created—
You took the simplest food and used that to bring us closer to You.
And in that we find you among us as we eat together.
In the great story of Jesus, we hear Your love for us being retold and we remember all Jesus has done for us because of that love.
Through the Spirit You set this bread and wine apart to be used as an image of You and Your love for us.
For this gift of bread and wine that reminds us of all those other gifts You have given us- we join together with every person who has been at this table in every time and in every place

AMEN.

Take these elements and be thankful….

Song

Benediction

Send us out to be beacons of peace in a dark world of conflict
Make us instruments of peace for whoever we meet and wherever we go,
In the name of the Prince of Peace, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ
Amen.

Blessings & have a wonderful week.