For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world. God is our example. That is our call. That we, too, would love the world.
When we look at the example of God the Father, His love was not just in words but also in deeds. His love was declared for us by sending His Son to come to Earth. Jesus would live a perfect life. He would willingly lay down his life, on a cross, to pay for our sin, so that if we would turn from our sin and put our trust in Jesus Christ, we would be saved.
Love the World. In Scripture, we see it. In different words, in different ways. We are supposed to live out the love of God to those around us. We are called to be ambassadors, fishers of men, Light of the World.
The Bible also uses a different word. It refers to us as priests. Now that's surprising because many times when you and I hear the word priest, we think of someone dressed in all black and a little white collar, the Catholic priest or maybe an Eastern Orthodox priest. You can even go back to the Levitical priests in the Old Testament, but those who belong to Christ are referred to as priests in the New Testament.
It was a continuation of God’s idea for the Jews in the Old Testament.
In Exodus 19:5-6 we read, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’”
This idea of priests was then continued to the Jewish believers in the New Testament in 1 Peter 2:9, “ But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
We find this idea of priests describing all believers in the book of Revelation.
“To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Revelation 1:5-6
Revelation 5:9-10 continues the idea, “by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
The priests of old had two roles. No matter what their responsibilities were, it fit into one of two categories. One was representing the people to God. The other was representing God to the people. The priests were to be the go-between, the bridge, between God and man. The Old Testament priests would represent the people to God by offering sacrifices or teaching the word of God, but for us it's different. The way we represent people to God, is to intercede for them.
Maybe a coworker or classmate? We represent them to God. It could be you pray for healing, or you're praying for reconciliation in their marriage that's. Maybe you're praying for their salvation. Maybe you just really want God to touch their life and make a difference. We are being priests and loving the world by interceding and representing them to God.
Then we consider the other role of the priest. We are representing God to the people. We are the only picture of Christ that some people may have.
I heard a story. There were four men who went to a conference in another country? On the last day the conference ended and it was running late. They hustled to the taxi with their suitcases, heading to the airport. They got to the airport, they jumped out, went inside, checked their baggage, and went through security. They looked at their watches and realized how late thy were. So, they couldn't walk. They needed to run. So, there they went running through the airport. It was kind of busy. The walkway was not real wide, the airport wasn't really big, but it was big enough.
As they ran they came to one section where it was so full of people in the hallway that they could barely fit through. On the left there was this girl selling apples. As they went through, somehow they hit the table, and all the apples went everywhere. They kept running through the crowd, and looking back and called out, “sorry” and just went on their way. But one of the four men could not keep running. He couldn't just leave it like that. And so he called ahead. “I'll catch up in a minute” and he turned around and went back and got down on the floor with this girl who was cleaning up all her apples. They gathered the apples together and they put them up on the table. Most of the apples were still fit to eat.
The man pulled out his wallet and paid for the apples that had been damaged. He then gave her a huge tip that was probably larger than the money she might normally have received for the entire week. He gave it to her and she looked up at him. And said, “are you Jesus?”
Now I don't know the details of the story. I don't know how the girl knew about Jesus, but somehow the girl had heard of Him. That He is loving. He is kind. He is humble. He is generous. This man, whether he knew it or not, was living out the love of God in his actions, so much so, that the girl asked him, are you Jesus?
I don't know how many times you've had somebody ask you if you're Jesus but hopefully you can get the message from the story. We are priests of God. We are representing God to people on a regular basis. We are to display the mercy of God, the grace of God, the patience of God, the holiness of God, the compassion of God, the peace of God and the love of God.
Our hope is that as we represent the love of God to the world around us, that they will be drawn to Him.
While we each need to walk in love, this is not an individual endeavor. We will never be able to love the world by ourselves individually.
When we think of loving the world we must think about how we will do it as a church and as individuals. We must think of our part and our purpose.
In 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 the Apostle Paul wrote, “4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
The Apostle Paul wrote of how each person in the church is given spiritual gifts for the common good. He then wrote how we are the body of Christ. All are important and necessary as God works through the church to love the world. Only as we each fulfill the role that God has given us will the church be healthy and reach the full potential that God has intended.
That is the focus of today. That we would not sit on the sidelines, but be drawn into what God is wanting to do through the life and ministry of our church at this time. That we would both give and receive as we join with all that God is doing here at Wilcrest. That whether we have been here for years, or just joined recently, that we would be part of how God will impact Alief, Houston and beyond in the years ahead, as we work together as the body of Christ.
As we consider what God will do through us in the days ahead I first wanted to give you an opportunity to hear what God is doing presently in our church.
With that in mind I would like to invite several members of our church staff to join me on the platform. I just want you to hear from them what they are seeing God do in their area of ministry.
Panel Discussion Questions for Sunday. 1) What are some things that excite you about your ministry? 2) What are your prayer requests for your ministry at this time?
As we look to the future one of our goals is that each of us would find our place in the body of Christ where we can best serve God in the church and also in the world around us. It will require that each of us look over all the needs in the life of our church and find where we can connect and serve.
Maybe you are here today and God is leading you to be baptized. Maybe you have been attending for a while and God is now leading you to become a committed member of the church family here at Wilcrest. Maybe you are needing to join a Sunday School class or Bible study group so church becomes more than a spectator sport, but it actually becomes a place where you belong. Maybe God is calling you increase what you are giving financially so that God can do even more through our church. Maybe you have read through the ministries of our church and God is leading you to get more information about a specific ministry that would be a good fit for you.
Maybe you are here today and you have never even taken the first step of becoming a follower of Jesus Christ. Regardless how God is wanting you to respond today, please take a moment to check any box on that sign up sheet that may apply to you and put it in one of the grey boxes that the ushers will be holding by the exit doors as you leave today. We will then be in touch with you soon to respond to how you sense God is moving in your life.
I would like to conclude our time today with a quick look at Isaiah 6. We read how the prophet Isaiah was in the temple and saw the Lord. In the presence of God Isaiah’s immediate response was to fall on his face, realizing his sinfulness. He then experienced the forgiveness of God. The following words in verse eight then say this, “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”
That is our goal as individuals and as a church. That as we draw into the presence of God on an ongoing basis that we would be humbled by our sin, amazed by His grace and respond wholeheartedly with our own, “Here am I! Send me.”
As you consider all that has been set before you today, ask God to guide you to how you can best serve Him in the church and in the world around you.