Sharing Life Together - Go small, grow deep!
(Small Group Testimony – Mark & John)
My family and I went to King’s Island this past Monday. We spent the entire day there. Jeanna and Sam are both tall enough now to ride any ride in the park. We rode many rides, but our first coaster was a little ride called the Fairly Odd Coaster. We had to wait in line maybe a ½ an hour but now the end or better yet the beginning is in sight. We can see that this coaster has two sections of cars that hold like 18 to 24 people. I think one was green and the other one was definitely pink. Sam, my eight year old son and I are trying to calculate will we get the green coaster or the pink coaster. But Sam says, “Dad, it doesn’t matter if we get the pink coaster. I’m secure in my manhood!” I find that hilarious. I’m deciding right now. I want to ride this coaster and the color of the car is NOT going to get in the way!
We all make decisions each day. Some are not that important – pink or green – paper, plastic or tote bag? Other decisions are life altering. For instance, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford ended up in hot water a couple of months ago when staffers told the press he was hiking the Appalachian Trail when in reality he was meeting up with his mistress – “Maria” from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Sanford wrote in an email to Maria, "I could digress and say that you (Maria) have the ability to give magnificent gentle kisses, or that I love your tan lines or… while all the things above are all too true -- at the same time we are in a ... hopelessly impossible situation of love...."
She responded via email by saying, "You are my love ... something hard to believe even for myself as it's also a kind of impossible love, not only because of distance but situation. "Sometimes you don't choose things, they just happen ...[i]
Oh that is such bull. You may come across someone and that’s chance. But the second glance is a choice. I read this on Friday. Friday was August 7, I found myself in Proverbs 7. Read Proverbs 7:4&5. These emails were seductive banter and seductive banter encourages awful decision making. Speaking of awful - some decisions are even deadly. Can you believe it - another week – another shooter? This time it’s a 48 year old man named George Sodini. A man who can’t get a date – has never married. So how does he respond to his troubles – he opens fire in a Pennsylvania LA/Fitness aerobics class killing three women and injuring 9 others.[ii] His reasoning – Women do not want to have anything to do with me – I want nothing to do with women. I hate women. I hate my life, so I’ll make a decision to end it all. And he did! Do you ever wonder? Just what kind of world are we living in? Peter has the answer for us. Turn to Acts chapter 2 and find verse 40. PLEASE RAISE YOUR HAND IF YOU NEED A BIBLE TODAY? We find ourselves in Acts 2. If you want the Bible to help you in the present; you must understand what happened in the past. Luke wrote Luke and Acts. Luke is writing to a friend named Theophilus. In Acts 1 Luke outlines what Jesus said and did. Find Acts 1:7. (Read 7 & 8)
That’s really what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. You are a witness. The apostles witnessed the Holy Spirit’s arrival. They are now witnessing the birth of the Jerusalem church. They are witnessing a Holy Spirit inspired sermon by Peter. And notice what Peter says again in verse 40 of Acts 2. "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." I’m curious. Do you think Peter’s generation was any more corrupt that our generation? Do you think Noah’s generation was any more corrupt that Adolph Hitler’s generation? Corrupt means warped.[iii] The NAS will say perverse. The English Standard Version will say crooked. The Message says “sick and stupid. The King James says, “Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” A corrupt generation does not point people towards God. They point people “untoward God - opposite of God. Peter is pleading with us today, “Save yourselves from this corrupt, perverse, crooked and untoward generation,” because no matter the generation you will find this biblical principle to be true. Life is a series of decisions. The first decision according to verse 38 is to repent. Repent means to change your mind – to have a changed outlook on life because you now see life through the lens of Jesus staggering sacrifice. The second decision according to verse 38 is to be baptized. Baptism is an act of faith. The water does nothing. It’s your belief that God responds to our obedience to him. A third decision is to be devoted. Find verse 42. They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching… Everybody follows somebody’s teaching. No exceptions. A follower of Jesus realizes that Jesus wasn’t just somebody or anybody. He’s the only one to die, rise from the dead and then never die again! Jesus is God’s son. A son that lived in that same corrupt world we live in but NEVER sinned! Look at your Bible for a moment. This is HIS word. Peter says “Be devoted to it!” I understand devotion better today after watching my Mom take care of my Dad, her sick husband until the very end. Football fans get devotion. Ohio State fans, Brown’s, Steeler fans – Bengal’s – you name it. I flipped on 97.1 The Fan last week in my car and The Common Man and the Torg said, “You are probably amazed that two grown men can actually talk sports for three hours straight.” No, honestly that does not amaze me – what amazes me is that someone would listen to them talking sports for three hours! Devotion isn’t the problem for US – it’s who or what we’re devoted to!
Peter tells us that the church grew because they devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching. Just what is the apostle’s teaching? (Evian Water Commercial) Remember, the NT was only written by nine people. Those nine were either apostles like Peter, Paul or John or people who hung out with apostles like Luke or John Mark. What the Apostles taught was what Jesus said about a subject or what the Holy Spirit revealed to them about a subject. Jesus said “do not worry about your life” in Matthew 6. Paul said don’t be anxious about anything in Philippians 4. Where did Paul get his material? The Apostles were always doing this. Flip over to Acts 4:33. They not only said that they did this. Go to Acts 5:41. Luke is showing us – if you want to overcome warped – corrupted thinking – do this. Make a decision to devote yourself to the Apostle’s teaching – the Words of Jesus – the foundation of your faith! You do that in two main locations. First, it’s church. This is Sharing Life Together. We come together as a large body of believers. WE are saying we believe that Jesus died and rose again. I love good preaching! There is something “of God’ about passionate preaching. But here’s the part that depresses me. You will struggle in your thinking if your only forum is one sermon per week. The problem is that you can’t really ask any questions. It is very humbling for any preacher to know that the minute worship is over the main question being asked is – “where do you want to go for lunch?” That makes location #2 so crucial. Your small group. Again it’s sharing life together. But if you go small, the potential is that you’ll grow deep! Change is on the horizon at Westerville Christian. We will no longer offer Sunday Night Sessions, but that’s okay because a small group is the solution. Here’s what should happen in growing small group. Look at verse 42 again! (Teaching & Preaching)
Your small group should provide some teaching. The teaching does not have to come from one individual, but from the group as a whole. The goal of teaching is to learn. What you want to learn is God’s Word! If you start filtering everything in light of God’s word you will make many more wise decisions than foolish decisions. Get in a small group and read over a section of the Bible and study it together. Take your time. Look up words. Read it again. Take the sermon you heard on Sunday and ask questions. After doing this awhile guess what happens – your knowledge of God’s word grows deeper.
Your small group should provide some preaching. I’m not the only preacher here. You all become preachers in your small group. Preachers plead and urge – but most all preachers remind! We remind one another of the good news of Jesus. Of what Jesus did for us! I was at Panera the other day and a man was looking for someone. He walked up to me and he asked, “Are you Rocco?” Do I look like a Rocco? I need to be reminded often by a few people. “You are NOT Rocco. You are Greg, and Greg, you are a forgiven sinner.” As a forgiven sinner I need to be reminded that life ceases to be about me, because it’s so easy to become selfish! That’s what happened to George Sodini. The man who killed three women and shot nine others at that PA fitness club. His online blog was disturbing.[iv] He became convinced life was about his happiness. He had nothing good to say about his Mom or Dad and hated his older brother. He was resentful for the way women treated him when he was young and his bitterness led him to hate! But what blows me away is that he went to church for 13 years. It’s easy to go to church, but you have to make a decision on whether or not you’ll grow! Rick Warren said, “Change requires truth.”[v]
The Bible says our hearts are “desperately wicked.” That deceit has to be countered with the truth of God. Why does truth set us free? The way we think affects the way we feel. And the way we feel affects the way we act. If you want to change the way you act, you don’t want to start with your behavior. You start with your thoughts. Your mind is like an autopilot. You can go against the autopilot, but it’s hard work! Your autopilot is however you finish this sentence: “It’s just like me to…” It’s just like me to be lazy, or it’s just like me to be late, or it’s just like me to get angry with my spouse. Change happens when we’re honest about what that autopilot is and we counter it with the Word of God. The truth is, behind every self-defeating behavior in your life is a lie that you believe to be true.[vi]
MANY OPPORTUNITIES ARE OPEN TO YOU, SEEK THEM OUT! Come sign up.
[iii] G4646 – σκολιός, skolios - skol-ee-os' From the base of G4628; warped, that is, winding; figuratively perverse: - crooked, froward, untoward.
[v] Rick Warren, Purpose Drive Life e-devotional
[vi] Rick Warren, Purpose Drive Life e-devotional