Abiding and Dwelling in God
Vision for This Season in the Church
"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." (Jn 15.5 NKJV)
Today's text provides us w/ a special opportunity to reconsider God's destiny for our local church fellowship. Who are we, as a congregation, and what is God seeking to make of us?
The Key word from the Lord over the last three to four years is "knowing God". He has persistently called to us to come, in the Spirit, into closer friendship and intimacy with Him. His supernatural signs and wonders will flow in this region out of our intimacy with Him. The works that we will do are "greater" than even Jesus' own works on earth, simply because we are in that close, intimate relationship with Him described in our text in John 15. From "abiding" comes the "fruit" of love, supernatural signs and wonders, powerful salvation for the unsaved and the growth of His Kingdom in people's lives. Truly, we can declare these things:
God has planned for salvation and revival to come to this region.
We are the vehicle of this miracle.
Our "abiding" intimately with Jesus Christ empowers this transformation.
Recently, I heard Grahame Cooke speak on God's desire to build a House for His Presence on this earth. He started with the following two passages, and today I'm going to share some of what he shared and the things his word stirred in my heart pertaining to us as a church.
"Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a Holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit." (Ephesians 2.19-22, NKJV)
"Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 2.4ff, NKJV)
Genesis 12. 6-8 tells us of a point in the wanderings of Abraham
(Abram, as he was still called at that time)
when he stood mid-way between two places.
It says, "he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east."
Beth-el means "the House of God" and Ai means "a heap of stones".
And Abraham pitched his tent between those two places – Beth-el and Ai.
There are two types of "church" today.
There's the "Beth-el church" and there's the "Ai church".
The "Beth-el church" is full of people – each of whom see themselves as a stone.
And as a stone, they're allowing themselves to be built alongside of other people.
They are realizing that in their friendships and relationships,
God is building a House which He can inhabit.
Then there is the "Ai church"
filled with people who don't realize
that each person is a spiritual stone meant to be part of a House.
Instead, they're just a collection of stones, a heap of stones.
They meet once or twice a week,
they do something spiritual
and they go home again.
But in their friendships,
in their relationships,
they don't touch one another,
they don't live for each other,
they don't look out for each other.
The only thing they're doing is "having a meeting".
The "Ai church":
No concept of what it is God really wanted when He sent Jesus to die.
He didn't send Jesus to die on the Cross
so we could have weekly church meetings.
What God wants is to abide in you.
He wants to inhabit your heart.
But that's not all -- He wants to inhabit your hearts – together with your brothers and sisters.
God has not called us to be a loose collection of people,
meeting once or twice a week,
doing something spiritual
and then going home again.
He's called us to be a House. Together.
Selah [Hebrew for, "take a breath, pause and think about it a moment, let it sink in."]
Everybody has a Story.
From your starting point, how did you get here in this place?
What were the "coincidences" that happened while bringing you to this place.
What "miracles" happened in your life to bring you to this place at this time?
If we could each tell our stories,
we would see the miracle,
that God employed just to get you here, now.
Many Christians live their entire lives without any sense of destiny
but according to Ps 139.16,
(when God framed you in your mother's womb)
He gave you a purpose and a destiny
that spanned every day of your life.
Many Christians think --
"well, I'm just living my life, and doing my best."
They come along to church and
they don't like it and they think,
"Oh, I can just go somewhere else,"
"We're all the Body of Christ -- no difference who I'm built together with."
"I'm not really important for God's Plan."
No sense of destiny.
No sense of God taking your life as a Living Stone
and building it into other Living Stones
so together you become "built up [into] a spiritual house."
Just a nomad. A traveler.
And the only thing you'll find is an Ai church
because that's all you're looking for.
Just another loose stone in a pile of loose stones.
Maybe you've never been built in to the Body.
You've never been built in to a House.
We have to see that we are Living Stones
Designed to be built into the lives and destinies of others!
We have to see ourselves alongside of other people.
Have you ever looked at a brick in a wall?
A single brick has two bricks underneath it.
God always plans for there to be people underneath you,
undergirding your own life.
You have bricks alongside you that you're working with,
and there are two bricks over you that you are supporting and holding up.
It's a picture of our lives as members of the House of God –
that all of us have people that we are depending on,
that we are working with and
that we are supporting.
God has brought you here for a purpose.
What does God want most?
He doesn't want another meeting – that's for sure.
He doesn't want a loose pile of stones -- He wants a House.
God has brought you here for a purpose.
What does God want?
He wants a Temple.
He wants a place into which He can come and live.
Abiding in us as we abide in Him.
Our goal in this church
is the manifest Presence of God in the House of God
and the fruit that comes from abiding in Him.
We don't want only
a temporary or momentary "visitation" of God.
We want God to dwell in us
and for us to dwell in Him.
What we want is to be
fixed and dwelling in Jesus,
inhabited by the Presence of God,
of which Jesus is the Head,
enlivened by the Holy Spirit and
doing the works of Jesus in this community.
Jesus said, "I will build My Church,
and the gates of hell will not prevail against it."
God's brought you here for a purpose.
Let God fit you into your place
because that's why you're here.
The way in which you came to be here is extraordinary;
the details God has brought together are marvelous;
He's putting us together,
He's shaping you and me to fit together.
What's this church that Jesus is building look like?
A few years back, we changed the name of our church.
For those of you who were here, you'll remember that I said
I felt the Lord wanted to end "church" as we knew it, and
that He wanted to build a new church and in order to do it...
we had to let the old one go.
We had to let it die
in order for God to build a new church.
This is the new church God is raising up.
We're in on the ground floor.
Several times through the last three and four years,
the Lord has given us the word that's in Isaiah 43.18-19:
"Give no thought to the things which are past.
"Let the earlier times go out of your minds.
Look!, I am doing a new thing!
Now it is starting!
Will you not take note of it?"
You might not like the church the Lord is building from you and me as living stones.
You might not agree with the vision for this church that I'm leading us into.
All I'm doing is pursuing the Lord with my whole heart,
We can certainly pursue God together,
but the Bible does say in Amos 3:3,
"Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?"
You and I must agree together in what God is doing here,
or we can never be built together into His House.
So let's consider what this House of God looks like,
this local church into which God
has so marvelously brought you and me together
here in this region.
The church God is building here is a church of people
who learn to love one another in ways which amaze and astound the unsaved.
Jesus says, in John 13.35
that the world will know we are His followers
by our love for one another.
The church God is building here is a church of people
who are led by the Spirit in their daily lives,
who are learning to enter easily into His Presence and
who are living in order to manifest the glory of God
in the homes and streets of our town.
What does this church look like?
First, check out the book of Acts,
then brace yourself –
for God is going to give us lives of true greatness
beyond what is recorded there.
Because Jesus said we will do the works He did,
and greater works than these.)
We are a people
who are becoming the Presence of God in this community –
not only in dreams
but in a visible reality.
We are a church
in which the glory of God – the manifest Presence of God –
will be seen
in our lives and in our gatherings.
We are a people who are committed to the purposes and goals of God.
We are a people who have
laid down our lives as living sacrifices
(which is our reasonable worship)
We have given our lives and
everything in our lives
to the One, Lord and Christ, Jesus
Who has given
all that He had
(even to His very blood) for our sakes.
Having given us His all, we can do no less than give Him our all.
We are a people
who are stewards of the properties of God.
We hold in our hands
the wealth and properties of this world
only in order to use them
at the leading of the Holy Spirit and
for God's purposes.
When God pours increase into our lives,
we tithe to Him the 10% that is His and only His,
and then use the remaining 90%
in the leading of His Spirit
for our support and
for the support and care of others.
We are a people whose lives and assets are the Lord's and not our own.
I am a brick in the House of God.
I am a living stone,
placed by God according to His good will and pleasure
and committed to His divine purposes
using my life here
not for temporary pleasures
but for eternal consequences.
I am not my own
for I have been bought by the precious blood of Jesus.
I live at God's appointment.
If my personal druthers are not met
or if my expectations are not fulfilled,
I will not take my brick and go home.
I will not try to control the building of the House of God
through manipulation of finances or politics.
I have entrusted my life here in this community
I have submitted my life in this local church body
to my Lord, Jesus Christ.
Where does this new church begin?
It begins in knowing God.
Our salvation, according to John 17, is from knowing God.
When we know Him and love Him,
our lives will be transformed
and we will live the very life of Jesus towards others.
We will do His works.
I want us to come to know God more.
That's why I've invited every one of you
to begin worship on Sunday mornings
in a new way
and at a new time
learning to come easily into the personal, glorious Presence of God.
When we start at 10:15,
we're not just trying to put a little "prayer" cover on the morning meeting;
we're not trying to be a little more religious than we were a month ago.
we're inviting each one of you
to come early into the increasingly familiar Presence of God,
to know Him more
to become ever more sensitive to
His Voice and
The House that God is building will be a House of stones,
each of which is alive in the Spirit of God.
Lively stones, the apostle Peter says.
Stones alive in the river of God's Spirit.
Come join with us, at 10:15 each Sunday morning,
Come and sit or stand and drink in the Presence of God,
Come and become ever more familiar with That Voice of which Jesus Who said
"My sheep know My voice."
I want us to come to know God more.
That's why we spend every Monday from 12 noon to 1:30 here in the sanctuary.
That's why we've invited any of you who want to come and pray,
spending time in the Presence of the Lord,
praying and interceding for the will of God
in our lives,
in this church and
in this world.
I want us to know God more.
That's why after most Sunday services,
I offer to pray with each one of you up front here,
to grasp together with you in prayer
whatever God has stirred in your hearts during the service;
to pray with you for God's Word
to penetrate deeply into your heart
before you leave this place.
This is why I offer to pray with you before you leave this place.
God has called us to abide in Christ, but it's not an individual affair.
We abide in Christ together.
We abide in Christ as many, fruit-bearing branches in one Vine.
We abide in Christ as many, lively stones
being fitted together into God's Dwelling Place
– and that is non-negotiable.
He will come and inhabit our relationships.
He lives in our hearts, one to another.
He lives in how we relate to one another,
how we care for one another,
how we love one another.
Understand this, this morning:
If we want to be the kind of church which will draw the Presence of God to us,
then we have to sacrifice our lives to God
and let Him build His House, His way.
Heavenly Father, I ask with all my heart that we'll all get it!
that You will be drawn by the quality of our relationships,
that you'll be drawn by our hunger for You and our love for You.
Father, I pray
that You will come and set up Home amongst us,
that we will be a Holy Habitation, in Jesus Name.
And because we are a people who know You,
let us do great exploits,
let us have power over the darkness in people's lives,
let us lead many
into freedom and abundant life.
Lord, I pray for all of us who have been damaged by other brothers and sisters
for those of us who are withholding and withdrawing
and not really all into Your new work;
help us to understand
that You've brought us here to give us
a new beginning,
and a new day,
and a new way to live.
Help us to let go of our hurts and wounds,
our mistrusts and our suspicions.
Help us to embrace everything You want;
Help us to really consider that
this is our Family,
this is our House,
and I am a brick in this house
and I am here to stay.
And when tension comes,
we're not taking our brick and going home.
We're staying where you've placed us,
part of the wall,
part of the House,
part of the Dwelling Place of God.
In Jesus Name, Amen