#373 - SPECKS AND PLANKS (16/6/21)
On Sunday we continued with our series on discipleship from The Sermon on the Mount. This week at CCP it’s our ‘SIV week’. This is when we focus on how we can Serve, Invest and Invite our community. Therefore, our devotionals will pay particular attention to how we may apply this text in our evangelism.
The church is pictured as a bride - the bride of Christ. She is pictured as a bride getting ready for her wedding day - when Jesus comes again. A bride does all she can to be as beautiful as she can be for her groom. In this life, the bride of Christ is loved by Jesus, but she still has work to do before she is ready.
Likewise, the church is not perfect. She is forgiven and loved but she still has lots of flaws and needs to change - needs sanctification. The church is full of people with ‘planks and specks’ that need to be dealt with in a godly way. Jesus tells us,
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5)
Jesus is particularly speaking into how we treat each other in the church. Clearly, the Bible teaches that we are to challenge one another over our sin (Matt 18:15-20). It’s loving to bring a helpful challenge to a brother or sister that we are concerned for. However, we are to be more aware and more concerned for our own faults and immaturity than we are of others. Like the bride, we need to dress ourselves before we start tidying everyone else up!
I often find myself feeling critical of how others fail to care for me. However, my response is to ask myself, am I being the kind of loving person that I would want others to be toward me? Am I proactive? Am I interceding and compassionate? As I become aware of how failing I am and how I’m only limping toward that vision, I am able to be compassionate with those who are not meeting my expectations.
Jesus is urging us to self-reflection. Take time to ask the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sin. Read the word with humility - it’s a mirror that reveals our sin. A good test of our self-reflection is how often we pray, “forgive us our debts”.
How does dealing with our ‘plank’ and then helping others to deal with their ‘speck’ help us in our evangelism? Simply, if we are going to be effective in reaching our community for Jesus, we need loving challenge. Not many of us feel very good at evangelism. Many of us are so caught up with family, work, hobbies, entertainment - often good things - that we don’t have time to share our lives with our non-believing friends. This is not okay. I’m the first to confess to you that I’ve not a plank in my eye in this regard. We need brothers and sisters to ‘take the speck’ from our eye. Let’s lovingly encourage each other to be that light in darkness that we are called to be.
COMMUNITY GROUP STUDY - SIV-WEEK - SALT AND LIGHT
It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.
This is the first SIV-Week study. SIV stands for Serve, Invest and Invite. This is a simple way of thinking about reaching our community for Jesus.
The importance of our mission was brought home to me recently when I read a story from John MacArthur,
“Some years ago, a magazine carried a series of pictures that graphically depicted a tragic story. The first picture was of a vast wheat field in western Kansas. The second showed a distressed mother sitting in a farmhouse in the centre of a wheat field. The accompanying story explained that, when she was not looking, her four-year-old son had wandered away from the house and into the field. The mother and father looked and looked all day, but the little fellow was too short to see, or be seen, over the wheat. The third picture showed dozens of friends and neighbours who had heard of the boy’s plight and had joined hands the next morning to make a long human chain as they walked through the field searching. The final picture was of the heartbroken father holding his lifeless son who had been found too late and died of exposure. The caption underneath read: “O GOD, IF ONLY WE HAD JOINED HANDS SOONER”
If only we had joined hands sooner! Only if we pray and work together will we be a church that reaches our community for Jesus. If we live individualistic lives with church as an add-on, we will have very little impact. Jesus is calling us to ‘go and make disciples’ together.
I) LET’S RECAP OUR VISION AT CCP
We have a vision at CCP of “Bringing people to Jesus”. A key text that has helped to shape this,
‘On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”’ (John 7:37-38)
This invitation is to us and to the whole world who don’t yet know Jesus. How do we bring people to Jesus? At CCP we focus on three different relationships:
Our goal to help to bring ‘myself’ to Jesus: We encourage the church to 'come to Jesus daily' by setting aside quality time each day in prayer and worship out of the Bible, asking to be filled with the Holy Spirit (20 minutes, using the ‘coming to Jesus daily’ blog is a good start).
ii) One another
Our goal to help bring ‘one another’ to Jesus: We ask that every member be devoted to building an amazing Community Group (Meeting weekly is a good start).
iii) My Community (The focus of SIV)
Our goal to help us to bring our ‘community’ Jesus: In our Community Groups, we regularly share and pray about how we are going to 'Serve, Invest and Invite'. To aid this, we will have a monthly SIV Week in our Community Groups.
Before we move on, it’s really important to remember that the our mission to those outside of the church is empowered by our personal (myself) relationship with Jesus, and the encouragement of others (one another). Effective, fruitful evangelism has healthy roots in Jesus and His community. We cannot expect the fruit without the roots!
II) SALT AND LIGHT
Please read Matthew 5:13-16
Christians are salt and light. This is our identity. Many Christians have lost this vision for their lives and have lost saltiness and their light has grown dim. Our church needs to regain this if we are to see lives transformed in the ways that we are not seeing now.
Salt, in the first century, a day without refrigeration, was used to preserve food. It was also used to add flavour to food. It was also added to certain sacrifices in worship.
When we think of Light, we are to think of various forms of flame torches and candles rather than modern electric torches.
These two metaphors of salt and light speak of the good influence which Christians are to exert in the community.
A great way to Influence those around us is through being a SIV church.
III) THE THREE ELEMENTS OF SIV
Let’s think in more detail about the three elements of SIV.
i) Serving - real needs
People who see our love in action - our ‘good deeds’- will be much more open to our message. Serving our community can be helping individuals or being involved in a community project, a club etc. For example, one could serve young people and their parents through involvement in the church youth work or by being a governor in a school. It’s small things like cleaning the microwave at work. It’s big things like running Serendipity Cafe.
Discuss: How do we become salt and light as we serve others? How are you or could you serve your community? Is there anything that we could do together as a Community Group?
ii) Investing - in friendships
Invest in friends through faithfulness
Investment is about time and faithfulness. It’s going to the club faithfully. It’s phoning the friend regularly. It’s sacrificing for the good of others. Many Christians speak of love and wanting to reach the ‘lost’ but are not prepared to make time for people!
Invest in friends by taking an interest
There’s too much that could be said here about evangelism skills. However, the simple skill of being interested in your friends and expressing this by asking questions is too often overlooked. Why will anyone listen to your message if you won’t hear theirs?
Invest in friends through prayer
Rico Tice, in his book, Honest evangelism, points to the need for long term investment relationally, but also in prayer,
‘Research suggests that when people put their faith in Christ, on average it’s taken two years from the point when they came into meaningful contact with a Christian who witnessed to them—and that time period is growing. Witnessing is a long-term commitment to invest in a relationship, to pray tirelessly, and to speak the gospel over and over again, patiently and persistently. It is a journey of gospel conversations. It really does take effort.’