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Watch 2022 online sermons » Craig Smith » Craig Smith - Pursuing Power

Craig Smith - Pursuing Power

Craig Smith - Pursuing Power
TOPICS: Equipted, Power

Well, welcome to Mission Hills, all of our locations, wherever you are, and however you’re joining us. We’re just glad that you’re with us today. We are wrapping up our Equipted Series. If you’re just joining us, real quick, let me catch you up. For the last five weeks, we’ve been walking verse by verse through a section of the book of 1 Corinthians, which is a letter written to a church in the ancient world of Corinth where they were really struggling with how to bring the diversity of gifts that God had given them as a church together in a unity of purpose. And so we’ve been talking about, what are the diversity of gifts and how do we bring them together to accomplish the reason that God has given them to us? We’re gonna be wrapping that series up today. Wanna let you know next week, I’m really excited to bring you a teaching from 1 Samuel 4, which may not be a story you’re familiar with. It’s not one of the ones that I ever heard growing up in Sunday school, but it is a really powerful story of something that God did and taught his people that I find myself coming back to like multiple times every year because it speaks really powerfully to me. So I really wanna encourage you to make sure that you don’t miss that next week.

Also, I wanna let you know that would be a great series to invite an unchurched friend to. Hopefully you have somebody in your life that you’ve been thinking about inviting to church. Well, this would be a great week to take the plunge and go ahead and make that invitation because the message next week will be very easy to understand, whether you have a church background or not, but I believe it’ll speak very powerfully to your friends. So I just encourage you to take the opportunity to do that. Before we do that though, Paul has one more principle to teach us about, how do we bring together this diversity of gifts that God’s given us in our mission?

Now, what we learned last week was that love is the secret sauce, right? Love is the tie that connects the diversity of our gifts to the unity of our mission. What we’re gonna see today is Paul kind of apply that love principle to two very different gifts. He’s gonna talk about the gift of speaking in tongues and the gift of prophecy, and everybody goes, hmm. Right, right. Those may not be familiar terms. It might be a little hard to figure out like, “How do I engage in that?” Maybe they’re unfamiliar terms. Honestly, they might be uncomfortable terms and that might be because you grew up in a church that you felt like over emphasized those two particular spiritual gifts, or maybe exact opposite into the spectrum. Maybe you grew up in a church that never talked about those at all, and so you’re just not even sure how to deal with them. Honestly, no matter where you’re coming from, the principle that Paul is gonna give us here is very easy to understand and apply, not only in a church context, but in any context where we have a group of people coming together, bringing different gifts to the table.

So why don’t you go and grab a Bible. Start making your way to the book of 1 Corinthians picking up in chapter 14:1 where Paul builds on what he said last week and he says this, he says, “Now, follow the way of love and eagerly desire the gifts of the Spirit especially prophecy.” He says, “Follow the way of love.” Literally, you could translate that as pursue love. It’s a command. Go after it. You all get a hold of it. And then he says, “And be passionate about, or eagerly desire the gifts of the Spirit.” So he says two things. Basically they’re two commands. Pursue love and be passionate about spiritual gifts. But I want you to notice the order in which that happens, right? The first thing is to pursue what? Is to pursue love. So just turn to somebody next to you and say, love comes first. Okay.

And the reason he wants us to make sure that love comes first, because here’s the deal. Love is the lens that gives clarity. Love is the lens that gives clarity. Without the lens of love, what’s gonna happen is we’re gonna get a distorted view of things and we’re gonna over emphasize some things that people bring to the table, some gifts they bring to the table, and de-emphasize others. And that’s going to create division rather than driving us towards our goal. And so he says the lens has to be love. If you think about this, I know we don’t usually do this in church, but I’m gonna give you permission to have this moment right now. I want you to think of somebody that you’re having a hard time loving.

Go ahead. Just stare straight at me. It’s really important right now that you do that, okay? Stare straight at me. But I want you to think of somebody that you’re struggling to love. Maybe even honestly, if we’re completely honest, that you dislike. Okay? And you get that person in mind. Now I want you to do this. Now I want you to think about something they’re really good at. And it can’t be annoying you, that’s not the thing they can be good at, okay? Like what are their gifts? What are their talents? What really great things do they bring to the table? My guess is that for a lot of us, that’s a hard thing to do. And here’s the reason, is because when we dislike somebody, we tend to devalue their gifts, right?

When we dislike somebody, we tend to devalue their gifts. We look at what they’re good at and we’re like, “Yeah, but it’s not that important. Yeah, but that’s not really all that helpful. Yeah, but I don’t really need that,” because the problem is not necessarily what you think about the gift, it’s what you think about the person who has it, right? When we dislike somebody, we tend to devalue their gifts. Now you flip it around. When we love someone, we tend to elevate their gifts, right? And so you fall in love and you’re like, “Oh, she’s great. She, you know, she’s good at this and this and this, and I’m not good at those things, and that’s awesome. And now we’re better together. It’s awesome.” So we tend to elevate those gifts in the people that we love.

And what Paul is saying is that’s why we got to pursue love. Love has to be the lens that we’re looking at everybody and everybody’s gifts through. Otherwise, we’re gonna have a distorted view of their value, right? So he says, love is the lens that we need to look through. Now what he’s gonna be dealing with very specifically here is two specific gifts, right? He says, “I want you to pursue love,” put your lens first, make it love, “And then be passionate about spiritual gifts.” And then he says, “And especially prophecy.” Now, the reason he’s saying that is because, as I suggested or others, there’s two gifts that the Church. in Corinth was kind of fixated on. Two particular gifts that they were almost obsessed about. And that was the gift of prophecy and the gift of speaking in tongues. And it’s not that these are the only gifts that matter, but he’s basically going, “Hey, since you guys are so obsessed with these gifts, let’s use those two gifts as an illustration. Let’s use them as a, kind of a test case. And what I want you to understand is that of those two particular gifts, the one you really should be focusing on is prophecy.”

Now, he means that in the context of a worship service, and that’s really important to understand. He doesn’t mean across the board. He doesn’t mean in every single situation. He means when we come together as the Church, of those two gifts that you’re really fixated on, there’s particular value to prophecy that speaking in tongues doesn’t have. Now before we explain why that is, we should probably define those two terms, right? Because I think there’s a lot of confusion around what exactly is prophecy. And, you know, if you grew up in a church, you might have one idea. If you didn’t grow up in a church, maybe you think Nostradamus or some kind of like fortune cookies or palm readers or something like that.

Well, here’s the definition so we’re on the same page. A prophet or a prophecy is delivering God’s Word to his people, okay? That’s what a prophet was in a biblical sense. It was somebody that got a message from God and then they delivered it to his people, okay? Now, sometimes it involved telling the future, but that was actually a very minor part of biblical prophecy. Very, actually, rarely did prophets predict the future. It did happen, because God knew the future so he could give them to that, but it’s kind of a verification for the message almost more than anything else, but the core of it was God had something to say, something that would strengthen or challenge or encourage or comfort. There’s a direct message from God to his people through a prophet. That’s what a prophecy is. God’s Word to his people.

Now, speaking in tongues is audible speech that results from the Holy Spirit’s presence, okay? It’s kind of a big picture definition. It’s some kind of speaking, it’s some kind of speaking out words that everybody else could hear that resulted because of the Holy Spirit’s presence. It wasn’t regular conversation or speech. It was something that resulted because of the Holy Spirit. And here’s where it gets a little bit confusing for a lot of people. The Bible is not 100% clear. It doesn’t answer every one of the questions a lot of us have about spiritual gifts, and especially the Bible doesn’t answer everything that we might want to know about speaking in tongues. And I’ll be honest with you, I have some confusion about speaking in tongues. I have never practiced speaking in tongues. I didn’t grow up in a church that talked about it, so I don’t have any rollback on it. But I’ve got some friends that, you know, I don’t doubt their sincerity or their sanity, and they practice speaking in tongues in a particular context. And I don’t fully understand it, but what I try to do, because I think this is what God calls us to, is I try to understand it in light of Scripture first, and then I try to make sense of other people’s experience in light of what the Bible says.

Now, when we look at what the Bible says about speaking in tongues, the Bible seems to talk about two particular types, okay? So tongues type one would be this. It would be the supernatural ability to speak human languages, okay? Some people seem to have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to speak a language they didn’t learn any other way. The classic instance of this is in Acts 2, is a festival called Pentecost. The followers of Jesus had gathered together. And it was after the resurrection, but Jesus had ascended into heaven and he’d said, “Hey, wait in Jerusalem until power from the Holy Spirit comes on you.” And while they’re in Jerusalem at a festival called Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon them and they began to speak in, as the Bible says, different tongues.

And it’s very clear that that was languages, because there were other Jewish people that had gathered in Jerusalem from all kinds of other places around the world. And what they did, and they came together because they heard the disciples speaking in tongues, and they said, “What’s the deal? We hear these people speaking in our own languages,” their own dialects and languages from the different countries. And they’re actually pretty insulting about it because they basically said, rough translation, like, “What’s the deal with these country bumpkins knowing all these different languages?” Because they weren’t like the educated and the polished of society. You wouldn’t expect them to have access to education that would have allowed them to know all these languages, but they said, “We understand them speaking. How did they get this ability?” And the answer is, “They got it through the Holy Spirit.”

And so they were speaking other human languages empowered by the Holy Spirit. And a lot of the places in scripture where the word tongues shows up it clearly means that, but that’s not the only category. The Bible also seems to describe a second category of tongues. So tongues type two would be this, an incomprehensible speech. Is incomprehensible both to the speaker, the speaker didn’t know exactly what he or she was saying, and other people listening didn’t know what he or she was saying. It’s an incomprehensible speech. Sometimes it’s referred to as ecstatic speech, because there seems to be an element of emotion, kind of almost overwhelmed by the presence of the Spirit and what comes out in response to that isn’t comprehensible either to the speaker or the listener. That’s the second category.

That second category is what Paul seems to be primarily dealing with here. And what he says is, “Of the two gifts of prophecy and tongues that you’re so fixated on, in a church worship service, you should be passionate about prophecy.” Okay? In fact, he says this, and here’s why. Verse 2, “For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people, but to God. Indeed no one understands them, they utter mysteries by the Spirit. But the one who prophesies speaks to the people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.” So why is he giving a priority to prophecy? Because basically he says, tongues people don’t understand. He is not saying it’s bad. He’s not saying it’s wrong, but he says, people speaking in these incomprehensible tongues, nobody knows what they’re saying. And in the church worship service, we wanna focus on what actually is of benefit to the rest of the people. And he says prophecy beats out tongues in that respect. So he says, basically prophecy is understandable and it’s useful to everyone. Makes sense?

In the church worship service prophecy is understandable and useful to everyone. And that’s why prophecy has the priority when we come together as a worship gathering. He says, listen, verse four, “Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the Church. Let me just say this, I think if you devoted your life to it, you would never find a more churchy word than edifies. Has anybody ever heard the word edifies outside of a church context? Maybe you don’t even know what it means. Edifies means builds up.

Now you’re like, “Why didn’t you just say that?” I have no idea. There’s an old English word, an edifice is a building that’s coming together, and so edifies is to build up. I mean, so what Paul basically says is, listen, the one who speaks in a tongue builds up him or herself. And I don’t think he’s being negative about that. In fact, a number of people that I know who have this spiritual practice of speaking in tongues, the gift of speaking in tongues, they say that it has strengthened them and their relationship with God. It’s added some benefit to them. I don’t think Paul’s denying that, but he says in the church worship service, prophecy has priority because prophecy builds up who? Builds up everyone one.

It’s understandable and useful to everyone, and so it has priority. He says, “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues. I’m fine with that, but I would rather have you prophesy. When you gather together as a Church., I would rather have you prophesy.” The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues. Not across the board, but in the context of the worship service, the one who prophesies adds more value to the whole body of the Church. He says, “The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets so that the Church may be edified. Unless somebody has an interpretation of what’s being said in this incomprehensible speech, there’s really no value for the church gathering.” He says, “Now, brothers and sisters. If I come to you and I speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction.”

Again, he just is saying, “Listen, the priority in the church worship service is what is understandable and useful to everyone.” He’s not denying any value of tongues at all, but he says in the context of worship service, the priority is in what’s understandable and useful to everyone. He says, “You know, in the case of lifeless things, even the case of lifeless things that make sounds such as the pipe or the harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there’s a distinction in the notes?” Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? And what he’s saying is that this incomprehensible thing that is speaking in tongues, is there’s no distinction. There’s no meaning to it. And if everybody’s doing that, nobody has any idea how to respond to it.

My first experience with any group of people speaking in tongues, I was in college and I was with a band, and we’d been invited to do a concert at a very charismatic church somewhere in Ohio. And I’d never been in a church like that. And so we were playing, and I was really enjoying the level at which they were engaging even emotionally with the worship. I was like, I had never experienced this, and this is great. We’re all worshiping God, it’s awesome. And then midway through one of the songs, like this guy stood up and he started like talking, and I had no idea what he was saying. Like nothing he said made any sense to me, I couldn’t figure out what language it was. And then somebody next to him stood up and started doing the same thing. And then somebody else stood up, and pretty soon the whole congregation, they were all doing this. And like I had never seen anything like that. So we just stopped playing, and they went on for awhile, completely incomprehensible, all speaking different kinds of things, but no clear discernible language of any sort. They were speaking in tongues, and then they stopped. And we just had this awkward moment together where we stood there like looking at them and they’re looking at us and I had no idea what to do. So I finally went three, two, one. And we were back into the song. I didn’t know what else to do. And that’s the kind of thing I think Paul’s dealing with here.

He’s saying, “Honestly, that probably doesn’t belong in a worship gathering because there’s no distinction. There’s no meaning that comes from it.” So I mean, he says with the illustration of the musical instruments, like if I run my fingers up and down the keys of a piano, you’re gonna get all the notes, but it doesn’t call anybody to do anything, there’s no meaning to it. As opposed to if I went do, do, do, do, do we want some big Mac, right? That’s the McDonald’s theme song. There’s a battle cry to it, right? Go to McDonald’s, right? Because there’s a distinction in the notes and there’s a meaningful progression to them. He says, yeah, tongues, especially in, you know, church worship service, it doesn’t have that ability. So he says, “So it is with you.” Unless, you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you’re saying? You’ll just be speaking into the air.

Now, undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying. I’m a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker is a foreigner to me. Well, so it is with you. Now, since you’re eager for, or you’re passionate about gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the Church. And in the context here where he’s kind of comparing speaking tongues to prophecy, the priority is on what? Is on prophecy because prophecy is understandable, and it is useful to everyone. So he says, in that context, that’s where you need to focus. He says, “For this reason, the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.” And he’s describing here, I think probably the private practice of speaking in tongues. He says, you know, if you’re speaking privately to God and there’s something in the Spirit that’s moving you to this incomprehensible speaking in tongue speech, you know what you should do, you should pray that God would help you understand what it is that the Spirit’s prompting you to say. Because if you understand it, and only if you understand it, can you share it.

And there may be some real value in sharing with somebody what it is that God has moved you to pray. But he says, “Otherwise, my mind is unfruitful.” And it’s an interesting word that he chose there. He could have just said, you know, otherwise my mind is unengaged, but he said it’s unfruitful meaning it doesn’t produce fruit. And his point is it doesn’t help anybody else. It doesn’t encourage them. It doesn’t strengthen them. It doesn’t comfort them. It doesn’t build them up. He says, otherwise, you know, my spirit might be involved in this, but my mind is not functioning in a way that is building up the group as a whole. So he says, what shall I do then? I will pray with my spirit. But I will also pray with my understanding. I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding. And what he’s basically doing there is he’s pointing out an important truth that I think we lose track of a lot, and that is that God has made us with both an emotional side and an intellectual side, right? He says, you know, it’s good to pray in the Spirit and there’s a sense in which that’s an emotional thing. We’re responding to God with our emotional side that he’s given us. That’s good.

But he says, also I wanna pray with my understanding of my intellectual side. He says, I wanna sing with my spirit. I want to sing emotionally engaged in my worship, but I also wanna sing with my understanding, with my intellectual side. What he’s basically saying is that God calls us to engage with him both emotionally and intellectually, right? God calls us. He wants us to engage with him both emotionally and intellectually. The problem is that we tend to, almost all of us, lean in one side or the other, and whatever side we tend to lean on, we tend to go, “Well, this is the most important side.” And so I think we have to ask ourselves this question both as individuals and as a church, “Which direction do I tend to lean in, and what can I do to develop in that other side?” Right? Because Paul says we wanna sing, we wanna speak, we wanna pray with our spirit, but also with our minds.

So which side do you tend to lean on and what can God do, as you cooperate with him, to help you develop in that other area? I mean, I’ll tell you, for me, I definitely lean on the intellectual side of things. Like all things being equal, that’s the direction that I’m going to naturally kind of move. But years ago I realized, you know what? Well, God has also made me emotional. That’s not a curse. It’s a kindness. It’s a gift. And I wanna engage God with my whole being. So I realized, I need to take some steps to begin learning how to worship God a little bit more emotionally. So I did a thing that was almost unheard of in my particular church. During worship times I would start to do this, just a little bit. And over time, I got…and now when I’m really carried away in the Spirit, two hands, right? Wow. But I did that intentionally, because there’s something in that posture that’s engaging more than just my head. It’s beginning to engage in my heart, my emotions. And I began to go, “I need to do some things to move in that direction.”

It wasn’t necessarily comfortable to start with, but I need to because God calls me to engage with him both with my head and my heart, both with my intellect and my emotions. And I’ve taken other steps along the way, small ones. It’s been a long spring and I found myself in need of a break. And so about a week and half ago, on Wednesday afternoon, I flew out to Portland, rented a car, drove to the coast, and I just spent all day Thursday walking up and down the beach. And God began to speak to me and I began to feel like I needed to respond to that. So I walked far enough down the beach that no one else was there, that was really important to me. And I started to sing out loud. Yeah. All by myself. Like, “Ooh, getting a little weird there, Pastor,” right? But, you know, we sing a song here a lot that says, you know, my fear doesn’t stand a chance when I stand on his love.

I actually began to sing that out loud and there was some power in that. I was acknowledging emotionally something that God was speaking to me intellectually, but I was trying to respond with both. In other words, I take deliberate steps to engage that other part of me that may not be as natural, but I think it’s part of the package that God’s given us. You know, maybe for you it’s the other direction. Maybe for you, you lean more towards the emotional side and that’s easy. But maybe for you, you know, it’s to take a step in, like maybe starting to read the Bible every day. Maybe even join a Bible study that studies and tries to understand God’s word with our minds too. In other words, whatever side we lean on, figure out, “What’s a step that I can take to begin developing in that other area?” Because when we engage God with all of who we are, it’s a powerful, powerful thing. And that’s what Paul is calling them to here.

Now, they leaned in the direction of the emotional side of things. And so he says to them, otherwise, unless you engage your mind, when you’re praising God in the Spirit, the emotional side of it, how can someone else who is now put in the position of enquirer, they’re inquiring like, “What are you saying?” How can they say amen, which just means truly? How can they agree with your thanksgiving, since they don’t know what you’re saying? He says, you’re giving thanks well enough, but no one else is built up. And he’s saying here basically that, you know, if in your worship you’re moved and you begin to go, you know, “Wow, God is kind and he’s good and he’s done this for me and this for me,” and that moves you to speak out. But he says, if you speak that truth out in an incomprehensible tongue, nobody else can agree with you. Nobody else can say, “You’re right, God is good. God is faithful, and you’ve just reminded me of how God has been faithful and kind to me, and now I’m praising him too.” But he says, that can’t happen if you’re in a worship gathering and what you’re responding is entirely incomprehensible. Again, the focus is on what is gonna build up, what’s gonna strengthen, what’s gonna bring along everyone.

He says an interesting thing. He says, you know what? “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the Church, I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than 10,000 words in a tongue. I’d rather speak five intelligible words.” And then he gives us the punchline. It’s really kind of the punchline for this entire section of the book of 1 Corinthians, verse 20 he says, “Brothers and sisters stop thinking like children.” What dominates childish thinking? We’ve already talked about a couple of pieces. They mistake the part for the whole, they think the piece they have is the whole package and it’s not. And also, emotion tends to dominate childish thinking. To the Church that was really struggling on the more emotional side of things, he says, “Stop thinking like children. In regard to evil, be infants, but in your thinking be adults.” He says, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Jesus said, you know, little children should come to him because little children, they’re not aware of evil. They’re not involved in it. They’re kind of innocent of it.” He says, “Yeah, in regards to evil, have nothing to do with it. Be as though you’ve never even heard of it, be that far away from it. But in your thinking, grow up. Grow up.”

He says, “Love.” Love is what leads us. And what does it lead us to do? Love leads us to prioritize what’s understandable and useful for everyone. In spite of all the perhaps unfamiliar language like speaking in tongues and incomprehensible, and clanging gongs, and prophecy, it all boils down to pretty simple to understand truth, right? Love leads us to prioritize what is understandable and useful to everyone. So what does that mean? Well, I mean, as a church, this is a principle that Mission Hills follows every time we plan a worship service, our priority is what is useful and understandable to everyone. And we do that primarily through two things that we emphasize in all of our worship gatherings. Worship and teaching of the word. Worship leans a little more on the emotional side, by the way, especially if you can get this going. Worship often engages the heart more than the head, but we also wanna make sure that the head’s mixed into that too. And so we evaluate the songs. We wanna make sure that the theology is solid, because those things get stuck in your head, right? We’re gonna make sure what stuck in your head is truth. Maybe a little bit more on the emotional, but we make sure that the head has its place in there as well. We also teach the Word, we teach Scripture. That’s a little bit more on the head, but I always work hard to figure out, how do I engage the heart on this as well?

By the way, sometimes people will ask this question, they go, you know, “Paul here says that the priority is on prophecy. So does Mission Hills put a priority on prophecy in your worship services?” And you know what the answer is? Yep, we absolutely do. I’m seeing some puzzled looks. Yeah, maybe a little different than you think, but it’s rock solid theology. Here’s the deal. The Bible is the Word of God. And what’s prophecy? It’s delivering the Word of God to his people. Now, God delivered the prophecies that are scripture through, guess who? Prophets. Prophets are the ones that God used to write the Bible, which means that the Bible is by definition, what? It’s prophecy. So by emphasizing the teaching of the Word of God, we’re emphasizing prophecy. Now, I’m not a prophet. Let me just be very clear about that. That’s my spiritual gift. What a teacher does is he unpacks the prophetic word, which again is a lot more than just foretelling the future. It’s God’s Word to us. A teacher unpacks, helps people understand and helps people apply the prophetic word that is Scripture. But in the church, we absolutely emphasize prophecy.

Sometimes people will say, “Well, what would you do if an actual prophet showed up?” And I’m like, “Well, an actual prophet has, but I know what you’re saying. If somebody had a prophecy they wanted to deliver in a worship service, or what if somebody wanted to speak in tongues in the midst of a church service at Mission Hills, how would you respond?” And my answer is, basically there’s three things that we do. The first thing is if that were happening in the context of a worship service, if it was disrupting the orderly worship service, I would ask them to stop. That’s the first thing I do. Second thing I would ask them to do, I would ask them if they were speaking in tongues. I say, you know, is there someone who feels like they have the gift of interpretation of that message?

And if there was, I would ask both of those people to head to the back and to meet with some of the elders who oversee Mission Hills as a whole or some of the pastoral staff here who would evaluate that message. Scripture tells us we’re supposed to do that. And if they came to the conclusion this was a message from God for everyone, then they would let me know and we would share that. That’s how we’d handle anybody willing to speak in tongues or have a fresh prophecy. I’ve never seen that happen, but I don’t wanna ever shut down what God might wanna do. But the Bible gives us some very clear directions on how to evaluate that, and that’s how we handle it. But the emphasis in our worship service is following this principle that Paul gives us, which is that love leads us to prioritize what is understandable and useful to everyone.

There are times that speaking in tongues is perfectly appropriate, I think. I shared with you one experience where I honestly don’t feel like it was all that appropriate because I think it probably violated Paul’s commandment here. But, you know, just a couple of weeks ago I had a very different experience. I was in India with three other Mission Hills pastors and we had an evening, we were working with pastors and church planners, and we had an evening where we were asked to pray for all of them. And so, you know, we kind of separated in the room and they made four different lines and they came up and an interpreter would help us understand what it is that they were looking for prayer for. And so I would pray for that individual. And for many of them, as I was praying, they were also praying kind of quiet and not super loud. They were kind of giving deference to my prayer. But they were praying, and I didn’t understand a word they were saying, which I just thought was because they were speaking Hindi and I don’t speak Hindi. But what I found out later was they were actually speaking in tongues. They were sort of praying along speaking in tongues and I didn’t know that. And I’m also not particularly bothered by that. Again, I don’t have that gift for that practice, but I think that fits well. It wasn’t disruptive and it wasn’t about, you know, keeping other people from getting the benefit of what would be understandable and useful to everyone. So I’m okay with that.

But in the church worship service, Paul says, the priority, because of love, is on what is understandable and useful to everyone. Now, the big question is like, so what does that mean for you? And that’s fine. That’s how you plan worship services. That’s how a church sort of structures itself, but how do you apply this principle in your own personal life? Where’s the heart issue for you? Here’s what I think it is. Each of us together make up the body of Christ, right? The Church isn’t a building, it’s not a set of programs. It’s the people of God on mission with him, right? It’s people of God coming together. So here’s what happens, is each of us together makes up the body of Christ. So what we have to do is we each look for ways that we can strengthen the whole Church. We each individually look for ways that we can strengthen the whole Church.

Well, let me give you a few suggestions. Number one is prayer. Your prayers for the Church strengthen the whole Church. There are several ways you can do that. You can be part of something very formal. We have a Mission Watch Program where you can sign up for a one-hour slot once a week and, you know, it’s 24/7 prayer that’s going on. All the people of the church using that thing so that we’re praying for what God’s doing in and through us in the world. You can join us Thursday nights, we have a prayer gathering here in the evenings. Can find out more details about both of those online or on the Mission Hills app. But even if you don’t do something formal like that, you can still be praying in a way that strengthens the whole Church. Just set a reminder on your phone that, you know, every morning at 9:00 a.m., just take two minutes and pray for God to be moving in power among us and through us to making a difference for the lost in our community and in our world. That’s one of the ways that you can strengthen the Church, one of the most easy and most powerful ways.

Another option would be you can join a serve team. We have serve teams in a number of areas that they don’t help the staff do ministry, the staff helps them do ministry. So we have Next Gen serve teams that are ministering to our next generation of kids and students. Serve Team makes that happen. They speak the Word of God and they encourage and equip those kids to be on mission with Jesus. We have Worship Tech and Worship Arts serve teams that help lead our services. We have Guest Services serve teams that help people find where they need to be and greet those guests coming in and help everybody connect. We have all kinds of different serve teams. The best way to get connected to a serve team, and we plugged in that way, is to actually attend our Discovering Mission Hills experience. It runs for four weeks. It happens every month. We are taking a break in July, but starting the first weekend in August, there’ll be another round of it. And in that thing, you’re not only learning who Mission Hills is and a little bit more basics about like our mission and our values, but we also help you figure out what’s the best serve team for you to connect with and get plugged in. And so that’s a great way to strengthen the whole Church.

You can give. Giving is an important way that we strengthen the Church. You notice we’ve already taken the offering, so there’s no guilt implied in this. But I believe, and my own and my wife are committed to giving financially because we believe that’s one of the ways that we strengthen the ministry of the whole Church. And if you’re not giving or not giving regularly, maybe that’s a way that you can take a step forward in strengthening the whole Church. And then there’s groups. You know, Mission Hills is a pretty large church with thousands of people who gather on any given weekend. You might look at that crowd and go, “How on earth can I strengthen all of those people?” And the answer is, you can’t strengthen all of those people at once, but you can be part of strengthening a small group of them.

And as we do that in all of our groups, what happens is the whole church gets stronger together. And so if you’re not part of a group, you know, we have men’s groups and women’s only groups. We have hope groups. We have Sunday school groups, we have Life Groups, all kinds of ways for you to get together in a smaller group of people, get to know them and begin to love each other. All of our groups do three things. They love each other, they challenge each other to become more like Jesus, and they challenge each other to join Jesus on mission. And when that’s happening in a small group, that group is stronger. And when all of our groups are stronger, are moving in those directions, guess what? The whole Church is being strengthened. So if you’re not part of a group, I really wanna encourage you to join one of those. You can find out about them online, in the app, or you can visit the Next Steps room in the lobby.

But here’s the big question for you this week, just very simple. What next step can I take this week to strengthen the whole Church? I’ve given you four examples, but God may lead you to something entirely different. But what next step can you take? Because what Paul tells us is very clear, the priority, because of love, is on what is understandable and useful to the whole Church. So what step can you take this week to move towards strengthening the whole Church?

You know, as we wrap up the series, I wanna draw your attention back again to a verse. We went past it pretty quick, and that makes sense because what Paul is saying there is pretty simple, but what he’s saying there really, it resonated with me in a unique way this week. And I find myself coming back to it time again. In verse 19 here and chapter 14 he says, but in the Church, I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than 10,000 words in a tongue. And what he means, we already said it, just that it’s better to say five things that people can understand than 10,000 things that people don’t, right? Pretty simple. And I know this isn’t exactly what he meant, but I found myself coming back to that over and over again this week. You know, I’d rather speak five intelligible words. And what I found myself wondering was like, “If I could only say five words, what five words would I wanna make sure everybody understands?” And it was really clear to me immediately what those five words would be. God loves you so much. Amen.

Well, if you remember nothing, yes, we can definitely, we can get excited about that. And I know, yeah. For those of you are really on the intellectual side, like I know that’s not, he speaks Greek. I get it. And in Greek it actually takes a few more words than that, or maybe less depending on how you do it. But if I could only five things to everybody, God loves you so much. Hands down, that’s it. And really too, as the Church, those five words are what we exist to share with the world. This is the reason why God has given us all these gifts that come together to build the lighthouse that holds up the light of the Gospel so that everyone in the world can understand that God loves you so much, right?

What a powerful truth that is. And of course, the proof of it is that Jesus came and died in our place. He did it for our sin, because every wrong thing we’d ever done that separates us from God permanently separated us from God. We’re facing an eternity apart from him, but God loved us so much he sent his own Son who took our sin on his shoulders. He died on the cross to pay off our debt. Three days later, he rose from the dead and he offered us new life. He offered us forgiveness and freedom and a part in his mission that starts now and goes on forever. Why did he do all that? Because God loves you so much.

Many of you are here today and you’ve received that. You’ve said yes to faith in Jesus. You’ve received forgiveness and new life. Some of you are listening on all of our campuses. If you’re honest, you realize you don’t have that relationship with God because you’ve never said yes to his offer, and you need to hear that God loves you so much. And in just a moment I’m gonna give you an opportunity if you’ve never said yes to Jesus by faith, to say yes to his love. But before we do that, I’m gonna invite everyone, wherever you are, stand up. Because these five all important words, God loves you so much, they’re worthy both our heads and our hearts. So let’s celebrate that fact today.
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