Jack Graham - We're In This Together
Well, hello everybody, and this is our time now to open God's Word, to preach God's truth, and we're brought together; we are together around the truth of Scripture each week. Just like we were in buildings but we're right here in your home. A thousand, tens of thousands points of light around the world. Many people watching in multiple countries and across the United States, and, of course, our own Prestonwood family. The church together! And what an incredible experience this is for me! Nothing like it! As a matter of fact, this is a first time for me because actually I'm preaching to an empty room. Over the years I've never rehearsed my sermons in advance, I've never preached to an empty room or to a mirror. But now I'm in an empty room and it's a preacher's worse nightmare.
You know, you prepare and no one shows up. In fact, if you just look around right here, just turn that camera around right here and I'm going to show you what I'm looking at today, just a bunch of empty chairs. And it sorta feels like one of those apocalypse movies or the Twilight Zone for me; or maybe the rapture happened and I missed it! I was left behind. Well, here we are, and yet I know that on the other side of this camera right here there are many people, thousands of people literally, opening God's Word, and the Church is alive and well, and together we're going to get through these days, no matter how long they may last. We're going to stay strong together, we're going to grow together, we're going to be the church of the Lord Jesus Christ together.
Now the title of this message that we're bringing is "We are in this Together". Now, of course, the "this" is Covid-19, the Coronavirus. And the Coronavirus is sweeping the world, And therefore, because we want to slow the spread of this virus and ultimately see it stopped in America and around the world, here in our country we are reducing our and restricting our gatherings together to less than ten people. And restaurants are closed and schools are closed and businesses are closed and theme parks are closed and, yes, even churches are closed. But the Church is wide open to spread the Gospel! We are following government restriction on gatherings, and that's a good social responsibility, and we are keeping a physical distance, but we are not keeping a spiritual distance. Because we're going to do everything we can as a church as a people of God to minister His grace, His love and hope to people all around the world.
This is a pandemic and many, of course, are anxious, some are alone, afraid, even in a panic. But we are in this together. And no matter where you are right now, you are not alone. First of all, because we know that God never leaves us or forsakes us. God is in the room; God is in the place you are right now. And I'm praying that you will experience the Spirit of the living God in your life in these days. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, His presence is alive, alive in you! And nothing, nothing will separate. You may feel separated right now, but nothing will separate us from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ. He is with you, I promise you, according to God's living Word, He is with you right now. And even in the face of death itself, Jesus has conquered death and hell and the grave. And because Christ lives we know that no matter what happens in our lives, be it sickness or death or sorrow or grief, or pain, that we are with Him and He is with us.
Now, as I said, this Covid virus, Covid-19 is like a war; it's a spiritual war. And our weapons are the Word of God, the testimony of Jesus, prayer, and yes, the Church! The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is a powerful weapon in the hand of God. And so God wrote letters, gave letters to His apostles and others who preached the Word of God and gave us His word in order that we might fight back against our fears, fight back against anxiety and fight forward in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is so important that together we move mountains because we have a mountain-moving God. It's so important that we continue to fight the good fight of faith. So take your Bible and look at Ephesians the fourth chapter, Ephesians chapter 4, and I want to show you in particular verse 3. That we are to be: "eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace".
I love that word eager. It means that we will strive, we will endeavor, we will work hard to maintain the unity of the church in the bond of peace. Just like any relationship, it takes work. A marriage takes work, a family relationship takes work. And it's going to take work together through these days, through the years that we will maintain the unity of the church in the bonds of Christ and the peace that He gives. And so, it's a fantastic passage, it begins in verse one with Paul, a prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the second time he's mentioned this, that he's a prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, he was not a prisoner of Rome, though Rome arrested him; he was not a prisoner of his circumstances, but he was a prisoner of Christ. He was in the hands of God. Christ was holding him. The day that the Apostle Paul met Jesus and arrested him on the road to Damascus, he was under the care and the control of the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
You may feel like Paul, that you are a prisoner right now. I know some people, you feel locked-down and shut out right now. You're maybe even freaking out that you can't be around your family or be around your friends, but the fact is, if you are a prisoner right now, if you are in Christ, you are a prisoner of Christ. And therefore, as a prisoner of Christ, you are, as the Scripture says, a prisoner of hope, because we, the Church, believers and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are dispensers of hope! Dispensers not of dope, but of hope! The lasting hope that we have in the Lord Jesus Christ. And I tell you this, God has a plan in all of these circumstances. We don't know what it is yet. We don't know God's plan in all of this, but I know that God has a plan, not only for the world and a plan for the United States of America, but God has a plan for you and your life and your family! And over the next weeks, days we're going to discover what God's plan really is. We're talking about together in Christ, and you know what that is? That is the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are the people, we are the Church.
Now in your Bible the word church... Let's just get this on the table right now. The word church means called-out ones, people who are called out. Called out by who? Called out by God; called out to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. The moment you are in Christ, you are in His Church. And that's a big "C". It's the worldwide, global body of Christ. And so that is the Church, the called-out ones of God. We have been called to follow Jesus. And as Christ followers we are therefore identified with Christ and we are identified with the Church. Remember this, the church is not a business; the church is not a building; but the Church is the body of the Lord Jesus Christ, the body of Christ. It's an illustration, taking the human body and illustrating the body of Christ which is the Church, with hands and feet and legs and eyes, that do the will of God.
Now the Scripture says that Christ is the head of this body. And that's a great thing. Christ is the head of the Church, the head of the body of Christ. And that means the Church is never going to go down! The Church is never going to go under! I know there are fears today regarding businesses and the economy and all the rest. Even concerns, deep concerns about the Church. How will churches survive this? We're praying for small churches and all churches. But I'm thinking especially about those many small churches that are out there, that are having difficulty thinking about surviving through this next couple of two or three weeks or however long these restrictions last. And yet, I know this: pastor and church members out there, and let me remind you to pray for your pastor, to pray for your church, to keep giving to your local church. But I know this, to all the churches who are preaching the Gospel, who are Christ-centered, Bible-preaching churches, I know this: that the only way that the Church is going down is if Jesus, the Head, goes under!
And I'm telling you, the Head, the Christ, the Savior, He's not going under! And therefore, the Church is not going under either! He said,"I will build My Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it". And if the gates of hell cannot prevail against the Church, then I guarantee you, this Covid-19 will not prevail against His Church! The Church includes people around the world. Right now, I'm speaking to Christians, and therefore, the Church around the world. Online we have over 70 countries who join us each week for worship in the Word of God, all across America from every state. So if you are a Christian, if you are a believer in Christ, you are a part of this Church. We are in this, all of us, together! It's the universal Church. But most of the time when the Bible talks about the church, it's not talking about church, big "C" - the global Church, but it's talking about little "c" - local church. And that means every person should identify, who follows Jesus should identify, become a member of a local church.
Billy Graham used to say, "Everybody has three homes: or should have three homes. You ought to have a heavenly home. You need to know that you're on your way to heaven because of what Christ has done for you. You need to have a family home, and the Bible says, 'God sets the solitary in family'". You may have family of just one or a few, you may be a big family, but God has given us a family, even if it's a family of friends. And that family of friends is the local church. So, you ought to have a church home, you ought to be a part of the family of God, the body of Christ. And so today how are we going to hang together, hold together and grow together during these times of uncertainty?
Number one, we are in this together because we are believing together. We are believing together. In verses 4 through 6 there are some essentials, some distinctives mentioned here that keep the church together. It is the confession of our faith, the foundation of our faith is mentioned here. And he talks about what we believe together. Because we are not the church just because we're friends or live in the same community. We are the church all across the world and locally because we have made a great confession of faith. And included in that confession Paul says, "We are one body, we are one spirit, we have one hope, we are one Lord, we are one faith, we are one baptism, and we have one God, the Father". We are one! And it is in this oneness of truth, it is the truth of God's Word, it is the confession of our faith. Who we are, what we believe in Christ that will keep us together. We are together because we are believing together. We have put our faith and trust in Christ. We have believed in Him. We have followed Him in obedience, and therefore, in Christ we are together.
That's what's going to keep us together in these days. It is the Word of God and the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ. And we have a confession of faith. We have our core beliefs as a church. In fact, you could go to our website |Prestonwood Baptist Church]Prestonwood.org and there you can find our statement of beliefs: our confession of faith. It's very important that churches not just be together because they have affinity group or an affinity to one another, but we're together in Christ. This is our common ground. We have one Lord, and therefore, we have one life together. We believe in God the Father; we believe in God the Son; we believe in the Holy Spirit who makes us one! These are the essentials that bring us together. That's why so many of you joined around, watching on your screen today, watching on your tablet, because you are a believer! Some of you are seeking a meaningful faith, a real faith in your life, and today is going to be the day of salvation.
He mentions three virtues here that keep bonding us together. What bonds us together? What keeps this relationship together. Well, he said first in humility. It is humility that causes us to serve one another. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. He bowed, He bent before His disciples and washed feet, and He said, "As I have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet". You know, we're spending a lot of time washing hands these days. I know I am and using the hand sanitizer. We're washing hands but we don't need to forget in these times to be washing feet. And that is in any way possible we are to serve one another, beginning with our own family. You may be feeling cooped up with your kids in your family right now, but this is a time to love one another and serve your family. We live in a selfie world and we need to make sure that we use this opportunity to humble ourselves before God.
In fact, I believe one of the things that God is doing in these uncertain times is humbling His people. Bringing us to the end of ourselves to know that in Christ we have everything and much more than we need. We need to serve one another in humility. Then he speaks of this virtue of gentleness or meekness. Meekness. Now meekness sounds like weakness to some but it's not weakness; it is power or strength under control. Every man ought to be a velvet-covered brick. You ought to be tender, strong on the inside, tender on the outside. Be a gentle man. And we all should practice this virtue of gentleness or strength or power under control. Jesus Himself who was strong, Mighty God, He said, "I am gentle and humble in heart". So what keeps people together, whether you're working on your family, your marriage and certainly the church? It is humility and it is gentleness, also patience. He says there in verse two once again, patience which means bearing with one another in love.
I'll tell you this about love. Love is patient and love is kind and love is forbearing, and love will do whatever it takes. Love always finds a way. And as the church of Jesus Christ we always find a way to love people. And we're going to find a way in these days to minister to people through texts, through signs, maybe just a little sign or just a smile, or whatever we can do to encourage you and yes, bond together. There's one final thing I want to say about this staying together and that we're in this together, and we're going to get through this together. Not only are we believing together, not only are we bonding together, but we are building together. We're building together how? By the use of spiritual gifts. Verse 7 says: "But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift". The Scripture goes on to say that Christ ascended and when He ascended, He gave gifts, spiritual gifts to His church. These spiritual gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit enable us to serve others and to serve the church. And everyone has a gift. These gifts are not toys to play with; they are tools to work with to build the church.
So we are building the church together through spiritual gifts and by spiritual leaders. He goes on to talk about the leaders that God has given the church in verse 11: "apostles and prophets, and evangelists and shepherds and teachers", that is pastor-teachers. It is the role of the pastor-teachers, those of us who preach and teach God's Word and lead God's churches, to feed the flock of God, to preach the Word of God, to build up the body. Frankly, the reason that many churches are on decline is because there is an absence of the teaching and preaching of God's Word. Go to a church where Christ is exalted and the Bible preached, because that's the way the church grows. And you know it is time for us now to grow up and to grow stronger in the Lord. It's the churches responsibility to spread the good news of Jesus Christ, and we are building together with Christ a kingdom of God. And we can do it by spreading the good news.
This virus is contagious; extremely contagious, the coronavirus. But let me tell you something that is also contagious, even more contagious. Eternally more contagious and that is a Christian full of the Spirit of God, a Christian full of the word of God, with the testimony of Christ, the witness of Jesus in your life. You are a contagious Christian. And how great will it be when we, on fire with the Holy Spirit begin to spread this good news of Jesus Christ to our friends, to our family, and you know, I believe that's happening right now. Do you know Christ as your Lord and Savior? Are you a believer? Back in the Old Testament there was a deadly viper, not a virus but a viper. And the children of Israel were in the desert and these poisonous serpents, snakes were destroying the camp of Israel. And so God as He always does in the midst of a crisis, He raises up a solution. And He told Moses, the leader of Israel to take a pole and on the pole put a brass serpent, and to hold up that pole. And all those who looked to the pole with the brass serpent would live. Those who refused to look would die in their sin.
Fast-forward, millenniums later Jesus was having a conversation with an old man by the name of Nicodemous who was on a search for meaning, a search for, He was a religious man but he knew he needed more, and so he came to Jesus and he spoke to Jesus and that's when Jesus said, "Nicodemous, you must be born again". Nicodemous said, "How is that possible"? Jesus said, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son that whoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life". And then Jesus went on to explain with an illustration. He said "Just as the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness and they said, 'Look, and live.' I am the serpent, and if the Son of Man be lifted up, He will draw all unto Himself". We are lifting up the Son of Man today. And if you look to Him and believe in Him and trust in Him, you will live. No virus, no viper, no sin will keep you in judgment, but rather you can be saved from the wrath that is to come, from the judgment that is come. We're all dying.
One of things that we've learned about this virus is how mortal we really are. There are statistics that I've read, and of course, people die every day, and there is a statistic that you need to know: one out of one person's die! That means you, me, all of us. "It is appointed unto one to die, and then the judgment". So we're all going to die. But Jesus is the solution for death, and every virus, every sinful thing, He is the solution. So I'm calling on you today. I'm lifting up Christ today and I'm saying, "Look and live". You may be a small child, watching this in your home. This is a time, you know, I came to Jesus as a little boy, as a little 6-year-old child, I looked and I've been living every since. But no matter, you may be an older person like Nicodemous. You may be feeling along, but Jesus is with you and we're lifting up Christ. Look and live. Look and live. Look and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
You say, "What does that mean"? It means this: Admit that you have sinned and broken God's commandment. And we've all sinned, we've all sinned, and therefore, we need a Savior. And then, not only admit it, and acknowledge it, but believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, the Bible says, and you will be saved. Look and live. Believe and be saved. Believe in your heart in the Lord Jesus. And then confess Him as your Lord and Savior. You can do that right now. In fact, I'm going to lead us in a prayer and in this prayer, you can look and live, you can receive Christ into your life, you can believe, you can become a child of God right now. Just pray like this: Lord Jesus I know I have broken your commandments, I know I have sinned but I believe and trust in you. I want to turn from my sin and follow you all the days of my life. Be my Lord, be my Savior, be my Master, be my God. Give me the strength by the power of your Spirit to live for you, and from this day forward I want to walk with you as your child.