A Community of Love and Truth
Updated: Sep 3, 2020
The question I want to ask you this morning as we celebrate God’s providential grace on our 28th anniversary is this:
What makes a church resilient?
What makes the church resilient in a world full of broken people?
What makes the church resilient in a shifting society?
What makes the church resilient in a post-Christian culture?
What makes the church resilient in a changing community?
In some Christian circles, they would say: Well, you need big attractional programs. You need to make sure you have a certain music style. You need to preach to felt needs and be careful with archaic talk like “sin” and “hell”. You need to abandon the old practices of church membership, and avoid things like “holding one another accountable”. You need big personalities; you know…the kind that draws people in.
If you want to build an audience, they are exactly right. But that doesn’t mean the church will be resilient. Programs come and go. Music styles change. Deny doctrine you get nothing but empty self-help speeches. Peoples preferences and desires are unstable at best. And loose affiliation may open the front door of the church, but it also opens the back door much wider.
What makes a church resilient – able to withstand – is holding fast to the truth that we have heard from the beginning. A resilient church is able to spring back into shape after bending, stretching, or being compressed.
The best kept secret to a resilient church is this: We are called to proclaim the truth of the gospel with our lips *and* promote it with love through our lives. Christians are called to love in the truth and live in the truth.
We Are Called To Love The Truth (2 John 1-3)
1 The elder: To the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth—and not only I, but also all who know the truth— 2 because of the truth that remains in us and will be with us forever. 3 Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.
As John begins this short letter - one of the shortest in the New Testament – he refers to himself as “The Elder”. And writes to the “elect lady” and “her children”, metaphorical terms referring to the local church and her members. At the end of the letter John indicates that he is an active member of a sister church, but yet still have some sort of authority or influence in the church he is writing.
Even still, John writes to this sister church and declares – “I love you in the truth” and not only I, he says, “Everyone who knows the truth loves you…. because of the truth that remains in us and will be with us forever.”
What makes a church resilient?
What makes a church resilient in a world full of people who deny the truth?
What makes a church resilient in societies and cultures that redefine the truth?
What makes a church resilient in times when holding fast to the truth can be costly?
Love expressed in truth. If the truth remains in the church, and the love of the church is expressed in the truth – it will outlast the challenges that she is faced with. Note that John calls the church “the elect lady and her children”, denoting God’s eternal decree to call her to himself. Note that John says that the truth must remain in the church and be with us forever.
If God has called the church from eternity past, and protects the church for eternity future, there is a solid ground for confidence in remaining in the truth and loving one another in the truth.
I want you to imagine going to your doctor's office for a check-up. The doctor says to you, "You are a magnificent physical specimen. You have the body of an Olympian. You are to be congratulated." Later that day while climbing the stairs in your new founded confidence, and your heart gives out, you end up in the hospital and find our that your arteries were so clogged that you were double bacon cheeseburger away from meeting your maker.
You go back to your doctor and say, "Why didn't you tell me?" The doctor says, "Well, I knew your body is in worse shape than the Pillsbury doughboy, but if I tell people stuff like that, they get kind of offended. It's bad for business. Customers don't come back. I want this to be a safe place where you feel affirmed regardless of your actual health. You'd be furious! You'd say to the doctor, "I need the truth!" (Adapted from Tony Evans)
Obviously, when something matters to us, we do not want illusory comfort based on what we want to hear. We need to hear…well, what we need to hear.
This reminds me of words of the Apostle Paul when he was writing to a church in Ephesus that had truth problems. They preferred hearing stuff that made them feel good.
But Paul wrote to them and said, "speak the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the head, that is, Christ.” You cannot separate truth and love. Love without truth tends to lead us towards sentimental emotionalism. "Truth without love tends to lead us towards judgmental self-righteousness. Love without truth is like doing heart surgery with a wet fish. Truth without love is like doing heart surgery with a sledgehammer" (Tim Chester).
In order for us to be resilient church, we need to love one another in truth. The church is not a museum of saints. It is a hospital for sinners. If the church were a place for perfect people, we’d have no members. If the church is a hospital for sinners, and a place for imperfect people…Then our goal should be to point people to the great physician, to the perfect savior of who died for our sins. We need to point people to Jesus who supplies us with his Spirit to both convict us of sin and empower us to live righteously.
Our mission statement isn’t - We'll help you ignore your sin; you help us ignore ours.” Our mission statement is “we exist to make disciples of Jesus Christ.”In order to do this, we need to speak the truth to one another in love.
Well, Pastor Matt that is scary. What if I come to someone in love and share with them the truth, and they….and they… No…Don’t even finish that fear empowered sentence.
(v.3) Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.
Be with you – that is not a prayer, it’s a declaration. By His grace, God gives all of us what we don’t deserve. By His mercy, God doesn’t give us what we do deserve. Peace is simply the blessing that flows from grace and mercy. This gospel peace is expressed in our love for truth and our speaking the truth in love. And if we have received grace and mercy, we show grace and mercy to one another in our love and in our truthfulness.
The truth is, perfect love casts out all fear. Let us love the truth.
We Are Called To Live In Truth (2 John 4-6)
4 I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, in keeping with a command we have received from the Father. 5 So now I ask you, dear lady—not as if I were writing you a new command, but one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. 6 This is love: that we walk according to his commands. This is the command as you have heard it from the beginning: that you walk in love.
You can almost sense the joy in the old Apostles voice as he says, I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth. Notice, He doesn’t say all…He says some. There will always be those among us who for a season find themselves walking away from the truth. But as long as there are those among us walking in the truth, there is hope that those who are tempted to walk away will be prayed for, pursued, and reconciled. Even though we are all imperfect, we can share in John’s joy knowing that even some of us are walking in the truth at any given moment. That is why we need one another.
And the hope is found in the verse 5, let me remind you church – this is not a new command, but loves one another in the truth.
“Dear children, live in the truth.” The designation “little children”, I don’t think is accidental. If there is any group of human beings that walk in the truth without social awareness, it’s our children. They have no filter. They have no fear when it comes to declaring the truth, out loud – sometimes to the horror of their parents. Only a child would look at someone in an elevator and say, “that man stinks.” Only a child would loudly proclaim in the line at the grocery store, “I can see that woman’s underwear through her pants”. Only a child would say in the middle of a conversation, “Hey Bob…you know what, you are a lot nicer than my parents said you were.”
I am not saying we should blurt things out like children; social awareness is a good thing. But I do think we should apply the same childlike boldness and truthfulness to ourselves. Why do children say such honest things in the presence of their parents? Because our children find our presence safe – a place to share their thoughts and express what they are feeling.
I think we can learn something here. Living in the truth means that we: Walk according to his commands. Walk in love.
Living in the truth means that we assess ourselves with a child-like honesty before God because we know we are accepted by him because he loves us. He loves us not based on what we’ve done – that would be exhausting, we’d have no assurance of his love. He loves us not based on what we have or haven’t done, he loves us because he is love. And the way we know he is love, is considering that he accepts us based on what Christ has done.
This is the beauty of the gospel, right? The gospel, applied to our hearts every day, frees us to be brutally honest with ourselves and with God. The assurance of His total forgiveness of our sins through the blood of Christ means we don’t have to play defensive games anymore. We don’t have to rationalize and excuse our sins. We can call sin exactly what it is, regardless of how ugly and shameful it may be, because we know that Jesus bore that sin in His body on the cross.
With the assurance of total forgiveness through Christ, we have no reason to hide form our sins anymore. Christ has broken the power of sin. The gospel frees us to be honest with ourselves in such a way that we don’t fall into despair when we fail to love others or be obedient to God’s commands. The gospel frees us to be honest with needs so we don’t have to hide behind the empty mask of self-righteousness fail to love others or be obedient to God’s commands.
But the gospel also empowers us: To love others with grace, because Christ has loved us with his amazing grace. To not look down on others when they fail to live up to God’s commands, because all of us have failed to be perfectly obedient. All of us stand on solid and equal ground at the foot of the cross. All of us have hope because of the empty grave. And all of us in this church, can bear with one another because we are on this journey as a body towards our own Easter morning where we will not longer be in the presence of sin.
Not only does the gospel frees us to be brutally honest with ourselves and with God, but it also enables us to be honest with one another – speaking the truth in love.
Christ has broken the power of sin for everyone around you that has called upon the name of Jesus. If God accepts them as they are, in fact, as Christ is, we must also show them grace in love and truth. We are one in Christ, the mutual indwelling of the Spirit – and are therefore on this journey together.
The process of sanctification is a group project. We must be resilient together. We help one another learn what it looks like to walk in love. We help one another in the struggle to be obedient to God’s commands. This is the greatest act of love we can have for one another. To encourage one another in the truth. But in order to do this, we must live in the truth as individuals. What makes the church resilient is when every individual pursues the truth together as a body, in love for one another.
The beauty of the church is that we are a body that apart from the gospel we would not be naturally drawn to one another. We are no temperamentally compatible. We are drawn together, we are compatible because of the truth we share. We must never cease to live in the truth we share because it’s the truth by which our love and unity depend.
We must live in truth.
And John notes one more reason we need one another.
We Are Called To Look For The Truth (2 John 7-11)
7 Many deceivers have gone out into the world; they do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch yourselves so you don’t lose what we have worked for, but that you may receive a full reward. 9 Anyone who does not remain in Christ’s teaching but goes beyond it does not have God. The one who remains in that teaching, this one has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your home, and don’t greet him; 11 for the one who greets him shares in his evil works.
Love the truth. Live in the truth. Look for the truth…look out for it. Be on watch. Look out for deceivers.
Many deceivers have gone out into the world; they do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.
Whoever denies Christ, and the good news of his coming is a deceiver, pulling you away from the true Christ. Whoever denies Christ, and the good news of his coming is an antichrist, because they are “against-Christ”. This is heresy on both fronts – opposing Jesus and deceiving people.
A resilient church looks for truth. Have you ever reflected on the difference between seeing something and looking for something? To see something, you just merely have to catch it. Notice it, even when it’s accidental or by happenstance. To look for something you have to be active and intentional in your looking. A guard at a city gate isn’t just someone who sees, they are someone who has been tasked to look. When you protect something, you are not called just to see – but to be watchful, to look out.
John is saying, look out for those who: Do not confess Jesus Christ coming in the flesh (v. 7). Do not continue in the teaching of Jesus (v. 9).
The false teachers that John warns the church about: Claim to have advanced beyond the foundational truths of the gospel. They are the theological progressives. It’s not progress, it’s apostasy. It’s not enlightenment, it’s darkness. They have “run ahead”, they have “advanced” so far that they have even left the gospel behind.
No, we must hold fast to the truth, which we have heard from the beginning.
The one who remains in that teaching, this one has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your home, and don’t greet him; for the one who greets him shares in his evil works.
We must guard what we teach, and who teaches us (in speaking and in reading). We must guard against the peddlers of false teaching, who like merchants brings with him condemning goods to sell. We must not let them into the household of God. Don’t even welcome them, their teaching is not only derogatory – it’s dangerous. Don’t even provide them a platform for their bogus ideas and for their counterfeit message.
We look for truth because the health of our souls depends on it. There are false teachers all around us – peddling their false teaching on the air and on the pages of books. We need to look out for them, and look out for one another. We must look for the truth.
John gives us a sense of the joy it is to be a committed part of a church that holds to the truth, and holds one another in love.
12 Though I have many things to write to you, I don’t want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to come to you and talk face to face so that our joy may be complete. 13 The children of your elect sister send you greetings.
Complete joy is being able to look around you, to people that have committed to God – and to live out the Christian life with you. Complete joy is the result of this type of fellowship – face to face. It should bring us complete joy when we look around at each other and find one another walking in truth and keeping with the commands we have received from the Father.
That is persevering resilience.
Christians are called to love the truth, live in the truth, and look for the truth. Look to the truth. Look at yourselves. Look out for those who are trying to deceive you.
What makes a church resilient – able to withstand – is holding fast to the truth that we have heard from the beginning. A resilient church is able to spring back into shape after bending, stretching, or being compressed. The best kept secret to a resilient church is this: We are called to proclaim the truth of the gospel with our lips *and* promote it with love through our lives.
Here’s to another 28 years Fairview. We may not know what the future holds. But we know who holds the future. We are simply called to: love the truth, live in the truth, and look for the truth.
Hold fast to what you heard from the beginning. The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God remains forever.