We Are Accountable
We Are Accountable
Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White
Sunday 16th August, 2020
Good morning Seacoast.
We’ll be sharing Communion together at the close of my message today. It’s often the perfect way to tie everything together and to position ourselves humbly and yet powerfully and boldly before the Cross.
I really want to encourage you, if you haven’t done so already, to listen to my two previous messages before you listen to this one. I can see now that they flow in a sequence for a reason.
The first one was about being confident that the church will thrive and flourish – no matter what the circumstances are in the world. That’s clearly a promise from Jesus Himself – that He will build His church – and not even the powers of hell with be able to prevail against it!
History has proven that the church actually expands and strengthens under pressure or persecution.
The second message was about us personally taking courage into our hearts – and finding strength in the strange and difficult times we are living in. Our mental health – let alone our emotional and spiritual health – is being tested right now.
If you are feeling that, then you are not alone. This is why we definitely need each other’s love and support more than ever.
I’m not going to begin this morning as I often do, by reminding you of the challenging place in which we find ourselves. I think we’ve all got a pretty good handle on that already!
But I do have a word on my heart that I believe has been confirmed during this week a couple of times.
And it comes down to the basic principle of life – that we are not defined by what comes against us in life – but by how we choose to respond.
And I felt the Holy Spirit saying that one of the things that is happening through this season is there is a balancing out and a realigning of accountability and responsibility – in our own personal lives – but also generally in the life of the church.
So what does that mean?
Well, I believe many of us had become complacent and very familiar with the routine of coming together on a Sunday morning – even perhaps taking for granted the privilege and opportunity we have had to worship together in total freedom – without constraint.
We were able to share in the powerful expression of communion together – to allow the Word of God to wash over us as one body together…. And to simply share fellowship with one another – and let’s not minimise how important that last one is.
Now I don’t say these things in judgement of any particular individuals. I include myself in this picture as well. But it seems to me, that we as the church together were in desperate need of a shake up. Not a shakeup because what we had wasn’t of God. But a shake up because we didn’t value and appreciate what we had – which is His church celebrating together!
We needed a shake up – and that’s what we got!
So where does accountability fit into that picture.
Well, for a start, all of a sudden, everyone is in the position of being personally accountable for how they nurture their own spiritual growth and journey.
Yes, we have an online service to watch. But that is a far cry from actually gathering together in a live, Holy Spirit filled environment.
One of our INC leaders made the comment on a Network meeting I was part of this week, that it’s now basically up to every individual and family to run their own church.
Of course, church is much more than a service or a meeting. Church is people.
But I think the point he was making, was that we are each now accountable for our own worship – our own Bible study and growth in the Word of God – our own moments of coming to the Lord’s table – all of those things we have done together for so long – and including our own moments of fellowship.
We are accountable for how we reach out to support and encourage others who are part of our church community.
I can’t press that issue enough. Who are you connecting with? Have you allowed yourself to slip into your own little world – or are you still doing what you can – to love others as we are commanded to do?
We’re not in a place at the moment where we can rely on a Sunday morning to bring people together.
I hope that changes again soon – but it seems like it will be a long time before all of us will be able to freely join together in an unlimited number, without any constraints of social distancing.
We certainly have the online service as what I believe is a really valuable resource. But for now, each one of us still now has to take accountability for whether we actually use it. I guess if you are hearing this message today, you definitely are taking up that opportunity.
If we can get a heavenly perspective on all this – I think we should be saying – thank you Jesus, for loving us enough as Your Church – your Bride – to grab our attention and for shaking us out of our complacency….
But let’s not allow complacency now to follow us into our own little insulated worlds.
This is a moment in time for us to search out our own heart before God.
Ps. 26: 2 (NKJV), “Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart.”
The Message Bible says it really well:
Ps. 26: 2-3 (Message), “Examine me, God, from head to foot, order your battery of tests. Make sure I’m fit inside and out so I never lose sight of your love, But keep in step with you, never missing a beat.”
Like everything else, it all comes back to love. We can’t lose sight of God’s love for us and for others. We can’t short cut or short circuit the two greatest and most important commandments – to love God with all our heart – and to love others as ourselves.
In the end – we are accountable to God for our own lives. It’s a sobering reality that Paul says in:
Rom 14:12 (NKJV), “So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.”
Rom 14:12 (Passion), “Therefore, each one must answer for himself and give a personal account of his own life before God.”
How are we doing with that?
I’m not even going to try and water that down. Because we need to let it challenge us. We need to be convicted about how those two commandments particularly are outworking in our lives. Because ultimately – we are being held accountable to God Himself.
If you are struggling – or feeling as though you are falling short – can I strongly encourage you to lean into the basic principles of discipleship that we all know – but sometimes need to be reminded of.
Because our outward expression of our lives will always be a reflection of our personal walk with Jesus.
Phil 2:12 (NKJV), “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;”
We are not talking about whether or not we are saved here. We are talking about how we allow the gift of salvation that we have – to be worked out in our lives.
And the best place to be guided in that is by firstly, reading and meditating on God’s Word.
Ps 119:105 (NKJV), “Your word is a lamp to my feet, And a light to my path.”
Some people are feeling, in their own personal lives, as though this is a really dark time. Others are confused, frightened, discouraged…. Uncertain about the future.
But here we have God’s answer to the darkness. He says, My Word is your lamp and your light to help you walk forward.
The Word reveals to us how we should live – how we should respond. It lights up the truth. It is the truth.
The word clearly shows us how to work out our salvation in practical, life changing, life transforming ways…
Heb 4:12 (NKJV), “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
As I read this again, I could the see the Sword – the Word – fighting for us! It’s a weapon that wars against fear, anxiety, confusion, and every evil strategy of the devil to weaken us.
Ps. 107 speaks about God sending forth His Word to heal those who were in distress. And that’s the picture I get here as well. When we pray, we can do no better than to send forth the Word of God over the situations and circumstances that we are praying for.
The Word has the power of a mighty two edged sword – to fight on our behalf.
And then one of the most convicting verses regarding God’s Word – I believe anyway – comes from James – a man who doesn’t fluff around the edges:
James 1:22 (NKJV), “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
Loving God and loving others is not just about how we feel. It’s more importantly about what we do. And if we are not doers of the Word – and we don’t express the love we have for others in some practical and genuine way – and we just read the Word and let it tickle our ears…. Then we are deceived!
And if there is ever an opportunity for us to be vulnerable to deception – it’s while we are isolated.
It’s not God’s plan for us to be isolated. He says, don’t forsake the assembling of yourselves together….
I can’t wait for us to be meeting altogether again – but until that happens – at least make sure you are assembling and meeting together in some form. Invite others to your home. Take someone out for coffee or a meal.
Actually these are the things we should be doing anyway. I come back again to what I’ve said in earlier messages…. It’s not about one or the other. It’s not about whether we meet as a large group or a small one. Why can’t it be both?
The Word also says:
Rom 12:2 (NKJV), “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
Your mind will only be renewed from hearing the Word of God…. Allowing the Holy Spirit to breathe upon it as it washes over you.
I know these scriptures are foundational – but we need to remind ourselves of them often. It’s surprising how quickly we can be deceived or distracted and become conformed more to this world and its culture, when we let the foundations slip.
Then there’s the whole area of prayer! Our conversation with God. Our place of building intimacy with the Father…
Paul says – “pray without ceasing” (1Thes 5:17); “that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands” (1Tim 2:8), “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;” (Phil 4:6)…
Prayer is expressed in many different ways – but it’s clear that God desires that we walk in a place of prayer constantly – always asking God for His wisdom and help….
And I love what Paul says to Timothy – Be anxious for nothing!
How is Timothy meant to just stop being anxious? Through prayer! Through lifting everything – all his needs, his fears, his requests, and his thanksgiving…. Everything…. Lifting it up and handing it all over to his Father in heaven.
Again, just as the Holy Spirit breathes upon the Word as we read it and hear it, the Holy Spirit also helps us with our praying. And when we don’t even know what words to use – He still helps us.
Rom 8:26 (NKJV), “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”
And you have to hear this as it’s translated through the Passion Bible.
Rom 8:26 (Passion), “And in a similar way, the Holy Spirit takes hold of us in our human frailty to empower us in our weakness. For example, at times we don’t even know how to pray, or know the best things to ask for. But the Holy Spirit rises up within us to super-intercede on our behalf, pleading to God with emotional sighs too deep for words.”
Just take a look around our nation. It’s fared a lot better than many others. But consider the suffering of the nearly 400 people who have died from Covid-19 – and then all the families that are grieving – and the ongoing health issues of the many thousands who are finding it difficult to recover.
Then there’s all the economic fallout – businesses closing, borders closing, churches trying to navigate as best they can.
At times I’ve found myself without the words to pray – but my spirit man still pleads with God…. And I know that the Holy Spirit super-intercedes for me – for us.
That’s actually what the Holy Spirit does. He super-intercedes for us. He’s our supernatural advocate.
And lastly but not least – is the foundation of praise and worship. We have our own worship team who lead us brilliantly online – but you don’t always need others to lead you…. Worship can be a song – it can be a life – it can be any gift or sacrifice you give of yourself to God…. It can be many things, just like prayer can be expressed in many ways.
Ps. 96:1-2 (NKJV), “Come on, everyone! Let’s sing for joy to the Lord! Let’s shout our loudest praises to our God who saved us! Everyone come meet his face with a thankful heart. Don’t hold back your praises; make him great by your shouts of joy!
Some of us mightn’t be amazing singers – but we can all shout! We can all still let our voices praise and worship God.
This might seem off topic and totally unspiritual, but it’s not. I’ve noticed that Jeep has changed its little motto. It used to be “Don’t hold back!” I’ve noticed lately that it’s now – “I’m in!”
Ps. 96 that I just read, actually says – Don’t hold back…. You see… it’s scriptural…
We could very easily include those as hashtags for the church. “Don’t hold back”. And “I’m In!”
Can I just put it out there, that one of your amazing expressions of worship is in your giving. Don’t hold back with your giving – be all in. The church might not be meeting on a Sunday, but we are doing our best to continue to maintain the vision we have for the church to flourish in all circumstances and in all ways. God is definitely still at work – and your giving is actually your sowing into His Kingdom as it is revealed on earth.
So I hope you hear my heart this morning. The shakeup is a good thing. Coronavirus isn’t a good thing – but for those who have ears to hear and hearts to respond, God is leading His church into a fresh season of faith and passion.
And this leads us to our time of sharing communion.
The bread and the wine speak of the broken body of Jesus and His shed Blood. They get our attention – because they remind us of His death.
They remind us of what it cost Him – suffering and death….
But they also speak of our own salvation. For us, they speak of life.
As you take the bread and juice in your own home today, let your heart be stirred again – realising that we are accountable to God for what we do with this precious life that we have been given.
It’ precious because it cost Jesus everything.
It’s precious because now our lives are a gift to others. And as we receive these communion elements, let’s remind ourselves that we are called to love others, to support others, to encourage others – to meet together in fellowship where we can build one another up.
That’s the church being built right there. One building up another.
So let’s pray and then take and eat together:
Dear Father in Heaven,
Thankyou for the gift of Your Son, Jesus.
You have saved us and given us eternal life. And Father, we accept our accountability for what we do with this life you have given us.
In these days, weeks and months of separation and isolation, help us to see Your plan for our lives so that we can walk in it, by the Light of Your Word.
Help us to become the Bride of Christ – the Church – that You are creating.
To You be the glory – forever and ever.