2014 Vision: Come On In! (Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges)

2014 Vision: Come On In! (Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges)

Well, it’s finally here!  Today’s the big day when the vision that God has given our church for 2014 is revealed!  We’re taking a break from our “Tripping Hazards” series and, this morning, sharing what God has planned and purposed for us as a church this year.
Ready, drum roll please…..
Come On In!
     Breaking Barriers
     Building Bridges
On our way home from my credentials interview last year, we stopped at a Panera Bread to eat lunch.  As most restaurants have, there was a waiting area in the immediate entrance.  It was the kind with two sets of doors to keep hot or cold drafts from entering the restaurant.  In this waiting area, there was a cricket.  God spoke to me and revealed to me the irony of this cricket’s reality.
That cricket was trapped in a waiting area.  Unless the barrier was broken down for that cricket, it would starve to death in that waiting area.  Imagine the irony of starving to death in a restaurant!  There was enough food in that Panera Bread to feed that cricket for its lifetime and then some!  Someone needed to simply open a door in order to break down that barrier and to set that cricket free; to literally save its life.

How many in our community are starving to death in that same way spiritually?  The riches of the kingdom of Heaven are freely available to meet every one of their needs and then some!  There are many churches here in the valley that long to freely give access to these riches to everyone.  However, there are barriers in the lives of those around us everyday which keeping them in a waiting area.  They are:

Waiting to feel comfortable (they do not know what to expect or what to do in a church service, they do not have nice enough dress clothes)
Waiting for an invitation (they are not sure if they are welcome to come)
Waiting to be accepted (they feel looked down on and judged)
Waiting to be good enough (they do not look or act like what they feel a church-goer should and they do not want to be a hypocrite)
Waiting for the need (they do not know what the church has to offer nor that it applies to them)
Waiting to have the free time (they value other things in life above gathering to worship and fellowship)

Matthew 11:28-30
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

The veil has been torn, our sins have been washed away, our debts have been paid – there’s no need to wait! Jesus simply says, “Come on in!”.  This year, that’s what we’re committing to say as well, “Come on in!”.

This year, I believe that this is the heart of what God desires New Hope to proclaim.  Even as John the Baptist prepared the way of the Lord, removing all barriers and preparing people to receive Jesus, we, also, are to break down any and all barriers and invite people simply to come to Jesus.  Their waiting period has ended and their names are being called!  The focus of our overall vision this year will be to “Gather”.  This year, we’re being called on to simply invite people to come to church as they are and to have a personal encounter with Jesus.  Just as it was prophesied about John the Baptist, we’re also being called to be that voice calling out in the wilderness of our culture that we find ourselves living.  We’re being called to build bridges and make straight a way for people to come to the Lord!

Isaiah 40:3-5
3 A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

There are many barriers which we can encounter in life that keep people from coming into the Kingdom of God.  There are barriers which people intentionally put up because they had been hurt or have problems trusting others.  There are barriers put up when tragedies occur in life that we don’t understand.  There are barriers which followers of Christ put up out of their own convictions or out of critical judgment of others.  There are also barriers which are put in place by Satan through the deceitfulness of sin and lies.

The solution to breaking down any and all barriers to people coming to Jesus, no matter what they are or how they were placed there, is actually quite simple: LOVE.

John 15:12 

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

The single person who has ever walked the face of this Earth who could have put up a barrier between himself and others is Jesus.  Instead, He chose to burst through all barriers in love.  The “religious” people called Him a glutton, they called Him a drunkard, they called Him a demon, they called Him a friend of sinners, they called Him a hypocrite, they called Him a liar, they called Him a blasphemer.  However:

Jesus didn’t allow their accusations to stop His love!
Jesus didn’t allow their traditions to stop His love!
Jesus didn’t allow their doubt to stop His love!
Jesus didn’t allow their denial of Him to stop His love!
Jesus didn’t allow their differences of opinion to stop His love!
Jesus didn’t allow the depths of their sin to stop His love!
Jesus didn’t allow His righteousness to stop His love!
Jesus didn’t allow the demonic to stop His love!
Jesus didn’t allow Satan’s personal temptation to stop His love!
Jesus didn’t allow their highly contagious sicknesses and diseases to stop His love!
Jesus didn’t even allow even death, itself, to stop His love!!!

Like Jesus, we are being called to love others with an unquenchable and unstoppable love. This love that Jesus has given us to love other with, it is patient, it is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. It does not delight in evil, but it rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. This love NEVER FAILS! (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).  This love is also not just a mere idea, concept, or quote.  This love is one of action!

1 John 3:18
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

We are being called to love others more than ourselves, more than our reputation, more than our fear of failure, and far MORE THAN OUR FEAR OF THEIR SIN!

We are being called upon as a church to put our childish ways behind us and to grow and mature in the Lord.  We have a history of conflict, offense, and strife.  We have several strong-willed individuals here with very strong opinions.  Although this means we have been blessed with the strength of strong leadership, this also has obvious weaknesses.  In fact, we were nearly shut down as a home missions church at one point.  We struggled for years to gain and maintain a leader because of these conflicts.  This is all now behind us and we are making great progress in breaking free from those old ways and those old mindsets.  We’re growing strong and learning together to allow the Lord to be the strength in our weaknesses.
We are breaking free from the bondage that kept us down for so long!  This year, more than any other before, we’re going to manifest the love of God for each other and for the lost in our community.  We’re forgiving old hurts and offenses!  We’re refusing to be stumbling blocks!  We’ll submit to one another in complete humility and consider others more valuable than ourselves!  We’re refusing to submit to our feelings and selfish ambitions!  We’re choosing to be lead by the Holy Spirit alone and not by anyone’s personal wants or desires!  We’re choosing to lay down our lives completely, taking up our crosses and taking up one singular cause: the cause of Christ!  We’re breaking free from division and choosing unity!  We’re choosing to be peacemakers and eagerly looking forward to the harvest of righteousness that follows!  We’re rising up and moving forward!  We’re doing what seems impossible for us to do, but through Christ who gives us the strength, we will do it!
This love that we’re choosing to put on and move in isn’t a girly, romantic movie kind of love!  This is the tough, agape, love that conquers mightily and always overcomes victoriously!  This is the same love that is synonymous with God, Himself; the almighty and all-powerful Creator, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords,  the One to whom every knee shall bow and every tongue confess.
This isn’t a sissy kind of love!  This is the kind of love that is able to be ‘man’ enough to turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile, give the coat off of your back, take the punches, be spit on, get crucified, and still choose to forgive; still choose to bear the weight of the sin of others; still choose to be a mighty bridge and not a foolish stumbling block into the Kingdom of God whom many will travel across!  This is the kind of love that covers and bears a multitude of sins!  This is the kind of love that doesn’t react in a fit of rage, this is the kind of love that patiently endures and perseveres until breakthrough comes and truth prevails!

This is the kind of love that breaks barriers!

Jesus is THE way, THE truth, THE life. He has already broken down every barrier that separates us from God and so we must no longer allow any of them to stand in our own life nor in the lives of others! Listen to what was prophesied about us!

Micah 2:13
The One (or The Breaker in the KJV; capitalized referring to Jesus) who breaks open the way will go up before them;

they will break through the gate and go out.
Their King will pass through before them,
the Lord at their head (their being the Church of whom Jesus is the head).

Jesus is the Breaker – He is the one who breaks through the gate.  He is the one who has made a way straight to the very throne of God’s grace.  He is the one that caused the veil to be torn.  He is the one who breaks down all barriers and says that the gates of Hell will not prevail against His church.  He is the one who has already gone before us and is at the head.  He did all of this and simply says to everyone, “Come on in!”.

People need the manifest love of God (1 Cor 13) in its various forms; they are starving for it!  God chose us to break down the barriers that separate others from coming to Him, to build bridges and to simply agree with Him and say, “Come on in!”.  Jesus has given us the divine power to do exactly this, in fact, to not only break down these barriers, but to demolish them altogether!

2 Corinthians 10:3-5
3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

And we also choose not to be a barrier ourselves!  We seek out after not our own good, but the greater good of others!  We choose to have the same mindset as Christ Jesus to put the interest of others above His own (Phil. 2).  That is exactly what God has begun to teach us through our “Tripping Hazards” message series.

1 Corinthians 10:32-33
32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

Jesus came to seek and save the LOST.  These are simple words that most of us are familiar with and probably quote often.  However, we often miss the reality of that statement.  Think about this example that helps us to understand what Jesus meant:

You are in a maze.  At first, it’s a lot of fun.  Your friends are with you and you decide to compete to see who can find the exit the fastest.  You’re consumed by the excitement of the competition and know that you’ll find your way out first.  Then, all of the sudden, you find yourself lost and trapped.  You are now all alone.  Your heart begins to beat faster and faster.  You begin to panic.  You are overwhelmed, alone, and scared.  You begin to run, but every turn that you make just leads to yet another dead end.  Every path that you race down offers just enough hope to keep you chasing down it until that familiar dead end meets you face-to-face once again.  Minutes feel like hours.  Although you were once confident and sure, you are now hopeless and lost.

Jesus came to seek and save the lost.  He came to save people who feel just like that in life.  He is calling us to do the same.  He is calling us to break down the walls of that maze and to build bridges that lead people straight out of their fears, anxieties, worries, and hopelessness to Jesus.

The practical application of this year’s vision is to:

1. Pray – that the Holy Spirit would draw them to Christ
2. Break Barriers – determine and demolish any barriers in place between them and Christ
3. Build Bridges – find common ground with those individuals
4. Invite them to “Come on in!” just as they are to church and into the family of Christ
This year, let’s get out there!  Let’s rise up to God’s higher calling!  Invite people to “Come On In!”, break down any barriers that stand in their way, and build bridges which make straight the path for them to Jesus!