We were created for community.But how do you find the spiritual family that so many of us long for? In this message Pastor Michael Ewart discusses 2 key ingredients —Honest confession and sincere prayer.
The episodes are the weekly sermons from 922 Ministries campus in Appleton, WI. St. Peter is in the north part of Appleton. The CORE is our downtown Appleton campus.
Week 1 - St Peter
Pastor Michael Ewart
So we are beginning this brand new series called "How to" today. We're talking about how to find community already of you out there, do-it-yourselfers, I kind of am on our pastoral staff. I think Pastor Tim wouldn't mind me saying he is not. The guy can probably barely turn a screwdriver. On the other extreme is Pastor Jim. Who can totally do it himself. Almost anything is a really, really handy, a carpenter and then somewhere in between would be me. I kind of like to do some projects by myself and sometimes I'm a little bit afraid to. So right now we are remodeling our basement. We started earlier in the year, we're having some people Help with it. The important things are being handled by professionals. I don't want to electrocute myself. So I don't do the electrical and I don't want to end up with a pool in my basement. So I'm not doing the plumbing but some of the stuff we are doing ourselves. One of the things I decided, I thought we could do was to install the flooring. We decided to go with glue down luxury, vinyl plank, flooring, because it was pretty cheap. And I thought I think we can do that. I have never done this in my life but somebody I knew said, all you can handle this. It's really not that hard but I am a thinking person. And I'm super deliberative. So I watched a YouTube video
Then I watched a second YouTube video, then I consulted with somebody who's done it before. Then I did more research then I discovered what I needed to order. Then I read all the instructions about the glue, then I read everything that the luxury vinyl plank flooring company wrote about it. And finally, I started the project and I worked on it and I know it proud to say, it turned out awesome. It looks really good and we saved a lot of money in the process. And I had some sore muscles for a few days along with my wife and my son but we got it done.
That's how it looks to be able to do it yourself. If you don't have the expertise yet, you find somebody that does and they show you how to know when it comes to how to grow in your faith, it's not quite as easy, just to YouTube a video. I should have tried that. See what pops up because I'm a little bit worried. What might pop up, but in this next five weeks we are doing exactly what you're going to. We are going to show you based on what the Bible says how to grow in. Our faith is God's way and it is related to the five routes that we always talk about here. Do you know those five routes? Would you be able to Rattle them off if I call somebody out at random but see if you can come up with the five? Are you ready? Now, I'm not gonna do that. You'll never come back to church again. So I won't put you on the spot, but if you rattle them off, you help me out here. The first one is to gather a second group. Third one grow third, fourth, give, and Go good. Thank you. Now if you couldn't remember them all or one of them, you blanked out a little bit, that's perfectly fine, don't worry about that. What's more important is, what does each one of those mean? And according to a survey that we took a few months ago, a lot of you aren't sure what some of them exactly mean, which is what this series is all about today. We are talking about the second route to the group route in that one, especially people weren't exactly sure what does that even mean to have a group route, we use this terminology and sometimes don't define it very well. Well, it's what we're talking about today. How to find Community. The group route is all about doing life together, with one another, and I'm going to demonstrate today. Why is that so critically important for us to grow in our faith? Now. Let me ask you a tough question. And I want you to think about this, How many people? Know, the real you. I think about this how many people really know you now there's lots of people that know you but how many really know you? How many people know the real you we're a lot more guarded about that aren't we? We know lots of people but who really knows. You who knows your challenges? Who knows your struggles? Who knows your pets sins?. Probably quite a few less people, right? Right. Maybe if you're an introvert, there's maybe two, three, four people. Some of you might not have anybody, that might be the case. If you're a super outgoing extrovert, there might be a lot more people than that, maybe too many, but how many people know the real you and what we tend to do? And I think you'll agree with this is that when we are around people that we don't know quite as well, don't we tend to turn up the filter?
Set up something pops into your head. It doesn't flow right out of your mouth. You're thinking you're always thinking what are they expecting? What do they think? I'm going to say what would be the right response in this circumstance? What is the matter in which I should say it? You don't just blurt it out. When you're around people that don't know you as well to filters, get turned up. And so do you. Also sometimes put on a little bit of a front? Right? You don't want people to see the real you. You want them to see the polished image that you want them to know of you.
The place where this happens. The most probably is Facebook, isn't it? We even say that on Facebook, you may have dozens of friends, maybe even hundreds of friends. Some of them, you don't know very well, some of them are acquaintances. Some of them, don't know, you. Some of them might be co-workers. So what you put on Facebook is highly filtered. I bet it's highly filtered. You don't just put anything on there. You only put the best on there and it is a front, a little bit, isn't it? It's not real. You. It's what you want people to see of you is, what goes on Facebook? Filters, and a front.
And I would suggest there's another place where we tend to do that. And you're sitting in it.
Isn't that the case that when we come to church, we tend to turn up the filters and we put on the front. You might have been having a full-blown fight with your spouse on the way to church, but you step in the door. How's everything going? Oh great. How are you doing? Everything's fine. The front is up, the filters are in place. You're not saying the same words. Now that you were just saying on the car ride over, The filters are upright and we kind of understand that. In fact, this is why some people don't come to church. Did you know that people say? Well if I came to church, lightning would strike. They're afraid that they don't have the right filters in place yet. They don't have the right front in place. That they wouldn't feel comfortable. They're not sure what to say, how to act. I'm not sure how to act yet. I got to improve my life a little bit more first once I get to a certain level, then maybe I can go to church and honestly that's, that's little bit backwards.
Church should be the place where we can all. Finally, let down. You have friends like that, right? I can remember that in college. There were certain people around them. I was always guarded and thinking, and filtered and the front and then there were my close circle of friends who really knew the real me. And I could totally relax and the filters could be lowered in the front would come off. And, I could just be me, and I would, I wish church was a place where that could happen, but I'm realistic enough to know that it probably won't be like that. At least not fully and
And we can understand that. Look at how many people are sitting here today to turn off your filter completely. And just to let everybody see the real you you're probably not going to lean over to the stranger in the Pew. Sitting next to you right now and say you're not going to believe the sin I committed yesterday right? You're probably not going to do that but do you have close Christian friends where you can? That is what we want to talk about today. And what I'd like to do is my goal is that by the end of this Service today, you've kind of had a little shift in mentality when it comes to the group group, this group route, what is it? What is the Mind shift? I hope that you will have instead of saying I go to church, don't you say that right? Did you go to church today? Yeah, I went to church. Did you go to church and say, oh, I went to church and I wasn't able to go this Sunday, but I'm going to go next Sunday. Going to church is a huge part of our vocabulary. It's a place we go. We spend an hour or two here and then we go home. Yeah, I went to church, instead of thinking that when you think Church my prayer is that, by the time you leave today, you will be thinking
We are the church. Did you go to church? That's not the question. Are you the church? Yes, I am. Did you know? I pray. This doesn't happen. But did you know that if this whole campus burned down tonight? Nothing happened to the church. The church is just fine. Because the church is not a building, the church is not a location. We are the church. So, what does that exactly mean? I want to unpack that with you, by taking a look at what James wrote in James chapter 5, we're going to start at verse 13. He helps us unpack this mentality of what it means to be the church that we are the church together. Again, touching on what we heard in Romans chapter 12, to what does that mean that we are interdependent on each other? What does it look like to be able to turn down the filters? Drop the front and truly be a community with one. Another James is going to help us out here. Let's take a look at what he says.
He says, first of If anyone among you, is anyone among you in trouble? Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray.
Is anyone among you happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Are you already sensing that? He's talking about lowering the filters. If anyone of his, you are in trouble. Just pretend you're not put on a smile to say everything. That's great. No, he doesn't say that go ahead and pray to God. Let that out on the outside. Let people see that you're struggling. Well you don't want to gloat, you know, just kind of suppress that deep inside and you don't know these people and they might not appreciate what's going well, and they might think so. No, he says sing a song of praise to God. Let
Be turned down, the filter is what James is encouraging us to do. Then he says this if anyone, is anyone among you sick and that word, literally means it can be. It can mean sick, like having a sickness, but it also means weakness. If you're feeling weak or burdened or press down, that's all part of being sick. It might not be physical. It might also be mental or emotional, it can mean a lot of different things. If anyone among you is sick, let them call the Elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil. In The Name Of The Lord. Okay. So what should you do? If you're sick, if you're pressed down, if you're feeling a burden, call in an elder, what is an elder in the alert word, literally means somebody who is older. But what it means in the context is somebody who is mature in their faith, it might mean a leader in the church. It might mean a pastor but somebody who is strong in their faith, that's what you want to. That's who you want to call in when you are sick, when you are weak, when you are pressed down, call them in to be with you, and they will pray over you. And then he
Is and anoint them with oil. Now what exactly does that mean? There are some churches that teach this almost like a Sacrament that when you visit somebody who is sick, you take oil with you and you, you put some oil on them. I don't know, maybe that's what he means. But, in those days, olive oil was medicinal. If you had chicken pox, if you had a scab, if you burned yourself, olive oil is what they would put on it. So I think what he's saying is have the elders come minister to their spiritual needs by praying for them. Them and minister to their physical needs by putting some oil on them. So visit their sick person, pray with them, help them, spiritually, is there something else? Can you bring us some chicken soup? Can you bring them the medicine that they need somehow and also assist them with their physical needs? And he says, and the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person. Well, the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be
Forgiven. Now the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person. Well, does that mean that every time somebody is sincerely praying with another Christian who is sick every single time, James promises, they are going to be healed. You might think that at first read but other parts of scripture show us that that's just not the case. The Apostle Paul himself this great Christian man, who planted more churches probably than anyone else in all of history who wrote two-thirds of our new testament, had some kind of physical ailment he called it his Thorn In the Flesh but wasn't any more specific than that and he prayed to the Lord earnestly on three different occasions. Lord, take this away please. And he pleaded that the Lord would do it. A man of great faith, and the Lord said no,
It's going to stay. My grace is sufficient for you.
And that might be what God answers our prayers as well. When we pray with the person that is sick. So what does it mean that he will make them? Well, the Lord will raise them up their sins will be forgiven. This is hinting at spiritual things, right? Second, Timothy 4 verse 18, I think helps us out to understand what is meant here. It says in second Timothy 4 18 the Lord will rescue me from every evil attack. How many evil attacks Every evil attack will bring me safely to his. Heavenly Kingdom. Might bring me safely to his. Heavenly Kingdom, will bring me safely to his Heavenly Kingdom. If you go and pray with somebody who is sick, will they be raised up in their spirits? Will they be strengthened spiritually? Will they inherit Heaven as their Eternal home? All of those are definite. Yes. Will their sins be forgiven? Yes, they will.
I've seen this many times as a pastor, in fact, just recently for confidentiality, I won't tell you who it is, but I visited somebody recently who is very much struggling, physically, they've got a very serious problem. And when I went into their home, I just looked at this person's face and I could tell they were down. They were, they were worn out. They were, they were worried. They were anxious. They were, they were depressed. I've Loved, I've seen too many faces that look like this one. As far as just, you could just read what was going on inside her in this person's heart. And so we talked there were some tears
And I reminded this person. That Jesus has not abandoned her. That Jesus is with her. That he forgives, all the sin that she is right with him that her heavenly father is walking with her every step of the way that he adores her. And he will never leave her or forsake her and Heaven is her Eternal home. And as we talked, and as we prayed, I saw her face change. The sickness didn't go away, at least, not yet, but her face changed. And the fact, I wish I could have taken a before and after picture because the Lord raised her up and she had new courage and confidence and joy in her heart from before I got there. So, I think this is what he's talking about here. When you do this, when we are sick and we call someone and they pray with us. Our Spirits are lifted and he says, if they have sinned, they will be forgiven. What is the connection between sin and sickness? What
The connection between sin and our struggles and our suffering. They are, there is a correlation, sometimes it's a direct correlation, maybe not all that often. But sometimes there is, if I'm trying to encourage somebody who's in prison, they are suffering. A lack of freedom in prison because of a sin that they committed right. There is a direct correlation, but every bad thing that happens in your life is not a direct correlation of a sin that you committed. It is a direct correlation to the fact that we live in a sinful and a broken world and sometimes that is the case. But what I've noticed is this
If somebody is really sick or suffering or pressed down or weak, especially as it goes on longer, they become more and more focused on their sinfulness on the regrets that they have of their life or the mistakes and the failures that they've had. And they start to think about this more and more and it pushes them down more and more and more. So when I as a pastor I can go there and pray with them and assure them. That is, Jesus Christ died on a cross to forgive everyone of those sins. And even though you are suffering right now, he has not left. You he is with you and he forgives all of your sin that does raise them up that does lift them up. It gives them hope and encouragement and Jesus didn't do exactly that. You remember that time when some guys lowered their friend through a hole in the roof right in front of Jesus to he was paralyzed you couldn't walk.
What does he mean? He needs healing. He needs to walk and the first thing Jesus says to him is Your sins are forgiven. Take heart. Son. Your sins are forgiven. Everybody. There was thinking, that's not what he needs. He needs to walk. You said, no, no, no, he needs that more than anything. So that's what Jesus said first. And then some people, they are thinking, who is this guy who thinks he can forgive sins and just, you know, let me show you take up your mat and walk in the man jumps up and he is legs or whole he's healed and he can walk again, but Jesus took care of the bigger need first. He assured the man that his sins were forgiven So, he says in verse 16, then this therefore confess your sins to each other. And pray for each other. So that you may be healed. Literally, the word means, renewed, renewed, pray for each other. That you may be renewed, The Prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. God promises, he hears those prayers, he does answer, he does act so true or false. Christian's. You should confess your sins? Not a trick question. True right before reading this verse, if I asked you, who should you confess your sins to everybody would have said together, God, Okay, that's true. You should and can confess your sins to God. You should do that. I would recommend doing it daily. But what is James? Tell us something hard. Something vulnerable, confess your sins to each other. Why is he tell us to do that? I think there's two main reasons, confess your sins to each other, because first of all, we all have blind spots. We don't always see our own sin, right? We all have this inner lawyer that comes to our defense as soon as we think and we then first hint of guilt, it's our conscience. Oh yeah. But we have great reasons. Why did we do what we did? We have great excuses. Oh yeah, it was their fault. And by the way, everybody does this. Anyway, it's not that big a deal and our inner lawyer pushes everything down.
Pushes everything aside and we need a human being to say hey stop that. No, you were wrong. Yeah, you sinned, we need somebody that will be blunt with us. That's why we need to confess our sins to each other. There's a second important reason why we need to confess our sins to each other. And that is we're not good at preaching the gospel to ourselves. And that's what goes for this pastor too. I think I'm fairly good at preaching the gospel to others. I love telling other people about the Forgiveness of Jesus, but I'm horrible at preaching it to me. So, you know, what happens when I confess my sins to God and only to God lord, I feel so horrible about how I did this. And I said that I shouldn't have fought this and I treated my wife like that. Lord. I'm so sorry, have mercy on me and what I hear next is
Nothing. I don't hear a voice from God, have you, maybe it? Maybe, I'm alone in this. I don't hear a voice from God and, and I, I still feel guilty even after I've confessed, because God should be mad at me. Because of what I just told him, even though he already knew it. And I don't hear my forgiveness because I Don't Preach that to myself very well. I need somebody outside of me to tell me and I bet you do too.
To a fellow Christian, doesn't even have to be a pastor, just a fellow Christian. And they tell you, You're forgiven for what you just told me? Yeah, that's ugly. I can't believe you did that. Anyway, Yeah, it was bad but did you know that you have a savior Jesus, who didn't do that stuff, who was perfect and that, that savior is your substitute and that he took what you just told me he took it to a cross and he bled and he died. And he took the wrath of God. That should come on you, brother. But it's not. It's going to get him.
And you are forgiven, you are loved by God. If somebody tells me that when somebody tells me that I breathe a great, big sigh of relief.
Because I can't preach that to myself. So James says confess your sins to each other and forgive each other. That's the way God intended it and then pray for each other. And that my friends are the key to community. The key to community is this confess and pray. Confess your sins to each other.
Pray with each other. And you're going to experience Community with people. This bond with people, this friendship with others that you have never experienced before. Confess your sins to each other. Pray with each other because here's our big takeaway for today. Friends and forgiveness beat every time friends and forgiveness beat filters and fronts. Friends and forgiveness are always better than the filters and the front's friends, capital F friends. The kind of friends that are that know, the truth of God and the grace of God friends that will call you to the carpet when you've done something stupid because they love you friends, that will tell you about the Forgiveness of Christ friends and forgiveness. The Forgiveness, they announce to you. That is so much better than going about your life with the filters in place pretending. You're something you're not putting on the front that isn't real. That isn't the real you, it's not as good.
Having to real Christian friends, having real Christian Community, will turbocharge your faith life
To which some of you are saying, that sounds awesome. And I don't have a single friend like that. We know that that's as hard and we know that that's an issue. So what do we, what do we do here at 922 Ministries? We created an environment where these kinds of relationships can develop naturally. Full disclosure: it probably won't happen here. Now, I don't recommend you turn over lean over to the stranger next to you and tell them about all your sins. It'll be awkward if you don't have that trust bond built yet. This just isn't the place for it. If you should be here. This is good. Pastor Tim's going to tell you about that next week.
But in addition to this, how do you develop those Christian friendships? We developed this environment called life groups. And life groups are all about meeting with the same group of people in people's homes for a season of semester, usually, 10 to 12 weeks, same people, and you get to know them. And you develop these close friendships, where you can confess and pray for each other and forgive one another and it is awesome. Now, when you hear that, some of you are already pushing back mentally, when I suggest that you join a life group. Some of you are introverts like me. And you say I'm not comfortable doing that. I'm not comfortable with a group of strangers. I can't do that. I'm an introvert. Sorry it doesn't hold water with me because I'm a full-blown, introvert myself. So here's what's going to happen now. Yeah. Are your fears Valley. Yes, they are. Are you going to feel uncomfortable? Your first life group? Yes, you will. Okay, let's just acknowledge. It will get it out there. You don't know these people. You're going to go there. You're going to feel a bit awkward is going to be a little bit weird. You're going to get to know each other. They'll be some icebreakers. You'll talk about the sermon and all the things that were said during that sermon and you'll get to know each other.
You'll know those people a little bit better when you leave the session when you're going to go and it's gonna be a lot less awkward and you're going to talk more in, you're going to get to know them more and you can start to share some stories. Third time you meet it's not going to be very awkward at all and you might actually start sharing some of your personal stories because you're going to hear other people doing the same. And I, you could check me on this. But I'm going to say by the fourth time, you're not only going to be not awkward, you're going to be eagerly anticipating going, okay? So you gotta tell me if I'm wrong on that, but that's what I'm betting is going to happen. So, I'm an introvert doesn't fly. Second excuse, I don't have time. Boy. We are so busy right now and I agree you don't have, you don't have much time in your schedule. You probably don't if you're a typical American but I will challenge you on this. We take time, we make time for the things that we value the most true or false. There are things that happen in your week all the time because you value them, you've made the time, you've built it into something non-negotiable for you. I'm going to suggest that you make a life group. One of those things is that it becomes a non-negotiable that you build. In time, you make it the priority and you make it happen. Does it mean you might have to give something else up?
Yeah, you might give it a try. See what you like? The life group? Here's another good one. This mostly applies to the guys. I don't like to share my feelings. Alright, fair enough. Here's what I give you permission to do. You don't have to share your feelings in life group. But you do have to tell the truth about your life. Forget about the feelings part. I don't care if you don't share any feelings, but will you tell everybody honestly what's happening in your life? And will you tell some stories about that? Will you share with them what's going good in your life and the winds that you're celebrating? Share those things authentically with what's actually happening in your life, don't tell anybody, but feeling as though you might get out too, but that's not the goal. You don't have to share your feelings, just share the stories, and you're going to get to know each other.
Really well because here's the thing. When we do life together, in this way, when we have these kinds of friendships, we are blessed in so many ways. You will be confident in your forgiveness. Right? Again, you don't preach the gospel very well to yourself, but when you have other people in your group reminding you of Jesus' forgiveness, you're going to become the guilt burden. You carry is going to be lighter and you're going to rejoice in the Forgiveness. That is yours. You will have support during some of life's most difficult challenges and your life group will become your support network. Your mental health will improve. This is such an issue these days but when you share life together with other people when you don't go alone your mental health is going to improve. You will have some built-in accountability that you need quite frankly. Why does AA work? Why does Weight Watchers work? It's a group with accountability. We need that and your life group will help give you that accountability that you need in your life. And there's one more important blessing. The ones I've mentioned so far are for you and that's a little bit selfish, isn't it? The last blessing. Is for them. If by some chance you say well I don't need what you said and I don't have to struggle with that and I've got these kinds of people in my life. But there are people sitting next to you or near you that don't and they need you and they need your strength and they need your help and they need your forgiveness that you can announce in God's name. So for their sake, please consider joining a life group. Groups turbocharge your faith. It's how to grow in your faith. God himself said so. I tried to think of a closing illustration, but I had 40 come into my mind and I don't have time for 40. So let me just tell you this. This is a pattern that every one of your pastures has seen again and again, and again, a person who is really connected in life groups or a person who has lots and lots of clothes Christian friends that they can confess to and pray with. What we have found is that when they get married, their friends are there. And when they move to a new house their life group, friends are their clothes, Christian friends are there to help them do it. And when they have a baby, Their life group, friends are celebrating with them, and are bringing them some gifts, some baby clothes, and some diapers. And when there is a death in the family, Their life group is there with them to be the shoulder to cry on to support them and to encourage them in their time of loss. Multiply that time. 40 or 100? Every Pastor here has seen this again and again and again, doesn't that sound awesome to have a support network like that. You don't have that close group of Christian friends or maybe even if you do to help the person that doesn't consider joining a life group today because the truth is this God did not intend for you to go through life alone.
God says in his word that life is better together. So let's do this together. Amen.