I love visiting my hometown. I spent almost two decades of my life there, so I know every landmark and every road. My town is small too, so the people are equally as familiar. Even the smells are the same. I would be smelling burning wood this time of year as many people still heat their homes with wood-stoves. My hometown is familiar to me and it is there I feel like I belong.
Our belonging as Christians is joined together by one unbreakable thread: our hope in Jesus Christ.
When we talk about being family at Reliance Church we have the same feelings as I have as of my hometown. We want you to know that there is a place for you to belong. However, we need to make a distinction. When we talk about belonging, we aren't talking about a hometown or social support system. Our belonging as Christians is joined together by one unbreakable thread: our hope in Jesus Christ. I want our church to contain happy, loving, and holy people, but our belonging will never be because of our membership. No, the truth for us is that our home is still being prepared for us by our Savior. When we place our hope in Jesus, we finally are where we belong.
References: 1 Peter 1:3-4, Romans 8:18, John 14:1-3, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 2 Corinthians 5:1-9, John 15:19
Our vision for Authentic Life thru Christ comes from something Jesus said during his ministry. In John 10:10 Jesus is quoted saying, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." Jesus was talking about you when he said that. He wants you to have life and not just any old life; he wants you to have an abundant life! Abundance, or authenticity as we call it, conjures up images of having all of our needs met and still have plenty left over. When applied to the word life it adds peace, relaxation, and easy living. However, when compared to our own lives these images are often very different than what is really happening day-to-day. Sometimes they are even the polar opposite. So was Jesus lying? Where is this abundance he has promised?
what makes life abundant is not the gold, it is Jesus.
The answer comes a few chapters later in John Chapter 14. Jesus says, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Jesus was inviting his disciples then and now to accept a difficult truth, namely, that the only life that is truly overflowing with good (abundance) is the life that is fully lived in, thru, and for Jesus Christ. To find life, the one with extra, we need to abandon our meager dreams of mansions and riches and adopt something far greater. For a glimpse of what that life looks like read Revelation 21, but understand that even when the streets are paved with gold what makes life abundant is not the gold, it is Jesus.
This time of year marks the end of a busy season. The heat of summer is finally breaking, the days are shortening, and we have commemorated another year at Reliance Church. Maybe you have been with us from day one, or maybe you just joined this week. In either case, what we just celebrated this past week is the Authentic Life that is available only through Christ. This is our vision from God for St. Petersburg.
Paul says in the new testament that the church is made out of many parts (1 Cor. 12:12). This isn't a tag line for recruiting volunteers; it is a call to be a part of God's mission. So, in this season of transition, let me ask you: do you know where you fit into this family? If you do, we hope that you follow God continuously like the endless summer we have in Florida. If you don't, our prayer is that you start with Christ and learn how to build an authentic life through him. In fact, let's do that together!
There once was a man who was walking on a muddy path. He crossed a field and as he did he tripped over a stone and fell in the mud. As he picked himself up he noticed that the stone was sparkling, so he began to dig. The stone seemed to be never ending as he unearthed it. After hours of digging he realized that he had found a rare jewel! He knew that he could never convince anyone it belonged to him so he came up with a plan. He quickly covered the jewel again with dirt so that none of it could be seen and marked his map. Over the next week he sold everything he owned and bought the field. Once he had purchased the property he dug up the jewel that finally belonged to him. It was the largest a most valuable jewel the world had ever seen!
This story parallels a similar one in God's word where Jesus describes the kingdom of heaven (Matt 13:44). It tells of a buried treasure that defines our church. We are not an organization, a business, or just another church on the corner. We are simply men and women who have found something of true value and have sold everything we have to make it our own. We were lost in poverty and as we tripped in the mud, we found the greatest riches that the world has ever known. We found Authentic Life, and we found it through Christ.
We hope you are excited to celebrate the 4th anniversary of Reliance Church this Sunday morning at 10:30 in the St. Pete High School auditorium with us. We have found buried treasure and want you to know that it doesn't just belong to us. It belongs to you too.
Our vision at Reliance Church is Authentic Life thru Christ. For four years we have been discovering what that looks like, as well as what it doesn't. Our church family has ministered to thousands, literally, even as all of our possessions fit in to a 10x16' trailer. We are far from perfect and far from being finished. We have weathered tragedy, storms, and attacks, yet our doors remain open to even our enemies! We may not have the worlds riches, but we have something yearned for worldwide. We have true freedom in our Savior Jesus Christ.
Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
At wedding receptions there is often a name card placed on the plate to reserve a spot for the bride and groom's honored guests. These names are printed on card stock, written in an elegant font, and include the full name of each person invited. The new testament makes no secret that the Church, including Reliance Church, is the bride and Jesus is the bridegroom. Our mission is to prepare the bride for the wedding, and we will continue to do that, but on October 29th we are just going to celebrate the union! As we prepare over the next two weeks, I hope you remember one thing: you are not a "guest" or a "plus one". You have a reserved spot signified by a name card containing your full name.