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Monday, May 9, 2016

Help Our Community

Matthew 5:14-16

Introductions
Pleasant Grove is on a mission from God to tell people about Jesus and the Holy Spirit gives us the power to do it.  That means whatever we do, we are telling people about Jesus. If we are teaching kids at school, we are telling them about Jesus; if we are making carpet in a carpet mill, we are telling people about Jesus; if we are are visiting someone who is sick and in the hospital, we are telling them about Jesus; whatever we do, we are telling people about Jesus and the Holy Spirit gives us the power to do it. And our long range goals are 1) give hope to the hopeless, 2) build new relationships, and 3) help our community.  
Last week, we discussed how God wants us to follow Christ’s example and build new relationships.  Today we consider goal #3 – help our community.  Listen to what Jesus said about the effect true believers have on their world.  

Matthew 5:14-16
14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
Shining A Light vs. Bragging
Jesus said, “Let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”  People take notice when Christians are sincerely kind and helpful. They shine like a city on a hill.
But some people will say, “Wait a minute!  I thought we weren’t supposed to brag about our good deeds?”  Matthew 6:1 does say, “Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.” Remember though, Jesus sais that to Pharisees because they only did good deeds because they liked to make themselves look good.
There is a subtle difference between shining your light and bragging.  It is your motivation.  Bragging tries to make you look good.  Shining your light points people to God and glorifies Him.  So we must Help Our Community for the right reasons.  Not to glorify ourselves or our church, but to bring glory to God and for the love of His people.

Jesus Helped Communities

Jesus traveled all over the land of Israel.  Everywhere he went, Jesus helped the communities he visited.  It was a natural outgrowth of who he was and the Kingdom he represented.  Jesus is the Son of God and He represents the Kingdom of God.  There is no sickness or death or suffering or poverty in the Kingdom of God.  All these evils flee when the Kingdom of God comes near.  So it makes sense that whenever Jesus was present: demons were cast out, the blind regained sight, the lame could walk, and the hungry were fed.
Of course, the miracles were a blessing in and of themselves.  But imagine how the blessings spread out and had a rippling effect like a stone thrown into a pond.  Just take for instance the effect of a healing.  Imagine how that blessed the families of those who were healed.  Now there was an extra wage earner in the family at a time when every bit of income mattered.  The family no longer had to care for the sick person; the sick person could contribute.  And that person who’d been healed would have such a fresh perspective on life.  They would be a more enthusiastic member of society, a better citizen, and one that gave glory to God in everything they did.  Imagine the economic impact of just one healing on a community.  Now there is one more person who can work, defend the city, buy and sell goods, take care of his family, raise children, and help others.  And of course, everyone who knew of the healing would find new hope and a better attitude.  So you see, whole communities where blessed when Jesus came to town.
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement led a great revival of Christianity in England in the 1700s.  Wesley preached all over England and people turned to Jesus in droves.  People did away with drunkenness and vulgar language, became better citizens, harder workers, kinder, and more charitable.  Most scholars believe such social reforms as child labor laws, the abolition of slavery in England, the value of education, and prison reform where a direct result of so many people actively following Jesus during John Wesley’s time.  A whole nation was changed because Christians got serious about their faith and did what Jesus called them to do.

Helping Our Community

Proverbs 11:11 says, “Upright citizens are good for a city and make it prosper, but the talk of the wicked tears it apart.”  If we live an active, healthy, Christian life, we will be a blessing to our Community.  It will be a better place to live because Pleasant Grove UMC is in it.  We can help our community believe in itself.  We can help our area be cleaner, safer, and healthier. We should be good to our community because Jesus has been good to us.

What can you do to help our community?
One thing you can do to help your community is support local businesses.  These are the people who live here in our community—your friends and neighbors.  Their success contributes to the success of our whole community.  Our church makes a conscious effort to buy local whenever we can.  For example, you know the fabulous Pleasant Grove t-shirts we have offered.  We were buying them online from a company in Fairfax, Virginia.  Then Donna found a local business who could make the same shirts—The Trophy Hut.  It was a no-brainer for us.  We want to help our community.  We want to support the local economy.  So we bought our shirts locally.  And we try to buy locally whenever we can.  I hope you will too.
Another thing you can do to help our community—pray for it.  Prayer changes things.  It changes people, situations, and it even changes us.  If you want to fall more in love with your community, pray for it.  Do you want have a more positive view of your community?  Pray for it.  Do you want to see better schools and neighborhoods?  Pray for them.  Prayer will change things and it will change you.
When you walk or drive around town, pray for the houses and businesses you pass.    Pray for the churches in our community – not just PGUMC, all churches. (Remember, any church that is telling people about Jesus is part of our team.)  Pray for our community leaders and politicians—especially as they face a tough election this month.  Pray with people. You know just about anyone--Christian or not--will tell you they will pray for you if you ask. It's just a nice thing to say, but not necessarily something everyone follows through on. If you want to really help someone and leave a deep impression of them for Jesus, pray with them--right then when they ask. It doesn't even have to be a fancy prayer--just a sentence or too in normal, everyday language. People might forget if the preacher prays with them, but they won't forget if you do. SO when someone says, "Hey, I'm gonna be late because my son is sick. Please pray for me." Say, "Alright, do you mind if I do that for you right now over the phone." They will never forget that you prayed with them.
Help your community by participating in local community events.  Can I suggest one that happens this month?  Come out for the Family Promise Duck Race in downtown Dalton on May 21st.  It’s a fundraiser for Family Promise to help fight homelessness.  But it’s more than that.  It’s a community event designed to bring people and churches together.  So come out and help your community at the Dalton Depot on Saturday, May 21st starting at 3:00.
Last, but certainly not least, if you want to help you community, live your Christian faith with integrity.  Jesus said we “are the salt of the earth.”  Salt gives flavor.  It preserves food so it doesn’t spoil.  In the same way, Christians who truly live the way Jesus calls us to live add flavor and life to our community.  Our holy living counteracts the wicked deeds of others that threaten to spoil our neighborhoods.  If every Christian truly followed Jesus and forsook the evil ways of our world, our community would experience a tremendous revival and would be beacon of light—a true city on a hill shining for all the world to see.

Invitation
Jesus said, “Let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”  The most luminous example is Christ, himself.  His final act of selfless love was to lay down his own life for the sake of others.  He laid his life down for you.  It was not just that he died (though that was the ultimate expression of his love).  Think of all Christ laid down for you.
Success.  A man of Jesus' ability could have gone far in this world.  Think of the money, power, influence, he could have achieved.  Yet he gave all that up and chose the life of a wandering preacher, trying to help people.  He didn’t even have a home.
Marriage.  Jesus gave up the joy of having a wife.  We had a wedding for Kathy and Stephen Yarbrough yesterday and we have another one this Saturday for Amanda and Ken.  Weddings are a time of joy and we just assume that most people will experience the joy of marriage at some point in their life.  Jesus sacrificed that dream for you.
Children.  What about children?  My son will graduate high school this month.  What a joy it has been to see Gavin grow from an infant to a young man.  Jesus never got to do that.  He chose instead to sacrifice his life for our sins—for my sins, for your sins.
Mother.  Since it is Mother’s Day, how appropriate to consider the tremendous sacrifice Jesus made in terms of his mother, Mary.  As Jesus was dying on the cross, he looked at his mother.  He must have considered the awful sacrifice they were both making.  They would not be able to spend the next 20 or 30 or 40 years together as mother and son.  Mary would not get to watch her son grow older and pass through the normal stages of life as every man should.  Jesus would not be able to help care for his aging mother.  He would not be able to sit at her bedside as she took her final breath.  Instead, the cross reversed those rolls in a way they should never be reversed for a family—the child died before the parent.  And so as Jesus was dying on the cross, he handed over his responsibility to the disciple, John.  Speaking of John, Jesus said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son.”  And to John he said, “Here is your mother.”
I cannot fathom the heartache and suffering of the crucifixion.  It was horrible for anyone, but especially because Jesus didn’t deserve it at all.  He was completely innocent, the most beautiful person who ever lived.  All he did was bring truth and justice and love into our world.  And they crucified him.  
Yet because of the cross, our sins have been forgiven.  We can find a new life.  We can leave behind our old way of living.  And I pray that we will.  I pray you will not just casually say, “Yes I believe and want to be a Christian.”  No.  I want you to give yourself to Jesus as whole heartedly and sacrificially as he gave himself to you.  As Jesus said, “If anyone wants to follow me, he must lay down his life, take up his cross and follow me.”
That’s what our community needs.  That’s what will truly help.  Not a bunch of casual church people who aren’t much different from anyone else practicing southern hospitality in our Bible-belt neighborhoods.  That kind of religion won’t change much.  But if we will become followers who truly put our allegiance to Jesus and his way of life above everything else, well…  That would truly help our community.  That might actually change the world.