06-01-2014 message by Pastor Rich Doebler

Last time we saw that our most basic human needs desire a place…
• To belong: Because we all need to feel accepted—welcomed into a group.
To believe: Because we all need to know the truth—something we can trust.
To become: Because we all need a dream—something that can motivate us to improve, to grow, to go farther.
To be sent: Because we all need purpose—a reason for being, a higher call to answer.

We began last week by looking at the NT word picture in Corinthians illustrating the church as a body—many different parts combine together to make one body. The same word picture is used again in Ephesians, this time to show how joining together helps us in our believing.

Eph 4:11-12. 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles,the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Let’s look at the second thing humans long for—something to believe. Within each human heart is a compelling need to believe in something… And we need connection so we can believe better and stronger!

• We want to know where we came from…where we’re going…why we’re here.
• We need to know what we can count on—what we can stake our lives on.
• We need a solid foundation—a place to stand, something we can build upon.
• Let me ask you: Are you willing to base your life on a lie? On something that isn’t true?

A few years back, the world was abuzz about an approaching comet, Hale-Bopp, named after the astronomers who discovered it. A number of people in California were following a man named Marshall Applewhite, leader of a group called “Heaven’s Gate.” They believed his claims about Hale-Bopp, that an alien spaceship was following behind the comet, that it was coming to receive humans who wanted to rise a higher level, that their spirits would be “beamed up” to the spaceship. As Hale-Bopp approached the earth, the Heaven’s Gate cult packed their belongings, dressed in identical black shirts and sweat pants, put on brand new black-and-white Nikes, laid down on separate beds in the group’s mansion-home, ate some applesause laced with poison, and tied plastic bags around their heads. In their pockets they each carried a $5 bill and three quarters, to pay an “interplanetary toll.”  So on March 26, 1997, police discovered 39 dead bodies: Applegate’s—and 38 followers who had been deceived, 38 who believed a lie. They based their lives on a lie, and it led to their deaths—not to a higher level.

In life, we need to know the truth. People say, “What you don’t know can’t hurt you.”  Well, as a matter of fact, yes it can hurt you. Ignorance is not bliss. We need to know the truth—we need to believe the truth.

Smoking can be harmful to your health. Seat belts save lives. Junk food and overeating can lead to morbid obesity. So we need to be connected together to believe because…

1. What we believe is critical. It’s literally a matter of life and death.

However, “believing” is not just about “what” we believe. It’s more than just putting information together—stating set of beliefs, a dogma, or a formal creed—matters of the head.

“Believing” also refers to matters of the heart—like faith, trust, and understanding. To believe in something means to commit yourself to that thing.

When we are connected to believe, we help each other…
• strengthen our commitment, and
• solidify our convictions, what we stand for,
• expand our understanding.
• Being connected to believe means being connected to increase our faith.

The Bible says when we come together, the result is that we grow stronger and healthier and more mature as a group.

(v 12-13) “…built up until we all reach unity in the faith.” Connecting together leads to unity in what we believe—building up our faith and confidence and trust in God!

This is about action, not just teaching. It’s about ministry and service, not just doctrine.

Connecting together to believe means we can help each other grow stronger in our faith—not just in our theological statements.

It’s not just about believing in God the Father Almighty and in his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Connecting to believe also means having faith “like a mustard seed”—“beginner faith,” which can have great potential! Together we help grow each other’s faith from something very small into something enormous! Alone, it’s not that easy to do.

On Wednesday evenings a group has been studying the basic elements of the Apostles Creed. And that’s good! Confessing the truth reinforces the truth. (It’d be great if more of you could join us to help us wrap our heads around those core beliefs.)

While it’s good to recite the Apostles Creed together, we must be careful we don’t stop there—merely agreeing on statements with our minds. We must go further to affirm the convictions of our hearts!

Belief is about faith—faith to stand firm, faith to take action, faith to move mountains! So if we are connected to believe something, we’re going to do something!

2. Faith means action!

When we’re together, we’re doing something. We are actively supporting and strengthening and serving each other. We lean on each other so we get better at moving mountains and standing firm.

Giant Redwoods in California are the tallest known species of trees in the world. Mature trees average up to 250 feet tall, and some of the tallest trees exceed 350 feet with a diameter of up to 20 feet. If you were having dinner on the top floor of the Radisson in Duluth and there was a Giant Redwood growing next to the hotel, when you would look out the window, you’d be looking at the mid-section of the tree. You’d only be about half-way up the tree.
Redwoods often live several hundred years—in some cases, more than 2,000 years, making them one of the oldest tree species in the world. One amazing thing about redwoods is that they do not have a taproot system, as most trees do. Instead, they have a shallow root system that rarely goes more than 12 feet underground.
So how can a tree 350 feet tall stay upright with roots that only go down a dozen feet? Why doesn’t it just topple over in a good, strong wind storm? Because the redwood sends roots outward perhaps 100 feet in every direction, intertwining with the root systems of other trees, forming a network of connected roots. [http://humboldtredwoods.org/redwoods]

In the church, we’re to be connected in the same way! When you’re going through a difficult time, when the storms of life threaten to destroy you, if you’re struggling or hurting—even though your faith may be weak and even if you don’t have the strength to stand firm on your own—if you’re connected with the faith of others, you can stand! You can withstand the storm.

Paul uses another word picture to describe this. He says we’re to stop being infants or toddlers, wobbling around, unsteady, tipping and falling over, unable to stand. Then he reinforces the image by mixing metaphors, moving quickly from describing a toddler to describing a ship caught in a storm.

(v 14-15) 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love…

In a storm, you need a point of reference—something to help you navigate through the storm. Because the wind and the waves are going to swirl and spin you around until you won’t know which way is up. You’ll be disorientated and confused—unless you have something solid to guide you.
In the old days that something was often a lighthouse, sending out its beams from the rocky shore. Today we have advanced technology, GPS units to show us the exact location. It’s a point of reference you can count on.

By connecting to believe, we help each other see that point of reference better. We are peering together through the storm so we can reinforce our faith and the truth we trust.

That’s what gets us all safely through the storms of faith—all the things that try to dismantle our beliefs: cunning, crafty, deceitful scheming. It’s why we need teachers. Mentors. Support groups. We need each other to reinforce that point of reference.

We connect to believe because our faith together is greater than the sum of our total faith apart. We call that “synergy.”

3. Our faith has synergy.

Synergy: “the interaction of parts that, when combined, produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual parts.”

It has a second definition used in physiology and medicine: “the cooperative action of two or more muscles, nerves, or the like.”

Paul described this cooperativeaction like this:

(v 16)  the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

“As each part does its work” means (1) there is work for each one of us; (2) when we all do our part, good things happen! The body grows stronger. The church becomes more loving. We are “joined” (we come together) and we are “held together” because each part works and each ligament holds.

If you go back and look at verse 11, you see that it’s not just leaders who are active with synergy. Five kinds of leaders are listed, but many “parts” of the body do the work.

So Christ gave apostles (spiritual catalysts), prophets (truth tellers), evangelists (announcers of Good News), pastors (caregivers), teachers (trainers and guides) for the purpose of preparing and equipping ALL the believers (the people of faith) to serve and strengthen each other.

Sharing faith together, we grow stronger in faith; believing together, we are better believers. Together we gain courage and conviction necessary to stand committed—to the truth of God’s Word but also to trust his promises more fully.

4. Finally, faith is an anchor.

When we’re connected to believe, our combined faith ties us all together and anchors us to Jesus.

On Memorial Day my wife and son and I went on a cookout at Jay Cooke, near the new hanging bridge. After eating, I walked out on the bridge. If you look closely at it, you’ll notice that all the separate parts of that bridge—all the metal slats and bars, all the bolts and rivets, the railings and walking platform, every part are carefully fitted together, all of them touching other parts. But all of those parts are attached to two big steel cables…and those cables are attached to gigantic anchors. The weight of the bridge is carried by those solid anchors. The entire bridge is held up because all the parts of the bridge are linked to the anchors, which are set solidly in place.

When we connect together and are anchored to Jesus, we can hold up! We hold up against life’s challenges. We keep from crashing when we are fitted together, attached to the Anchor. We can hold up because our Anchor is solid.

Heb 6:19 says “…We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure…”

Our faith holds us firm and secure because it is anchored in Christ, the solid Rock. When we connect, we become better believers; when we connect, we strengthen our faith.

Are you connected? Are you anchored? Or are you trying to do it on your own?

What we believe is critical. Faith means action. Our faith has synergy. Faith is an anchor.