Good morning, welcome to Hope City! What a great day to be together. I’m so glad that you’re here with us. If you’re new here my name is Peter and I’d love to meet you afterwards. We are in week 2 of a series that we’re calling #community, which is our month long relationship series that will revolutionize your life if you let it. Somehow in our world, we are growing more connected with every social media platform at our fingertips, and yet find ourselves more distant from others.
Community is critical in our lives! This is why social media is so popular. It provides the best of both worlds. You get the feeling of connectivity, and community, while being in complete control at all times! Social media never requires anything from you, because the moment it gets challenging, you can just shut if off!
The type of community that we are talking about here during this series is defined as this:
Community= a group of interdependent people intentionally living together for a purpose.
Interdependent! It means that I need something from you, and you need something from me. We rely on one another in community. Let’s put this word Community up here on this board. Today, we are going to look at one layer of community. Over the course of the next three weeks we are going to be looking at each layer of community. Today’s layer is your SELF.
We are obsessed with our self these days, aren’t we? It seems that every where we turn there are selfies.
I myself have never taken a selfie. I am far to holy to be involved in something like this (Selfie 1). This is the look at me, I’m Britney Spears Selfie. Or this (Selfie 2). Bringing home a puppy selfie. Or this (Selfie 3). I’ve got no shame in beating my kids in board games selfie. Or this (Selfie 4) I call this, ain’t that the truth selfie.
We love to take pictures of our self. But clearly I am above that!
In fact, our world has become obsessed. Google reports that in 2016, there were 24 billion selfies uploaded. Considering the average lifespan is 27,375 days, an average millennial is expected to take nearly 26,000 selfies during their lifetime. That’s close to one selfie daily.
But selfies are not a modern construct. We think of selfies having been just a recent phenomenon… Well, back in 1839, Robert Cornelius, was said to have taken the first selfie ever. He was an amateur chemist, and photography enthusiast from Philadelphia who set up a light box camera and took the lense off, ran into the picture sitting for one minute before jumping back up to close the lense.
Clearly, we have had an obsession with our self for quite a while.
In an age where social media and technology allows us to “connect” with one another, God’s words to Adam in Genesis have never been more true or profound.
The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:18
God put us in community with others the way that He is in community with God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. From the beginning, God has designed you to be in community with others and in community with Him! And yet we find ourselves getting in the way.
Very often there are three things that prevent us from connecting in community. Fear, Failure, and Fatigue. Sometimes we are afraid of what people will think of us. Sometimes we are nervous that a previous failure in some part of our life is going to eliminate us from being in community. Sometimes we are shy and unwilling to get out of our comfort zone… we are just tired of trying. Sometimes we are stubborn and feel like everyone else should be serving us.
In order to have meaningful community we need to first figure out what is going on with us before we can experience what true community is. If we’re not careful we can be left on the outside looking in because we haven’t dealt with our self.
Just like the story of a man that Jesus encountered in Luke chapter 8. You can turn with me to Luke 8:27 which is found on page 706 on the Bibles on your chair. Here in Luke we see Jesus having just stepped off of a boat after calming a storm while they were out to sea. The disciples feared for their life because the wind and the waves were so fierce, and now they step foot on solid ground only to encounter a man that was completely and totally on the outside looking in. Check this out.
27When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs.
It’s important to understand that this man had the presence of evil in his life. When Satan longed to be God, and be the same as God, he was cast out of heaven along with many angels who also rebelled against God. And it has been Satan’s goal from the beginning to distract people from worshiping God. It isn’t that they have to worship Satan, but that they would worship anything other than God. And here we find a man who is tormented by Satan’s demons. Good verse Evil. And so far it looks like Evil is winning!
28When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” 29For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.
This man was isolated and alone because of these demons who had seized him. He was out living in the tombs because he was unable to live in community with others. There was something that had gripped his mind and caused him to be mad. Scripture tells us that it was a mob of demons.
Satan’s agenda is to isolate people from community with one another and God. This man was driven to a solitary place… He was on the outside of community looking in. And some of you feel like that is exactly where you find yourself today. You want that group of people who care for you and know you… And yet somehow it evades you. Maybe you once had it in college, or when you were first married. And something got in the way and forced you to isolate and separate.
Maybe you don’t have a mob of demons who have controlled your life, but there is a mob of thoughts that are trying to take over your life. And it is preventing you from being in community with God and others. You’ve got your own inner demons. Remember, Satan’s only concern is that you don’t worship God. His goal is to steal and destroy what is rightly the Lord’s. And he’ll use anything to make happen.
3 Things Satan will use to Isolate You from Community:
You’ve got FEAR… Fear of people finding out your deepest darkest secret. Your mind can so easily be mobbed by the thought of if they only knew… And the fear of people finding out your story prevents you from being in community.
Maybe for you it’s been FAILURE. You’ve tried a business before, and it didn’t work. Or you tried that dating relationship, or friendship, and it just backfired on you. You feel like you’re no good and not worth anything. Failure prevents you from engaging with others. Because if it didn’t work one time, it won’t work this time.
Then of course there is FATIGUE. Have you ever been so tired that your mind starts making things up, and you believe them? Be careful with fatigue. Fatigue will cause you to do or say things that you ordinarily wouldn’t. When are you most likely to have a SNACK-CIDENT? You know… when you eat an entire bag of doritos? Or when are you most likely to consume the entire sleeve of oreos… At midnight. You’re hungry, bored, and tired. Fatigue can cause you to ask the question is it worth it?
Satan, the enemy of God, wants to get into your head and whisper, “Look at what you’ve done!”
Here is this man, he’s naked, living in the tombs outside of community. He’s lost his family, his friends, everyone has given up on him. The chains of his past are literally wrapped around him and preventing him from going back. Look at what you’ve done!
Isn’t that the nature of a selfie photo? It’s almost always a picture that is expressing in some way, Look at what I’ve done! Satan knows that if he can get your focus off of God and onto yourself, he can draw you away from community and further into selfish living. And link by link, the chains grow stronger and heavier.
And these things can keep us from community! We go social with these posts and then it does something in our brains. Social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the like, have moved from a place of communing with others to simply just comparing ourselves against others. We judge our worst day against someone else’s best day. And this is exactly what Satan would love for you to do.
I’m not good enough. I’ve got no friends, or I could never connect with others here. Look at all they do.
And then Jesus steps in.
30Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. 31And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.
32A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. 33When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.
Isn’t this incredible? Jesus calls the demons out of this man and sends them into a herd of pigs that then runs off the hill and drowns in the lake.
But I love that Jesus doesn’t say, what’s your past, what got you where you are right now. NO! He says, what’s your name? Jesus sees a person, not a past. Everywhere you look in the 4 gospels, Jesus sees people. He sees them and the Bible says that He has compassion on them. People are God’s priority. You are God’s priority.
Satan would love nothing more than to convince you that God just doesn’t love you anymore. Or that God doesn’t care about you. Satan had this guy exactly where he wanted him. Living on the edge of society, isolated and alone. Far away from any community.
8-9 years ago I felt in some ways like this guy. I felt alone and plagued… Only for me, I was overcome with anger. I became a very angry person. It wasn’t that I flew off the handle, I wasn’t violent or destructive. I didn’t throw things… but my fuse was always lit, and I was just ready to explode at a moment’s notice. It was a horrible way to live.
I had lost my dad, life became overwhelmingly difficult, work was challenging to say the least…
And anger grew inside of me.
I could feel the chains of anger all around me. It was as if something had gripped my life. My wife, God bless her, walked alongside of me through some of my most challenging days.
9 years later, I can tell you that God has healed me from this anger. The mobs of angry thoughts that ran through my head have been removed. This week I sat on the couch in our office and cried thinking about what God has done in my life.
Sometimes God heals you instantly, and it looks like a miracle! Other times God heals you over time and let me tell you that is no less a miracle! 9 years removed I can see I’m a totally different person, and that is a miracle!
Don’t stop looking for God’s healing! For those of you today that have been asking God to heal you, or someone you love, don’t stop asking! Don’t stop bringing your request before the Lord.
Here is a man who is living on the edge of society whom God loved very much. He loved him enough to see him for who he was, and most importantly who he could be. God knew that this man needed to be in community. He needed to be healed and set free. Look what happens next.
34When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 36Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 37Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.
They were completely scared, not because of the loss of the livestock… but because this man, whom they all knew, was unable to be helped… He was unable to be healed. There was no chain that could keep him bound, there was no amount of guarding that could be done to prevent him from his seizures, and the torture of the demons. And yet, here he is sitting in his right mind, fully clothed. They were scared because of the power that Jesus has. What would happen next?
38The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39“Return home and tell how much God has done for you.”So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him
This guy naturally wanted to follow Jesus. Imagine… You’ve been living naked in a tomb for years, and all of a sudden, Jesus heals you. Wouldn’t you want to just go wherever Jesus went? Even just to be sure that nothing like this happened again? Or maybe he wanted to follow Jesus because he realized that he owed Jesus everything. If there was anything He could do for Jesus he would… I’ll do it all Jesus. Say the word and I’ll do whatever you want.
And what does Jesus say? Go back home. Go home! Go back to your community. Go to the place that you have been pushed away and ostracized from. Go and tell them how much God has done for you.
See God calls you into community to impact a community! Following Jesus calls us into the world, not out of it!
The Gospel was never intended to segregate us, but to integrate us! Jesus meets this man and after he saves him from what plagues him, he sends him back into his community. As Christians we believe that following Jesus should make a difference in the way we live our life, and our life should make a difference in the place we live. This is why we say all the time that we are #ForSarasota, because we believe that God is #ForSarasota. Too often people only know us for what we are against, and it’s time that our city, your friends, your neighbors know what we are #For! God calls you into community to impact a community!
Zach Ertz from the Philadelphia Eagles knows exactly what being in community can do for a life… Listen to what Zach has to say about community.
“I always knew Jesus, but I didn’t have the relationship I do now. This past year I was going through some things. I’d be really high if I had a great game and really low if I had a bad game. I’d see guys in the locker room—Carson [Wentz], Trey Burton, Jordan Hicks, Jordan Mathews—who would always remain even-keeled. I was envious of them, and they always pushed me to grow in my faith. I was baptized this past offseason in California before my wedding. Last March is when I truly dedicated my life, and it was the best thing that ever happened.”
It was his community that impacted this mans life. God calls you into community to impact a community. And now through his platform he is looking to impact even more lives!
When we start off looking at community, we have to start with our self. But our community is formed by who we are. Remember this is an interdependent community. We need one another. And yet, we pull away, because we buy the lies that Satan has plagued our mind with.
But what if… What if we stopped asking our self what have I done? What if the selfies were no longer what I’ve done. But what if it became about what God has done for you?
39“Return home and tell how much God has done for you.”
Jesus came to earth, to do exactly this. To proclaim the good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, to heal the blind, and set the oppressed free! This is what Isaiah prophesied about years before Jesus. And then Jesus did it.
This morning, you may be feeling like this man living on the outside of community looking in. You may be longing for community, but fear, failure, and fatigue have kept you from experiencing it.
Jesus says, come to me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Do you see what Jesus is doing? Jesus is breaking the chains of those things that keep us from relationship!
Jesus ultimately came to earth as a baby, lived as a man, so that you and I could be in COMMUNITY, the most meaningful COMMUNITY there is… Not a relationship with me, or one another… NO! God sent Jesus so that He could be in COMMUNITY with YOU! God wants to have a relationship with you.
He wants to heal you from the mobs of thoughts that are plaguing your mind. Jesus wants to heal you from your inner demons, the things that prevent you from experiencing true community with God and others.
And this relationship with God comes from a very simple thought. This COMMUNITY is available when you trust Jesus as your savior. That no amount of activity, no amount of good will ever make God love you more. But on the flip side of that coin there is nothing that can make God love you any less either.
This morning, you may be here and you know that you have never trusted Christ as your personal savior. You’ve never had a personal relationship with God. Today can be that day for you. Maybe you’ve known about God. Or someone else was your liaison to God for you- a priest, a grandmother, or your spouse. You don’t need anyone else to know God except Jesus! In just a few moments I’m going to ask you to make a decision. Will you trust Jesus as your savior?
It’s not about what you’ve done. It is about what Jesus has done for you! Jesus died on a cross to forgive your sin—the things that you have done that go against God’s design for your life are forgiven! They have been washed clean from your life.
Imagine what Jesus could heal in your life…
Worry? Anxiety? Fear? Anger? Lust?
Jesus longs for a relationship with you. Will you trust him today? This morning I want to give you that opportunity to trust Jesus. To say, “I’ve Decided”.
If you want to make this decision to trust Jesus it is as simple as A, B, C. Admit that you are a sinner. That you’ve messed up. That you’ve been living on your own, for your own. B is to believe that Jesus died on the cross for you! And C is to commit your life to Him! There is nothing magical that happens, it is a decision that you can make right now.
If you want to make that decision I’m going to invite you to pray something like this quietly in your head, “Jesus, I admit that I’m a sinner. I admit that I’ve lived according to my own rules. Forgive me for my sin. I believe that you died for me, because you love me. I commit my life to you today. Amen”
AMEN! This morning, I want you to know that if you made that decision to follow Jesus it is our deepest desire to help you and walk alongside of you as you take your next steps in your faith.
Would you take your connection card, and let us know that you made this decision by simply writing the words I’ve Decided on the back of this card? You can drop it in the bucket in the back of the auditorium on your way out. I want to follow up with you and give you some resources to help you grow in your faith.