So a few weeks back, for this time during our service, we started walking through the mission and vision of Cities Church. Pastor Joe Rigney talked about our mission to make disciples and the three essentials that arise out of that. We call them essentials, or you might could say values, or maybe best, we could just call them “the three things that we really really care about.” They are 1) We worship Jesus; 2) we serve one another; and 3) we seek the good of the Cities — (and then from these essentials the structure of our church is formed).
Well, Joe, if you remember, talked about Essentials 1 and 2, and today I want to talk about Essential 3 — we seek the good of the Cities. And the reason why we want to do this is first, because we want to tell you—especially friends, neighbors, and guests—what we are all about. And then secondly, it’s not by accident that this exhortation-time will lead us as a church to a time of confession and prayer — because one thing true about each of these essentials, and anything we dream about as a church, is that we need God to help us. So in just a minute here, after I talk about what it means for us to seek the good of the Cities, we are going to pray.
So, Essential 3: We seek the good of the Cities. What does that mean?
First, we love the Cities; and
Second, we want the people of the Cities to be happy; and then
Third, therefore, we want the people of the Cities to know and experience the love of Jesus.
So, from the top, we really do love the Cities. Sure, five months out of the year we complain about the weather, and we wish Kevin Garnett was still in his prime, and we hope the Twins don’t lose 100 games — but we love this place. We love its creativity and its energy, we love the lakes and the parks and the neighborhoods. We love the Cities.
And so we want them to be happy — because that is what you do for what you love. If you love something or someone, you look out for them. You care for them. Seeking their best interest is not a burden for you, but actually, it becomes your joy — and here, at this level of sincere love, is where humans experience one of the beautiful things we possibly could. It’s when you love someone so truly that what brings you joy is bringing them joy. It is amazing. And I am saying that we love the Cities this way. We want to love the Cities this way — we want to love the Cities and the people of the Cities so much that we are gladly devoted to their happiness.
Now, what make us happy? A lot of things, I guess. The Minnesota Wild winning the Stanley Cup would make us happy. A million dollars would make us happy. Getting the Apple Watch that you ordered on April 10 mailed to you before June would make us happy. A good meal and good drink — all these things would make us happy, and they’re all great. But when we talk about happiness, we want to get beyond entertainment happiness, or the temporary thrills of what cash can buy, and we want the people of the Cities to be happy forever. We want the deep happiness for which humans were created — the happiness that is only found in being brought back into relationship with the God who made us for himself.
That that is why, when we seek the good of the Cities it means we want the people of the Cities to know and experience the love of Jesus. Through what we say, and how we live and how we neighbor and how we have conversations and how we work and how we play. Through everything we do, we want the people of the Cities to know Jesus.
Because we all, because of our sin, were separated from God. We were all glory-chasers and pleasure-seekers, spinning our wheels for things that do not matter, trying to find significance and happiness down all the empty roads around us. We didn’t want God. We didn’t care about God. And we were on the path to forever misery.
But Jesus came, you see, and all of our sin —all of our idolatry in loving other things more than God, and all of our grime in trying to find pleasure in the darkest places — Jesus took that sin upon himself and suffered for it in our place. He suffered the punishment we deserved, he died and was buried, and then he was raised from the dead conquering everything that stood against us. And now, when we are united to him by faith, when we embrace him, we are forgiven completely, and we are welcomed back into fellowship with God as his sons and daughters — just as he created us to be.
We didn’t earn this. We can’t earn this. This is the love of Jesus. This is what Jesus did for us. And if we are to seek the good of the Cities, of all the good things we will do, we have to tell them. If we want the people of the Cities to be truly happy, we have to tell them and show them the love of Jesus.
So we want to. And essential to Cities Church is that we do, that we seek the good of the Cities.
This essential gets worked out in our structure through what we call Community Groups — and because Community Groups are so central to our mission as a church, next week during this little segment of our service, we are going to talk all about them.
But for now, to lead us into a time of confession, I want to remind you about something you already know — that the more we ourselves are blown away by the love of Jesus, the more we will want others to experience that same love. And therefore one of the most important things for our souls right now — and everyday — is to remember the grace of God in our lives.
So I want us to do this now. I’ll get us started in a corporate prayer that will lead into a time of silent confession. Let’s pray:
Father, have mercy on us, please, for how easily we forget the grace that you have worked in our lives. The is the first thing we must say. We confess that too often the recollection of your mercies are too difficult for us, not because your mercies aren’t there — in fact, your mercies abound — but our minds and hearts are so clouded with other things. The joy and comfort of being yours is too distant from our thoughts. Forgive us, please, and teach us. Renew in our souls the wonder of what it means to be forgiven, to be your children. Father, awaken in us again a fresh understanding of your grace in the gospel.
That we do not deserve you. We do not deserve your love. But you sent Jesus, and in spite of us, you loved us. In spite of us you loved us, because your grace is that great. Jesus took our sin. He died in our place. You lavished your mercy upon us. You drew us to yourself. You opened our eyes. Make us see anew, we ask.
By your Spirit, please lead us now in a time of silent confession, and remembrance. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Assurance of Pardon
Church, I have good news for you. If you are trusting in Jesus, and you have now confessed your sin.
By the authority of Jesus Christ, and as a minister of his gospel, I therefore declare to you his entire forgiveness of all your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Congregation: Thanks be to God!