J.I. Packer once said that somewhere along the line we’ve replaced the gospel message with something far too therapeutic. That is, he says, “It fails to make men God-centered in their thoughts and God-fearing in their hearts because this is not primarily what it is trying to do…it is too exclusively concerned to be ‘helpful’ to man–to bring peace, comfort, happiness, satisfaction– and too little concerned to glorify God” (J.I. Packer, Introductory Essay to Owen’s Death of Deaths, 2). When last week we looked at why we’re a “community” church, that was our focus. Community is the reminder that we are not here to have a gospel or a faith that is inherently swept up in how we’re doing, but is focused mainly on God and His glory. After all, we exist for Him.
In helping us to understand this more, we turned to Isaiah 49:1-7 where there is a conversation between the Almighty God and His chosen servant. The servant here takes on several different identities, beginning with Israel, then Jesus as the true servant, and continuing with us today. As the passage says, the servant’s aim and goal is to be a “light to the nations, that [God’s] salvation may reach the ends of the earth” (v.6).
When we look at Ancient Israel, we see this was embedded in their DNA as a nation, for when they were called in Genesis 12:1-3, the Lord told Abram that they were to be set apart for God. In other words, they were to leave idol-worship and serve Him alone. In doing so, and in being called, God would – through them – “bless all the families of the earth” (Gen 12:3). Thus, Israel’s purpose as God’s servant was to bring the message of the gospel and of grace to the world, letting them know who their God is. The problem with Israel, though, was that they became enamored with that “other gospel”, too focused on us and how we’re doing. While there were of course genuine believers (more genuine than myself), the nation as a whole failed to do what they were called to do. When we’re concerned with ourselves, how can we be a blessing to others?
The second identity of the servant is Jesus, who ultimately fulfills the call given to him. He is the true servant, who lived the life we should have lived, and died the death we should have died. In Isaiah 49:6, God says that the servant will not only reunite the Israel who failed, but the greater purpose will be (again) to become “a light the nations, that [God’s] salvation may reach the ends of the earth”. It is also prophesied that the servant’s laboring will feel like it is done in vain (v.4), and that he will be “despised and abhorred by the nation” (v.7). How true was this of Jesus! However, the next promise is that through him, “Kings will see you and stand up; princes will see and bow down” (v.7), and that’s exactly what happens. Through rejected by his own people and crucified by Rome, it was through Jesus alone that salvation has come. He was lifted on the cross to bring back all the scattered people of the world, uniting us as the family of God (1 Timothy 3:15).
Because of Jesus’ success, the Kingdom of God was brought into this world, overthrowing the Kingdom of the Devil, of chaos and evil. However, Jesus only inaugurated this Kingdom, and while it will be fully realized at his return, we are called until then to be the servant that blesses all the families of the earth, bringing the message of grace and the gospel to those who have not yet heard. We are tasked with growing his Kingdom. That’s why the word “community” is in our Church’s name, as a reminder that as our own community we exist to bless the families of the earth through the message of the Lord Jesus.
There is a warning inherent in this, however. As John Piper says, “You cannot commend what you do not cherish” (Let the Nations Be Glad, 17). The main focus of the word “community” is to remind us that we exist primarily for God and His glory, and the closer we come to Him, the more we gaze upon His Saving Son, and the more we seek to live for Him, the more lovely and wonderful He becomes. In the end, to draw close to God inevitably results in what is like a grandparent with their grandchildren: so full of love, they will share stories with anyone who will listen. For us in the church, our goal must not be to dutifully fill the seats on a Sunday, but to whimsically be swept up into the greatest message ever told, and excitedly share that good news with any who will listen. The word “community” in our church name is synonymous with saying, “We adore our Heavenly Father and His Son, and cannot keep silent about it!”.
So if you believe, ask yourself where God’s glory is in your heart. Is it number one? – Because if it is not, then what is? Israel put Him as second, and together they fell. Jesus put Him as first, and through him countless families on this earth have been blessed.
If you do not believe, there is only one hope, one name above all names, and if you want to know more about Him, come join our family. I guarantee there is an endless supply of stories of how the one story has changed our lives not just today, but for eternity.