Hope for the Lonely (Psalm 68:4-6)April 23, 2023 | Brandon Cooper
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Good morning church; you can go ahead and grab your Bibles and open up to Psalm 68. Psalm 68, we’ll be in verses four to six, some of which actually just showed up in the video a moment ago. As you’re turning there to Psalm 68, Howard Hughes, some of you may know him from the movie The Aviator. But he was at one time really the pinnacle of expressive individualism, which we talked about last week. We’ll talk some more about this week. So he was absurdly wealthy dashingly, handsome eccentrically, brilliant. He broke land speed records. He was a daredevil pilot, and he dated just about every A-list celebrity in Hollywood at the time. And yet his personal trajectory mimics a culture of expressive individualism, a trajectory as well; by the end of his life, Howard Hughes was a recluse. He was alone in a room in one of the hotels that he owned, he would sit watching his favorite movies on repeat, but so there he was staring at a screen in a darkened room alone, which kind of sums us up that’s symbolic of our culture in so many ways. As we become increasingly devoted to our own happiness. Interestingly, we’re not getting more happy, not in the slightest. We’re actually getting paralyzed, numb, and increasingly isolated. Now, like I said last week in the series, today, it’s not about technology. But we also can’t ignore the technology piece of it either. In fact, as I was thinking through this sermon, I was thinking through group watch, maybe you’ve seen on some of your streaming services, they have this feature group watch, where you can all kind of watch the same movie at the same time. But of course, you’re in your own home. Like, that’s us, right? We are alone, together. As a culture. There’s this epidemic of loneliness in our culture today. And it’s literally killing us, as we’ll see. Now, for reasons that we’re gonna explore, as we continue in the message this morning, it’s unlikely that you if you’re here in this room right now, that’s unlikely that you feel this as much as some of the people who are around you and your neighborhood that work wherever it might be. And so it’s a little different. Last week, I spoke to the anxious knowing that that’s all of us, to some extent or another. This week, I’m going to speak to the lonely but I’m also going to speak to the church and how we need to go and reach the lonely for Christ. So what can we do to move from loneliness to love? And as a reminder, in our series titled Wishing and Hoping the idea there is we can’t just you know, fingers crossed, wishing for more friends wishing for community; we know how can we actually cultivate true hope that helps us overcome this loneliness. And so once again, we’re gonna be looking at David, at one of his prayers, Psalm 68. They are just a few verses that are intently focused on God, which has been true of our series as well. So like last week, we follow the same structure. We’re going to walk through the reason for loneliness, the remedy for it, and ultimately, our response to what God has said to us this morning. Let me read Psalm 68, verses four to six for us, Psalm 68, four to six. Here’s David, sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds, rejoice before him. His name is the Lord, a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing, but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land. Alright, let’s look, first of all, at the reason, the problem of loneliness. So a little bit of context, since we’re picking up midstream here in Psalms 68. Now, we don’t know exactly when Psalm 68 was written. That tends to be true of most Psalms, we take some educated guesses. It’s kind of nice because it means the Psalms are applicable to a wide variety of circumstances. But most likely, this is when the ark was being moved from Obed-Edom house to Jerusalem. If you were here for our People God Killed series that was that whole other business right? Right after that, in fact, the way verse one begins, may God arise. That is what the Israelites always said when they set out and when the Ark began moving. But what’s interesting here, whatever is happening is that it is expressed in terms of the Exodus when God led his enslaved people Israel out of Egypt and into the promised land. And so in other words, there was deliverance. God delivered his people because there had been a problem. Well, what’s the problem? How does David describe it? Here are three words in our passage that kind of sum up the problem: lonely, prisoners, and rebellious. So if we’re thinking in terms of the Exodus, prisoners and rebellious make a lot of sense. They were prisoners in Egypt, the Israelites. And then, of course, they were rebellious. We’ll come back to that in a moment. But that’s why they were wandering around in the wilderness for a long time afterward. But why lonely? Like there are probably a million or two people coming out of Egypt at this point, that doesn’t seem lonely. The word that’s used here, it really does mean alone. In fact, it can even mean unique in Hebrew. And so the idea that you’re like one of a kind, perhaps meaning one all by yourself, like utterly, utterly alone, desolate is the way some English versions translate it. So I would understand, you know, you set a people without a home in a home like that would make sense, or even a homeland, like that’s the Exodus. But that’s just not quite the word that’s used here. The word is lonely, alone by yourself. I think it’s being used here because it symbolizes what we all seek, which is to belong, really, to belong to a group. What’s interesting why I think David uses this here is because Israel’s national identity was forged in the Exodus. That’s when they really became a people think of Exodus 19. Right after they come out. This is when they get the 10 commandments, Peter quotes and First Peter too but you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, God’s special possession, you know, treasured among all the nations there. There’s their identity that happens here at the Exodus. They’re not alone. They’re not isolated anymore. And that matters. Because we were meant for literally made-for relationships. You learned this on I think it’s page one of your Bible might be page two, depending on how big your font is. Genesis two, verse 18, God’s looking out at creation. Everything’s good, good, good, good, very good. And then he says, It’s not good for man to be alone, Adams all by himself. He needs people with him. You pull a leaf from a tree, it triples, you pull a log out of even a raging fire, it dies out. You pull a person out of community, they withher. That’s what happens. It’s not good for us to be alone. But that’s what has happened to us in our culture. I don’t think anyone’s explored this more than Robert Putnam wrote a book a few years back called Bowling Alone. And the title itself is very interesting, because his point was actually more people are bowling now than ever. But they’re not bowling in leagues anymore. They’re Bowling Alone. We are increasingly disconnected. Here are some of the stats that he’s seen in just the past few decades. There’s been a 58% drop in club memberships, whatever club you’re talking about, okay? 58% Drop 43% Drop in family dinners, like families just getting together to eat dinner. 35% drop and having friends over. Or here’s a really scary one. In the last week, we talked about anxiety I focused on the women a bit more. We’re focused on the men a bit more today for some obvious reasons. In 1990, just 3% of men reported they had no close friends. Zero close friends. Today, that number is 15%. Five times as many, three out of every 20 men you meet would say I don’t have a friend in this world. And you know what’s even crazier, you look at men under 30. That number drops or jumps to 28%. Like three out of 10 young men have no friends, like think about Highland Park, in terms of that stat. Now all of a sudden, you understand why this matters what we’re talking about here today. As I said it is literally killing us this epidemic. By the way. There’s Putnam found that joining just one group again doesn’t even matter. The group just joining a group cuts your odds of dying in the next year and a half. That’s how important community is for us. In fact, you could be unhealthy. A person who drinks heavily eats poorly and smokes. But if you’re doing that while hanging out with friends, you will live longer than the healthy person who doesn’t hang out with friends. That’s how important community is for us. It is truly not good for us to be alone. This is a problem or this is The problem.
So why is it getting worse? It’s getting worse because of expressive individualism getting worse because of our culture. Now “expressive individuals”. I’m not going to use that a couple times. Now here’s what it means. It’s really simple. It is our prevailing ethos as a culture, the key to life, the meaning of life is to look inside yourself, and either discover or define your sense of self, which you then express to the world. You express the individual, that’s what it is. Now, individualism doesn’t necessarily mean isolation, but it invariably arrives there. That’s where it’s going to go. Why? Because what’s the focus to create your own identity? That means it’s egotistical. It’s self-centered. Like that’s our whole culture is self-centered. Here it is. This is a study by David Kinnaman. He found that 84% of Americans, which means by the way, that’s a hefty number of churchgoers, okay. 84% of Americans believe enjoying yourself is the highest goal of life. Enjoying your setup, the most important thing in life is that I make sure I’m happy. What’s that going to do? To my relationships. It’s an inherently dehumanizing approach to relationships. It becomes maybe exploitive is too strong a word, but at the very least, it’s transactional. Like you’re here to give me what I need to feel good about myself. So I hand over money for a Big Mac, I’m going to hand over some time or energy or whatever, so that you give me what I need to feel good. It’s transactional. Ernest Becker wrote a really important book a few decades ago called The Denial of Death. Won the Pulitzer Prize in fact, and he was looking at what happens when you strip transcendence out of our world and found that you got to fixate on people. It was literally our catechism question today. Like that’s idolatry. So idolatry has shifted to people. He says this, when we look for the perfect human object, we are looking for someone who allows us to express our will completely without any frustration or false notes. We’ll come back to that in a moment. But notice, when we look for the perfect human object, we’re object devising each other is an object for my use my relationships, of course, we see this and in terms of sex, primarily, that’s the clearest area where we exchange physical intimacy, it’s surely not the right word. Uh, for some sense of worth, I feel beautiful, I feel lovable, I feel important or powerful, or whatever it is. I mean, look at the growth of Tinder for example. What is Tinder if not dehumanizing. You literally don’t matter. Okay, just need to know it’s a pretty face kind of thing. And then we can hook up and go on our separate ways, or the whole idea of ghosting someone, I got what I needed from you, in order to express my individuality. So I’m out. I’m out. This is also, by the way, by David talks about the lonely in the context of the marginalized. Did you notice that verse five, a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows? That’s not coincidental. These are vulnerable populations, especially back then there’s no life insurance, anything like that, right? So a widow really had no way to survive, and ditto the orphan. So they were vulnerable because they brought no value to the table. They brought no value to the table. Now, we’ve got different groups today, maybe I would really say more groups, I think widows and orphans still fit in this category. More groups with the same truth is there, we don’t devote time to those who won’t directly benefit us. Because my goal is my happiness. And so if you’re not helping me out there, well, then why would I do that? Now you go, Hang on now. That’s not true of me. I volunteer at the soup kitchen, whatever it is, okay. Sure. Why do people volunteer? To feel good about themselves? Because it’s part of the identity that they’re creating. I’m there, I get it posted on Facebook. Everyone likes it. They see how caring I am, how altruistic I am. So even then, I’m using people for the sake of myself. Now, certainly, this transactional trend is exacerbated by technology. I mentioned Tinder already. The ubiquity of porn is another really obvious one. I mean, here, the person on the screen literally exists only for my pleasure. I don’t have to even pretend to treat them like a person, because there’s no human connection there at all. But even more wholesome apps to kind of drive this same loneliness that we’re seeing like social media, we have a whole new category of person now, don’t we? In fact, my wife would rarely use this phrase this morning, because it’s just entered our vocabulary. That’s a Facebook friend. What is a Facebook friend? Not a friend. That’s what it means, right? I mean, that’s it. That’s what we mean, I only had this connection. 15 years ago, I knew them or something, I don’t know. There are people I have on my Facebook friends, where I literally don’t know who they are; no idea how I got connected to them in the first place, anything like that. That’s it. So there’s this sense of connecting, without actually being known. It would be a little bit if I could put it in like church terms. It’s the difference between the person who just comes in and spectator on a Sunday, maybe you come in a bit late, maybe you leave a little bit early, you don’t actually connect to the new one versus the somebody who is here beforehand and stays after connecting. They’re in Journey Group. They’re in Community Group. They know people, they’re talking like, that’s the difference right there. You could be in a community without communing. And that’s kind of where we’ve reached as a culture. So this, I mentioned men, especially one of the reasons because men are video gamers. A lot of women play video games, too. They just don’t play the same way that men do. So I mentioned last week, a podcast that Sarah Zylstra did, called Scrolling Alone. She did a companion one called Gaming Alone. That one was focused on the boys. She quoted a guy. He’s a college student, and he said this as she was interviewing him. He was talking about one of his good friends; he spends a lot of time with them. And then all of a sudden, he goes, “You know, I have no idea what his real name is, actually. We all just call him dirty, Dan, because that’s what his handle is on the game.” So he’s dirty, that I know. That I know. He’s 16. I know He lives in Arizona. And I know he’s really, really, really good at whatever game it was they were playing.” There’s an irony there. Of course, I mean, this is somebody that he has spent hours upon hours with and doesn’t even know his name. Again, a symbol for our times, we are avatars of ourselves. The philosopher Charles Taylor called what’s happening excarnation, the opposite of incarnation, we know what incarnation means. It’s to be physically present. If you know your Spanish, if not your Latin in the corne, right? We’re in the flesh. That’s incarnation, excarnation, we’re now out of the flesh. We’re disembodied. He was thinking of it in terms of theology in particular, as if Christianity existed up here, we’re just thinking things. So as long as we think the right things, then we’re good Christians. That was what he was critiquing. But I think we could expand this concept. Just the whole idea that instead of offering physical presence, we are now disembodied, so that severely limits relationships. Even if you’re not pursuing relationships in an expressive individualist framework. There’s no touch, which matters. There are at least in some connections, no facial expressions, and there’s no tone of voice you know. It’s why we have emojis, right? Because gotta go. I was kidding when I said that. Because you couldn’t hear me because you couldn’t see me because we’re not actually friends. Sorry. There’s also no help. I mean, I don’t care how close this guy was to Dirty Dan or whatnot. His car breaks down on the side of the highway in the middle of the night. Guess who’s not coming? Dirty Dan. Exactly. And you think of how important, I mean, the Jewish people that have what’s known as sitting Shiva, which is when someone dies, you just go and sit in their home for seven days. I’m half-Jewish. I love this. All right. This is like my people got this, right? Okay, because it was just the physical presence, like just incarnation, but not anymore. What do we do now? We send a text.
The problem is clear. We’re an increasingly lonely society because there are very real drivers toward disembodied, dehumanizing connections. Is there a remedy? I’m glad you asked. Second point remedy, presence, of course, but specifically the presence of God. God is the remedy. In fact, I’m gonna let you in on a secret. Now we’re looking at you know, the problem of anxiety and depression, and loneliness and busyness and stuff. Really, this series is just focused on the character of God. Like that’s what we’re talking about. That’s why we’re in Psalms because that’s where we find hope. Who is God? That’s why verse four begins, Sing to God, sing his praise, extol his name. In fact, did you notice that David keeps mentioning that word name? That’s because name and Hebrew thought was shorthand for character. I’m summing up who God is. So that to proclaim God’s name is to display his glory. Moses Exodus there be two to 34 says, God, show me your glory. And God says, I will proclaim My name and cause my glory to pass in front of you. And then he does it. He says Javy, yavi, the Lord. The Lord, by the way, anytime you see in your Old Testament text the Lord and all caps, that’s the name of God. yavi. Okay, so he says, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love.” And here’s my character. And when I say my name, I’m saying who I am, well, who is yavi? Well, he’s the God of the Exodus. That’s who he is, which was the Old Testament picture of salvation. That moment when he provided a home for the homeless, when he proclaimed freedom for the captives, these groups that we’re talking about, of course, this side of the cross, and the empty tomb of who God is, and what he has done is even clearer, because he has led us all not just the Jewish people, but let us all we’re all captives prisoners to sin, to into the promised land, and the Promised Land is God Himself. He is the promised land, John 17, three when Jesus says, you know, he’s praying for us that they may have eternal life. This is eternal life, that they might know you. And basically me the one God sent Jesus. So the obvious remedy to excarnation is incarnation, that God would dwell among us, John 114. The Word became flesh Incarnate Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us and we have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only who has come from the Father full of grace and truth. But the key question we’re going to ask you the texts for today because of what we’re looking at this morning is in what sense does God set the lonely and the utterly alone in families? He rescues the marginalized–those who have no value to society. We saw that again. But look at how this happens. Note verse five, “So a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows is God in his holy dwelling.”. Specifically, that is in his heavenly temple. The temple is really important in Jewish thought because this is where you went to meet with God. This is where we could experience connection, the presence of God for David, of course, he’s thinking Jerusalem. If you were here on Good Friday, Kyle talked about the fact that God like sat on the Ark of the Covenant, the mercy seat in the temple. That’s where he was on Earth. But for us today, well, the temple was destroyed and in at 70. Why? Why would God allow his temple this meeting place to be destroyed? Because it was obsolete. It was no longer the meeting place. Jesus is the true and better temple. He said, “Destroy this temple, and, in three days, I’ll rebuild it. And now we go, Oh, I got it. I see what you did there, right. We’re talking about the resurrection. You wrote it. So you are the temple and then the New Testament writers expand on this concept. They go he’s not just a temple. He’s the cornerstone in this new temple construction, the rest of the foundation built with the apostles and prophets, that is the revealed word of God, who are the bricks that are gonna be used to build this temple though. God’s people we are, here’s Ephesians, 2:21 and 22. In Him, in Christ, the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him. You two are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit. We’re like living stones. Peter says, we are the temple of God. So now let’s read verse five, in light of that, God rescues and protects the vulnerable in his temple, which is the church because we’re the temple. That then helps us understand verse six, in Christ, God sets the lonely in the family of God, in His family, the truest family, we will ever know. By the way, your parents may reject you. That happens. Disown you. Maybe even because of your Christian faith. Siblings, we got this thing called sibling rivalry. I can’t tell you the number of funerals that I have been a part of where it was clear that was the last time those siblings were going to be in the room together. Like we don’t know the family, but not the church. The church is there. The people of God will go into eternity. Even here’s the way Jesus said it Mark 10:29 and 30. Peter says we’ve left everything seen to follow you. And Jesus says, You’re right, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me, and the gospel will fail to receive 100 times as much. Not in heaven, not in heaven, in this present age homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields. What does that mean? What does that mean? Well, we know what it means we get each other. If that wasn’t clear, he’d said it earlier in Mark’s gospel, Mark 334, and 35, Jesus’s biological family, his mother and brothers, they come in to get him because they think he’s crazy. And so somebody shows up and says, Hey, your mommy brothers are here. And he says he looked at those seated in a circle around him that his disciples are the people who were following him–the church–in other words, and said, Here, I, my mother, and my brothers, whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister, and mother. I preached a sermon on this passage a few years ago, it was January 2020, kind of an important year and all of that, and we were looking at submission. And the last subject we looked at was submission to the community, the people of God. And so we went through this passage, and I explained, I’m not going to do it all because I don’t have time, but to show that the brother-sister relationship was the most important, earthly relationship at that time. That’s not how we think we think spouse, you had to choose between your wife and your sister, you’re choosing your wife, not back then you chose your sister because blood, blood is what matters. So what Jesus is saying here is the most important earthly relationship you now have is with the Church of Christ. The truest family and all are welcome, regardless of the value to society. In the same way that God welcomed us when – let’s just agree – we didn’t bring much to the table, did we? The church, Christians can welcome and love the lonely because we have been set free, they lead the prisoners out with singing. This is why we sing together, we’ve been set free from the need to love ourselves. Because if self-love is what’s causing loneliness, and the remedy is to address that need at the root, which is precisely what the gospel does, because here’s the question, we’re all asking whether you said it out loud ever or not. The question we’re all asking is, how will I get the love I seek? And without God, we’re wishing, we’re wishing for it. And we’re wishing on what Ernest Becker gonna quoted them earlier called apocalyptic relationships, a pop apocalyptic meaning, like, I gotta pin all my hopes on it. It’s a really big deal. So Becker’s point is that we’re, we’re, you’re pinning all your wishes on a finite, and, frankly, fallen person to satisfy infinite needs. And by the way, they’re doing it to you also, there’s that transactional piece. So it takes like romance, what you’re saying to somebody, absent the love of God in a romantic relationship is I need you to make me feel good about myself all of the time. That’s a tough relationship. You can see why he calls it apocalyptic and not going to go well, especially since they’re saying the same thing to you. But we can do that. It’s not just romance. I think we got apocalyptic parenting a whole lot of parents who are going I need you kids to make me look the way I want to look to the world. We got apocalyptic friendships, we got apocalyptic all sorts of things, because only the gospel can satisfy that infinite need.
Because in the story of Jesus’s death and resurrection, we receive full and unconditional love. Robert, read it for us earlier first, John 316. This is how we know what love is. Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. Jesus Christ was not about his own ego. He wasn’t trying to enjoy himself to the fullest. So he could be outward and love us. But that means now we are completely loved. So we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. In the Gospel, we are fully known, even better than we know ourselves. God knows exactly we who we are. And yet we are fully loved. And as a result, we can love truly not transactional, I can give you a little bit of love, but you got better. You know, “I need a return on my investment here” kind of love. But, well, the Bible would call it covenantal love, because we’re already loved fully. There is a warning attached though to all of this. The remedy is God’s presence of course, but the end of verse six, the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land. Again in the Exodus, those who did not believe who didn’t trust that God could deliver them into the Promised Land ended up wandering around in the desert for 40 years. There you are. They’re in a sun-scorched land, they’re rebellious. But there’s a deeper point there. If you are unwilling to follow God’s design, you will go through life parched. Lips cracked skin blistered. Like if you’re gonna keep seeking meaning through self-discovery and self-expression, you will grow increasingly isolated, like Howard Hughes. Jonathan Hite makes this point in his book, I think it’s called the happiness principle. He contrasts two people. So he talks about Bob, first of all, Bob is 35. He’s single, he’s white, attractive, athletic, lives in sunny California. He’s making six figures loves to read and go to museums. And then he introduces us to Mary and Mary’s kind of the opposite Mary’s 65. She’s overweight, she’s black. She and her husband together are pulling in maybe 40,000. And instead of sunny California, they’re stuck in snowy buffalo. So what Hite asks us to do than say which one is happier? We don’t put our money on Bob, of course. And height says you look at the research and the easy money is on Mary guaranteed why? Well, Mary is married. First of all, Mary is also involved in her church. That’s the difference right there. Mary’s in church is connected to people, whereas Bob is reading alone and going to museums alone. And that’s the whole difference as he’s blistering in the sun. Mary is basking in the warmth of genuine human relationships and gospel love, he has set the lonely in a family. The remedy is who God is, and what he’s done and is doing for us. What is that by Christ’s life and death and resurrection, setting us in his family? So what’s our response going to be? Third point? Response is then the practice of family. God sets the lonely in his family. Can we agree then we’d be fools not to gather with that family. If the response is really easy, enter into community. That’s what God is asking of us today. physical presence. By the way, we need to practice incarnation, not x carnation, we are not thinking things. Which means just getting information into our brains is not enough. Can I be blocked for a moment? Can we talk? Okay, what have you said yes, I’ll take it. It’s all I need. What that means is the live stream is not enough. The live stream is not enough. The live stream exists. The whole reason we set it up was as a help. In a worst-case scenario, a global pandemic comes to mind. But there are other more personal issues. We certainly have people who are on the live stream because they cannot gather physically okay. But that’s a help in a worst-case scenario. That’s not a crutch for your whole life. You need to set aside time and energy to practice family life. And that means prioritizing community, the family of God certainly means attending the service, I could talk to you about the statistics. And by the way, they’re true of you, too. I know what I know who’s here and who’s not here. It’s not good. Okay. means attending the service. Yes. But it also means being a part of community life, explore our Community Groups, Journey Groups, informal relationships, like people just getting together, whatever it looks like. Now, I said I wanted to speak especially to the isolated, the marginalized, the vulnerable, the lonely. But then I also said they might not be here because if you’re here and connected to the church, you have a good chance that’s not you. So I’m sending you out as ambassadors from here. You got to take this message to them. And 2016 Harvard School of Public Health Professor Tyler van der Wiel wrote an op-ed in USA Today called “Religion may be a Miracle Drug.” It opened like this. He said, if one could conceive of a single elixir to improve the physical and mental health of millions of Americans, at no personal costs, what value with our society plays on it, be high, be very high. And he goes on to say we have it. We have it go to church. That’s it. That’s the miracle drug. Regular religious participation reduces mortality rates by 20 to 30%. People who attend church regularly are more optimistic, have lower rates of depression, lower rates of suicide, less divorce. Yes, religion can be bad. You got some examples in your head. I got some examples in my head to religion can be bad, but that’s like saying drugs are bad. without distinguishing heroin from insulin. There’s a difference. A huge reason why regular religious participation is so important is relationships. So participate regularly. Gather with the church. Get to know people. Now, some of you are sitting here going. I’ve known some Christians, and they don’t make me want to go to church. Like if the church is the truest family, why is it so messed up? Good question. I am with you. I’ve asked the question too, I’ve been hurt by the church, believe me should be the safest place on Earth doesn’t mean that it always is. Of course, that just means we need more gospel, not less, right? We need more gospel, we need more true religion because the gospel is what allows for unity in diversity allows us to own to acknowledge our sin, our failures, and to welcome in broken people who are not like us and who are difficult and hard to love. Sometimes, the gospel should be freeing us from ego so that we can love like Jesus. But we’re not there yet. We’re still works in progress. We sing it right? He’s the potter. I’m the clay. I don’t look like a pot yet. I’m getting there. Okay, he’s still working and all those were being molded still. But that does not mean this isn’t a time for self-examination. If you’re not doing it, if you’re bitter, divisive, uninvolved, unloving. Why not? Why not repent, especially if your expressive individualism. It’s a point that Kyle made on Good Friday that applies here. We come, to gather, to love, to encourage to serve, not to get fed. Hebrews 10:25, we talked about this a lot, right? When Hebrews says, Don’t forsake meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing but instead doesn’t just say meet together? No. He says, instead, encourage one another. You come to encourage you come to love not to be loved, that will happen. Yes. But it’s not why you come, you come to love, because you’re already perfectly loved and satisfied in Christ. So the question is not what will I miss if I skip church. But who will miss me, if I skip church, God is sitting the lonely in a family. What happens if the family doesn’t show up, you get an orphan who’s adopted. And then no one’s ever there for dinner time. That’s not what God intends for us. So we pull our threads together here, this idea I wanted to leave you with. As we wrap up, the main idea is very simple. What the gospel provides, we practice what the gospel provides, which is family, right, what the gospel provides, we practice. So if we believe the gospel, if we’re allowing the gospel to shape us, we need to set ourselves to practicing family living, establishing routines of healthy family life. So I want to leave you with just a few practical ideas, these would be great ideas to discuss with your community group. By the way, one of the reasons why be great to discuss with your community group is because then you’d be in community, you’d be like 90% of the way there.
But I want you to set some specific action steps for yourself for the coming week even and it works best if you do that in community. So couple practical ideas. First, I’ve already said it. But I will say it again, show up, show up, show up consistently, and show up for more than the 10:30 service is the purpose of the gathering isn’t just to hear a sermon or sing a song if that’s all it were, you could get it at home on YouTube. And it would be better quality. Maybe not the worship, we got a great worship team. That preaching–I can direct you so much better preachers, for sure. The purpose of gathering is to commune, to be with one another, to encourage and love one another. So get to know people, form friendships, invest in others and let them invest in you. By the way, one of the ways this happens is before and after the service. I’m gonna talk again, alright, sorry, it’s twice in one sermon. I’m trying to say it not harshly. It’s not how I was not coming it. Pray for me. Thank you. There are people who show up consistently late. Every service. I know who you are, you know who you are, you know what you’re missing. And you know what you’re keeping us from? Is not okay, all right, like it’s wrong. Could you repent of it and get here on time, every week, a few minutes, or at least you can talk to people beforehand? And by the way, you could even do that for the 9:15 service. I’m gonna say it okay. My wife who is a single parent on Sunday mornings is here by nine o’clock with six children. None of you have an excuse. Right. That’s it. That’s all I’m saying. She can do it. You all can do it. Yes. Part of this involves seeing the church is your truest family too because it is your only eternal family. The Brandon Cooper family will not go into eternity when we get to glory, I will not be dad, I will not be husband, I will just be a brother in Christ to my family that I certainly hope will be there. That means we are the truest family.Look at each other. Like you’re the truest family. I’ll give you just one example, the number of people who have moved and God calls people to move. I’m not saying otherwise. The number of people have been who have moved in order to be close to blood family, without even considering the family of God is heartbreaking to me. And it does not usually go well, by the way, but I’ll leave it there. Second practical step is Kyle’s announcement. One way to invest intentionally is life-on-life discipleship. That could be with youth, yes, but could be with adults, too. Like we need each other. Of course, whatever God has given you, He has given you so that you can give it away. And so we got a lot of resources, we can help you with this attend the training coming up soon. It’s third, this is our whole outreach strategy. Really, this is it. This is how we reach the world. For Christ. God is still setting the lonely in families, he is still adopting children. So look around at your own costs. The people God has placed in your life and practice physical presence within our communities are filled with lonely people longing for authentic connection. That’s why effective evangelism today will be relational. And the reality is that there are very few isolated, lonely, vulnerable forgotten people who are just going to walk into our church building. We need to go and get them. We go to them first, have someone unexpected over for dinner this week, ask a lonely colleague to lunch. You look around the cafeteria sit with the student who’s not ever sitting with anybody else. And by the way that does include those in the church who are on the live stream because they have to be on the live stream. Right? We go to them to bring community to them. So they know that they’re still a part of who we are. I saw this I won’t mention names because I didn’t talk to these people beforehand. But I saw this just this week, for our Thursday Zoom prayer meeting. Were one of those families who was not able to attend our church physically anymore, was all of a sudden on the Zoom meeting. Why? Because someone in this church went over to their house and got them set up for zoom. That’s what this looks like. Like that’s what I’m leaving you with what the gospel provides we practice how can you practice gospel family life this week? Because that’s hope for the lonely. Let’s pray. Father, help us, just help us. We know that our whole bent is inward. We love ourselves. We’re trying to please ourselves. So much of the time in the Gospel, though you can unbend us you can make us straight up right again. And in experiencing the fullness of your love, we can be free to love others, including the lonely we can help you set them in families by reaching them for Christ. Give us eyes to see them and hearts to love them this week and then hands to carry that love to them we pray in Christ’s name, Amen.