Authentic Community

Series: Back to Basics

 “Back To Basics” // Message @ JRCC – Sunday, Sept 25, 2011

Text: // Series: “Back to Basics (Core Values)”



Good morning, everyone, my name is Brad, I’m part of the teaching and leadership team here at Jericho Ridge.  If you are new and visiting with us – fantastic!  We are happy to see you and you have jumped in at a fantastic time in the life of Jericho Ridge because we are exploring the very things that make us who we are as a family.  Our family values.  They are like the DNA that shapes who we are and how we do life together with each other. They are like the promises we make to each other – and I promised you guys two weeks ago that I would tell you the story of how these values came to be at Jericho Ridge.  Some of you know our history…  We started out in 2005 as a satellite campus of North Langley community Church.  And for 2 years, we were connected but the church planting strategy was always to launch a fully functioning, independent, healthy congregation capable of reaching Willoughby and the surrounding area.  So in April of 2007, we had reached what we call full partnership where we each entity was independent under its own leadership and forming its own unique DNA.  And what we began to realize was that Jericho had a unique DNA.  A DNA that was influenced by our parent and contained strands of things like global mission, which you heard about last weekend but there was a uniqueness to it.  So we needed to name it.  And this process was done together as a community.  We took 6 Sunday mornings in May and June of 2007, sitting around round tables in the gym at RE Mountain High School and we asked questions like “what’s important to us as a church?”  What unique aspects of God’s call will we commit to living out together?”  We searched the Scriptures, we had animated discussions with one another and we settled on these 5 values that have really, shaped the ethos and the ministries that you see today. 


So two weeks ago, we started our early fall teaching series called it “Back to Basics” the idea being that we are returning to that conversation in 2007, to our roots and to the basic things that we are called to be and do as a church as rooted in the Scriptures and prayerfully discerned together in community as we listen to God and to each other.  And so two weeks ago, we looked at our first value: Transformational Truth. Then last week, Pastor Keith led us through an exploration of Glocal service.  So today, we’re going to look at our third value, Authentic community.  And the question I have for you as we begin is a seemingly simple one: “What makes community authentic?”  We’ve talked about how the adjectives are deeply important – when you heart is transformed by God’s truth, your life will bring forth obedience fruit.  We’ve talked about how serving catalyze something transformative in your life and you begin to get a picture of God’s heart for those who are lost both locally and globally.  So why choose the word “authentic: to describe the kind of relationships we want to see created here at Jericho Ridge?  We could have chosen the word loving relationships or caring or any number of descriptors. 


While you are thinking about that, let me play devil’s advocate for a minute and ask you a follow up question:  Is there anything that makes Christian community unique?  In our Core Value statement which you will find on page 27 of your Momentum Journal right next to your place to doodle or write down your grocery shopping list while I talk, we say this: “God exists in community and models for us what it means to be both vitally connected with Him and interdependent with one another. We desire relationships with one another that are transparent, supportive, encouraging and rooted in a desire to love as we have been loved by God”  Those descriptor words – transparent.  Supportive.  Encouraging.  Connected.  Interdependent.  They are good words but are they what makes community authentic?  Are they what makes Christian community unique?  I mean, I could have those kinds of relationships with my neighbours, with people on my sports team or community association (though I haven’t come across too many supportive encouraging, interconnected stratas but they might exist).  I could find this in a great work environment or in my extended family.  Why should this be a biblically defensible value as a church community? 


One theological hint comes in the opening statement of our value – that God Himself exists in eternal community: Father, Son and Holy Spirit – and models for us what healthy, interdependent relationships look like.  Another hint comes in the text of the supporting Scriptures in italics underneath this value.  And so you’re likely expecting us to turn to Acts 2 right now to look at the authentic community modeled for us in the early church.  But this morning, we’re kicking it old school and I want to explore the answers to some of those questions I posed by looking at a complex and bizarre biblical story from the Old Testament.  And in this text, we’ll see that there are 2 axis’s of authentic community in all of our lives – one is vertical, that is my connection with God and the level of authenticity and proximity that every human being has the opportunity to experience.  And the second axis is horizontal – this is the level of transparency and interdependence that I choose to experience with those around me.  And we’re going to see in this text that these two variables are interdependently linked – I’m sure there is a fancy scientific or mathematically precise term for that – if you know it, shout it out.  But what we are going to see is that when one gets adjusted, positively or negatively, the other one moves in tandem with it.  So open your Bibles and turn with me to 2 Chronicles 25. 

If you are new or visiting with us or don’t have access to a Bible on your phone, then you can head back to the Welcome Centre grab one of our Bibles in an easy to read translation.  If you don’t own a Bible, please keep that as our gift to you. Read it – that’s why we do the Momentum Journals – to encourage all of us to dive into God’s Word and grow in that vertical relationship. 


So let me set the stage for you.  This section of the Bible is written as a historical narrative.  An accurate account of the conflict that existed in the Middle East, most particularly in Israel, a few generations after the zenith of Israel’s nationhood under King David.  Now, if you are familiar with the story, the people and leaders of Israel choose to forsake God, and so the nation splits in two – 10 of the tribes form what becomes known as the northern Kingdom (known as Israel or Ephraim) and 2 of them form the southern kingdom known as Judah.  And the relationship is not healthy between these two.  You think conflict in the Middle East is new to our century?  Try reading the books of I & 2 Chronicles or Kings and you’ll see conflict!  I’m not going to read the end of the story in 2 Chronicles 25, you can go home and do that – but our focus this morning is going to be on the king of Judah, a young man named Amaziah and an unnamed prophet, a man of God who challenges him.  I’m beginning reading in 2 Chronicles 25:5 – when I get to verse 7, portions of the text will come up on the side screens for you but there’s lots here so following along in your Bible would be the best plan.  [Media Note: 2 Slides start at vs. 7 to 10a).


So about this time, you might be asking yourself – what in the world does this narrative about Amaziah’s army have to do with the core value of authentic community?  Well, remember the first and primary axis of authentic community is vertical – and in this text we see Amaziah’s incredible obedience to God.  It may not seem all that impressive until you begin to do the math on this one.  So he has 300,000 of his own army but he hires some additional help 7500 pounds of silver.  Now, I’m no commodities expert and the math on this is pretty complicated because you have to convert troy ounces into pounds and then multiply that by the current market value of silver, which got me very confused earlier this week partially because the price of a commodity like silver is always fluctuating.  But as near as I can tell, Amaziah has paid in today’s currency, $5.2 million dollars Canadian for his hired help.  And then God tells him – don’t use these guys.  And he says OK, God.  Actually, he says “what about all my money?” and the prophet says “do you want God’s help or not?”  And Amaziah kisses off 5.2 million dollars of silver in order to be obedient to God.  When I read this, my immediate thought is ‘well, that was a stupid decision, Amaziah!”  But the question that grabbed me as I reflected on this further was a question of vertically authentic community: “How much is God’s help worth to me?”  To you?  If you had a choice between purchasing help for, well, let’s reduce the number - $520 or for $52 on the one hand and on the other hand, you could simply trust God or in this case, trust a person with a message from God for you, which would you choose?  Because you see, this is not about the money.  This is about trust, which is the foundation of any authentic relationship.  The real question isn’t the dollar figure, the real question is How deep and how sure is my confidence that God’s way is the best way?

When God says “don’t lie” but a lie would provide me better social standing, I have a choice to make.  When God says “keep your life free from the love of money.  Be content with what you have” but my bank and my credit card approves me for more than I can reasonably pay off or pay back, who’s way do I choose?  Your decisions and my decisions in the daily moments of life – of parenting, of financial management, of how we make decisions – all of this says much more about our condifence and trust in God than perhaps we realize.  How much is God’s help worth to you?  How confident are you that God’s way is the best way?  It’s a good litmus test for vertically authentic community.   


And amazingly, Amaziah passes this test with flying colours.  He demonstrates amazing confidence in God. He receives the message from the man of God with enough faith to kiss off $5.2 million dollars and he experiences a great spiritual and military victory.  BUT sometimes after our greatest spiritual victories, we experience our deepest defeats.  And starting in the second half of verse 10, we see that things take a turn for the worse and we begin to see the cracks forming in both the vertical and the horizontal connections.  Let’s keep reading in Verse 10b, when we get to verse 14 the text will come up on the side screens and it will be in the message translation because the phrasing is powerful.  Let’s continue…  [Media note: Text comes up at Verses 14 – 15 in the Message]

On his return from the destruction of the Edomites, Amaziah brought back the gods of the men of Seir and installed them as his own gods, worshiping them and burning incense to them. That ignited God's anger; a fiery blast of God's wrath put into words by a God-sent prophet: "What is this? Why on earth would you pray to inferior gods who couldn't so much as help their own people from you—gods weaker than Amaziah?"


“Amaziah interrupted him, "Did I ask for your opinion? Shut up or get thrown out!"  The prophet quit speaking, but not before he got in one last word: "I have it on good authority: God has made up his mind to throw you out because of what you've done, and because you wouldn't listen to me.""


Amaziah experiences an incredible military victory over Edom.  On the outside, he looks the part of a successful king. But he made a horrible spiritual decision.  After declaring that God’s help is worth more to him than $5.2 million, he essentially says “I know what I’ll do.  I’ll make the idols of those people I just defeated my own idols.  Yeah, cause they were so strong and could protect Edom from me.”  And it’s easy for us to say “Amaziah – what were you thinking?!” you declare that God’s help is worth so much to you, you declare your trust and confidence in the true and living God and then you go out and when you win, you throw it all away!  Which can seem surprising to us except that the author gives us a hint in the beginning of the chapter that something like this might happen.  2 Chronicles 25:2 says “Amaziah id what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, but not wholeheartedly”.  He wasn’t as devoted to God as he looked from his actions.  And when trouble came, when the Israelite troops do what troops do, he decides that God’s help really isn’t or wasn’t worth it afterall. 


And notice what happens as the vertical axis deteriorates…  The horizontal one slips as well.  Notice Amaziah’s first response to the man of God who speaks truth into his life.  He questions but ultimately he believes him and acts on it.  But when the prophet comes back with a less expensive spiritual proposition – get rid of those idols, those false gods in which you place trust and confidence but who couldn’t even help save their former masters from you – the relationships between prophet and king turns ugly.  As the relationship between Amaziah and God breaks down, it influences and affects the relationship between the prophet and the king.  The prophet says “this is wrong” and the king says “shut it or I’ll have you killed”.  To which the prophet responds: We’ll see about that.     


As I reflected on this interchange and on the times in my life when people have had the courage and wisdom to call me out spiritually, it prompted me to ask some questions about horizontally authentic community… 

  • How do you respond when someone challenges you spiritually?

Here we have Amaziah, it’s like he was in church one Sunday with hands raised in worship belting out songs about God being everything in his life and then by Monday, he’s saying ‘God?  Who is that?  I’ve got my own little show on the go here, thank you very much.  Just had a great victory so I feel pretty confident in my own abilities.’  But then someone speaks truth into his life, someone has the guts to challenge him spiritually to growth and to come back to God and he says “shut up.  I don’t want to hear it.”  You see your response when someone challenges you spiritually indicates the level of authenticity that is present in that relationship or in that community.  And here’s the huge distinction between Christian community and the kinds that are indeed authentic that I can find elsewhere…  The distinction of Christian community I that we want to help each other grow and become deeper people.  More authentic people.  But this does not come when we simply say warm and fuzzy things to one another.  It comes when you are willing to both received truth spoken into your life and to speak the truth into someone’s life.  To get up into their face and say “this is wrong.  And I challenge you to stop doing it.”  Now this isn’t easy.  Because it obviously requires a balance between grace and truth.  The New Testament uses the phrase “speaking the truth in love”  And it’s not easy to either give or receive this kind of direction.  So the question is not only how do I respond but how do I initiate this kind of spiritually authentic conversation.      

  • Are you willing to take the risk and speak the truth in love into someone else’s life?

This is increasingly rare in our world and I have a theory which you are welcome to discuss and poke holes in about a possible explanation for why this is the case.  I wonder if we don’t experience more of this because most of us surround ourselves with people who are so similar to us that they won’t do this.  You see it’s easy to have authentic community when everyone agrees with me.  Or when everybody is exactly like me. Jesus says “if you love only those who love you back, what good is that?” God’s picture of authentic community is co much more messier and costlier than the type of community we are usually willing to participate in. 


It’s easy to love my neighbour when the don’t play music loudly at 3 AM or when they don’t park in my spot on the street in from of my house.  It’s relatively easy for me to love people in the same social and economic sphere as I am.  It’s easy to have community with people who speak the same language as I do, who believe the same things about God that I do or shop at the same stores I shop at.  It’s easy to love the nice kids or parents in my school community.  It’s easy to agree with those who pray the same way I like to pray in Life Group…  


But that’s not authentic community.  You see one of the unique facets of Christian community is that I am called not only to love but also to invite others into my life who are profoundly different than me.  Who can hold up mirror to my life and tell me what they see.  The man of God did that for Amaziah at the potential cost of his own life.  I am usually not even willing to do it at the cost of making a minor adjustment to my spiritual life.      


As the team comes to lead us in reflection and response in son, I want to ask you to being to ready your heart for communion with a few preparatory questions For Reflection and Response:

  • Do we need to repent of an inaccurate picture of authentic community?

So often, I find that my vision of authentic community is a dream of my own creation.  It’s my ideal place of comfort and safety where nobody marches in and tells me what to do and I don’t have to change anything.  Friends, if that is your picture of church, that’s not church.  That’s a country club and that picture is an idol.  You need to repent of it this morning.  Because God’s picture of authentic community is likely messier and more costly.  It involves more radical commitment of time, hospitality and grace.  Perhaps today is the day you individually or we corporately repent and invite a new vision to grip our hearts and transform our behavior.


The second question is related to the notion of $5.2 million versus trust and confidence in God.  Now it might not be monetary, but in each of our lives, there are likely areas where

  • Where do you need to reaffirm your trust and confidence in God?

If you can’t think of any, ask those around you whom you know and trust and with whom you share life.  They’ll help you – and they will speak the truth to you about where they see growth edges and room for improvement.  If you don’t have anybody, then perhaps your response is to begin to take steps to seek that out.  Maybe it freaks you out, but you come to group connect and say “it’s time for me to jump in with a group of people and to open my life to them to allow them to speak truth into my heart”  This doesn’t happen overnight, but when it does it is an amazing gift.  Maybe that person is your spouse or a spiritual mentor…  Ask them “are there areas I need to reaffirm my trust in God?”  Ask God to whisper these areas to you by His Holy Spirit.  He will give you grace and strength.


The last area is perhaps an area where you hold bitterness or resentment in your heart.  Perhaps someone challenged you and you responded like Amaziah did – get out of my life! 

  • How have I responded to those who have spoken truth into my life?

 Perhaps today is the day you humble yourself and make it right.  You text or call them right now and say “when you said this, my response was not healthy”.  The NT says ‘clear that up before you come to the communion table’.  The team is going to play two newer songs – you are welcome to sing along but you don’t have to.  Table is open, prayer is available for you…  Bread & cup represent ultimate community: with God.   

What makes community authentic? And is there anything that makes community distinctly Christian? Come along for the journey as we explore JRCC's third core value - Authentic Community.

Speaker: Brad Sumner

September 25, 2011
2 Chronicles 25:5-16

Brad Sumner

Lead Pastor

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