If you picked up an English dictionary and looked up the word peculiar, you would find it means different, strange, odd, or weird. Some of you may be thinking of a person right now. However, if you are a follower of Jesus, the Word of God labels you as peculiar.
1 Peter 2:9-10 tells us, “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Before you were not a people, but you are now the people of God.”
God calls you peculiar, different. But many people think differently: “Christians are no different from everyone else.” Now, in one sense, they are correct. But according to the Bible, Christians are called to be different. We are a people on a mission – a life-giving mission.
The unconnected person thinks that attending church services on a beautiful weekend makes us peculiar, even crazy. To them, you are quite strange. But the peculiarity God refers to goes much deeper than that.
I’ve had many people ask me, “Where is your church located?” They’re thinking building, real estate, going to church. But the Lifeway Church facility is not really a church until the church, God’s people, assemble!
- THE CHURCH IS GOD’S PEOPLE.
The church is first mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 16:18-19 (ESV) where He says, “On this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.” The church is people, and hell will not conquer it! If hell is winning at a church, Jesus isn’t leading it, humans are. Hell won’t prevail against any true expression of church. The power of the kingdom flows through the church.
The church is a “called out” people. In Romans 9:24-25 the apostle Paul reminds us that, “He called us not from the Jews only but also from those who are not Jews. As the Scripture says in Hosea: I will say, ‘You are my people’ to those I had called ‘not my people.’” God says, “I am calling people out of the world to become My people.”
- THE CHURCH IS TO BE A COMMUNITY OF APPRENTICES.
The Bible emphasizes the community over the individual. The phrase “One another…” occurs many times in the New Testament. That means COMMUNITY! Local communities of faith, lifting up Jesus, is the only hope for a broken world.
A disciple is an apprentice attached to a Master. The apprentice states with words, attitudes, and actions, “I want to be like you…” As a community of apprentices, we seek to become like Jesus. When Jesus left the earth, he did not leave behind any written books or institutions. He left behind a people.
The Church is Christ’s Body on the earth. That’s what Ephesians 1:22-23 says, “The church which is Christ’s body is filled with Christ, and Christ fills everything in every way.” The Message Translation says it this way, “The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.” Christ speaks and acts on this earth through His body, the church. We are not marginal, we are central. A community of apprentices, making Jesus real.
- THE CHURCH IS INTENDED TO BE LIFE-GIVING.
We are to continue the mission of Jesus. Not begin, but continue. Quoting Jesus again, in Luke 19:10 He said, “The Son of Man came to find lost people and save them.” “Saved” means “To be made whole, rescued, delivered, and healed.” Jesus came to do that. We must be about His mission which is summed up beautifully in John 10:10, “I came to give life-life in all its fullness.” It’s all about life! Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good; He came to make dead people come alive! If that is His mission, it must be our mission as well!
Many unchurched people believe that Christians don’t like them and that they wouldn’t be welcome into their life or church. But to be a life-giving community, we must be a grace-filled community. A life-giving church operates on the principle of grace that can be seen in three key characteristics of Jesus’ ministry:
- Love under every circumstance.
Love shouldn’t be the exception; it must be the rule! In John 13:35 Jesus said, “Everyone will know that you are my disciples because of your love for each other.” This is why Satan loves church conflicts and church splits because he is damaging the very reputation of Jesus.
Love in spite of the circumstances. It’s a choice. It’s Agape love, which has little or nothing to do with feelings. It’s a commitment that motivates us to seek another person’s well-being, regardless of the circumstances. It’s the kind of love that says, “I choose to bless you.”
When Nancy and I started pastoring in 1980, we were determined to love everyone in our community and everyone who came to our church. It got back to me that another pastor in the community labeled us as “the church of rejects”. Rather than making me mad, his criticism made me glad. I liked that! Look at Jesus! Look at the disciples and the people He engaged. Rejects! And that’s what upset the religious people of His day.
2. Acceptance without any reservations.
Lifeway Church offers acceptance in a world filled with rejection. That’s what ticked some people off about Jesus. He reached out to an adulterous woman. He was known as a “Friend of publicans and sinners.” He physically touched lepers. He went to a party at a sinner’s house!
He didn’t always approve of their behavior. Acceptance does not mean approval, but Jesus knew they were a person of value and infinite worth. Jesus died on the cross so that we might have life. And if Jesus loves you, I must love you, too!
I love what Jesus said in John 6:37, “I will never turn away anyone who comes to me.” Acceptance doesn’t mean approval, but it does mean acceptance! It gives people the gift of significance.
3. Forgiveness offered freely.
Paul admonishes us in Ephesians 4:32 to, “Be kind and loving to each other, and forgive each other just as God forgave you in Christ.” No matter how miserably a person feels they have failed, or how blatantly they have sinned, forgiveness is theirs for the asking.
Lifeway is a church that strives to model that. No matter how horribly or often you have failed, where sin abounds, grace does much more abound. Lifeway Church is a recycling center! We take something that’s been used, abused, broken, dirty, and discarded, and bring that person to the cross. Then God can take that which Satan has deemed irrevocably broken, and make something useful and beautiful out of it.
People need to be brought to wholeness and new life. But before they will risk opening themselves up to receive Christ’s healing, these three guarantees must be made:
- We will love them under every circumstance.
- We will accept them without any reservations.
- We will forgive them always and freely.
The leaders at Lifeway Church long for us to be A grace-filled, life-giving, Christ-centered community. We invite you to join our mission.