Our Story Together
As the story of your life unfolds, never forget you are part of something bigger than just you. In our individualistic culture, it’s easy to become self-absorbed and me-centered. The moment you believe in Jesus for a new life, you become part of something enormous—the body of Christ and the movement called the Church. At our church, we are part of the same story. It’s a story of trusting God and a story of shared experiences. It’s our story together.
Our Story Together
Hey, good morning everybody! Really glad we could be together. I love this
time we spend together worshipping God, seeing each other, opening God’s Word
together. That just never gets old for me. Thank you for being here and being a part of
this movement called Lifepoint.
Hey, so last week I started a new series, a short series, a two-part series, called
“Story”. And that means this week is Part II and the last part! That’s how the two-part series
works. So I’m glad that we could cover this topic. Super excited about the idea that you
and I have stories. In fact, as I have suggested, I believe we’ve been created for story. I
think that thing placed within us that longs to understand story and to be captivated by
story is actually from God. He’s given it to us. I like to say that story is woven into the
DNA of our souls. And God loves to take advantage of the curiosity that we have with
stories. Every one of us has a story, and that story is being written, that story is being
played out. And it’s filled up with ups and downs, and joys and sorrows, and all kinds of
things, but God is a master at being close to us. In fact, if you were here, you’ll
remember some of the things we talked about last week. If you weren’t here, I would
point you back online, and you can watch the message, or grab it on the podcast or whatever.
But the way a series works around here, it’s a little bit like a book, and chapters of a
book. So you don’t want to start like right in the middle. It’s helpful to kind of get the
So, just a quick review, let me tell you what we talked about last week as we
discussed the idea that we each have a story. There are three essential encouraging
reminders about your story:
The main character of your story is God.
God is moving from the very beginning in that dark secret place of your mother’s
womb, God has been at work in your life.
God is near to you through every chapter of your story.
Even those things we wish had never happened, God is there and he is able, when
we turn our attention to him, to take bad and actually work it for good. That’s the
kind of victory that we have in him.
And then finally, therefore, we can know our stories and we can tell our stories.
I encourage each of us to be very familiar with the progression of the story that is
being woven into our lives, because God often wants to use our story in the lives
of other people. Rarely do things happen in our lives just for us. They can be
used by God in the lives of other people.
But as the story of your life unfolds, and as cool as that is to think about, never
forget that it’s not just about you. That, in fact, you’re part of something bigger than just
you. Put another way, don’t get stuck only in your story. So in our individualistic culture,
have you noticed this, it’s easy to become self-absorbed and “Me” focused. It just seems
like a bi-product of our age, we are all into ourselves. And we’re all guilty of that to one
extent or another. But the moment you and I believe in Jesus for new life, we become
part of something enormous. In other words, we are invited into a larger story. Right?
That thing that’s enormous that we become part of when we believe in Jesus is called The
Body of Christ, or the movement called The Church. And it’s an exciting prospect for
So one day Jesus and the disciples were traveling and they entered into a region
called Caesarea Philippi. I’m often imagining what it must have been like to walk with
Jesus. These guys, just teenage boys, the disciples of Christ are following Him. They’ve
seen him do miracles, and they are amazed at his teachings. And so as was his custom,
Jesus, when traveling with these guys, would often ask them questions. It’s really an
incredible teaching technique, because it drew them out in so many ways. And so as
Jesus and his disciples entered this area, or region, we’re told in Mathew 16:13 Jesus had
a question for them. He says to his disciples, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man,
am?” It’s a great question. But you need to realize that Jesus never asks people a
question for his information. It’s all about their transformation. Of course, Jesus was
aware of what people were saying about him. But Jesus posed the question to these guys
to get them to think deeply. “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” And I’ve
often wondered in a context like this, was there a pregnant pause where the guys are
going ‘what should we say’? They’re always nervous they were going to give the wrong
answer? You know he just asks so many questions. So I’m sure they are just thinking
hey, we are just going to tell Him what men are saying. OK? “Who do men say that I,
the Son of Man, am?” Well Jesus, they said, some people say you’re John the Baptist.
Other people say you’re Elijah. Some people are suggesting you’re Jeremiah or one of
the prophets. Now at that point, Jesus didn’t then say “OK, I was just wondering”. That
wasn’t the end of the conversation. It wasn’t like he was asking this informational
question, and now he’s found out what people are saying about him. No. That one
question was the setup question.
Now Jesus moves to the real question in the very next verse in Matthew16:15
”But who do you say that I am?” What a great question. It’s a question I think He still
poses today. Who do you say that Jesus is? Who is Jesus to you? And again, not
knowing how much time would have elapsed, or what the disciples would have been
doing, are they fidgeting or they going “Are we going to get the answer wrong?” But, it
was Peter who spoke up first. You could count on Peter to do that. He was the guy that
would often speak first and in verse 16, then Simon Peter answered Jesus and says “Well,
you’re the Christ, the Son of the living God. “ And of course Peter and all the other
disciples had understood who Jesus really was, with the exception of Judas of course, the
very next verse …Jesus answers Peter and says to him, “Blessed are you Simon, son of
Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in Heaven.”
You got the answer right, Peter. Way to go! You better believe I am the Christ, the son
of the living God. But God the Father has assisted you in coming to this conclusion, just
like He has assisted every single one of us. He has helped you open your eyes and
understand who I am, the Christ, the Son of the living God.
And then Jesus continues, in a verse that’s familiar to many of us or perhaps
we’ve heard of it, verse 18 “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I
will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Now there is a
lot here in Jesus’ response. Some of you are familiar with Jesus’ reply to Peter. He says
that you’re Peter and on this rock, I’ll build my Church. What’s he talking about? Well,
there are different ways of understanding when he addresses Peter. It could mean, as
some suggest, that Peter was the first Pope. Ok, Peter, you’re it! Ok? This whole thing is
going to start with you. Others suggest that it was Peter’s declaration of faith on which
Jesus would build a church. In other words, you’re the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Others suggest that no what Jesus was saying was, Peter, you’re a rock, cause that’s what
Peter means, but Jesus is saying I’m a rock, too. I’m the most important rock. So He
could be saying Peter, you’re a rock, but on this rock, I will build my Church He goes on
to say. Notice that it is Jesus who is building the church. It’s His Church. He is the
builder and the owner. Jesus is saying I will build my Church. And then He says “And
the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” I’ve heard lots of sermons on this. It’s
kind of wild the way people interpret it. They fuss at us for storming Hell with a squirt
gun. We want to be more prepared than that, right? But, often people suggest what we’re
all about is Jesus feels the church is going to free up Hell. We are going to storm the
gates of Hell. I don’t really think that’s what’s being talked about here. (Chuckle). Even
though it preaches great and you get a lot of Amen’s, but simply put, when Jesus talks
about the gates of Hades it literally means the threshold of the dead. And what Jesus is
getting at is, he is saying I’m going to build my Church and not even death will be able to
You know if you noticed as closed countries become more open, we discover that
God has been alive and well in a subterranean way in some of these places. When China
became more tolerant, we discovered that the church was thriving in China. When we
looked at the Soviet Union and the breakup, we understood that the church was alive and
well in the Soviet Union. And now in the Middle East when you begin to discover things
that are going on there, that God is at work. He is doing incredible things, but do you
know right now, right now in our day and age people are dying for their belief in Jesus?
Do you know it’s not unusual to have people lined up and have their heads cut off just
because they believe in Jesus. And you know what’s going on with that? Death is not
able to stop the church that Jesus is building. The church is alive and well. In fact,
Tertullian, early church follower in 197 AD, he says the blood of the martyrs is the seed
of the church. Do you know what he means by that? That even death, even those that
shed their blood and give their lives, God is able to use their very death to seed the
church and to cause growth within the church. That is an incredible victory. And so Jesus
says you know I will build my church and the threshold of the dead, death itself will
never be able to stop this movement.
Jesus said I’ll build my church, but what exactly is Jesus building? So I want to
ask “What is the Church?” And I think it’s most easy to answer this question based on
our experiences, based on the past, and where we were raised, or our expectations about
church. Now the church I grew up in as a kid was a bit formal and slightly ritualistic.
Ok? So it was pretty staid and formal, you know, you sat down, you stood up, you did
certain things, you read certain things. So as a kid it made me really restless. Rarely
would you find people clapping, and almost never see people with their hands raised
praising God. I don’t recall any laughter like it was a sin to laugh in church or
something like that. OK, it’s kind of weird. And so as a teenager, and even as I’m a
young child growing up, I’m like ‘this is really strange’. And I’ll never forget, the most
exciting day I had in church up until that point. The ushers had come with those big
brass plates where they collect the money. Where you ever part of a church like that?
And they were all headed back to the back and about that time one of the ushers drops the
offering plate that he was using. I mean it sounded like a cymbal. And as a kid, I went
“Yah! OK, this is cool”! And all the change started rolling down the wooden sloped floor
and it was like wow this is really cool. Finally! This is what I’m after! I was so
desperate for excitement!
I used to get excited about, you know, those communion wafers that tasted like
Styrofoam? Any of you been a part of a church like that? Yah? So I used to think
whenever we were having communion, they were so fun to eat. I wanted more than one.
And so, I found the communion supply closet in our church! And there I was just
popping those babies! Yah, it was so fun to eat, melt in your mouth, not in your hands!
You know what I mean? And some of you are already thinking you’re either very holy or
you’re going to hell! OK? (Laughter) Those are the choices.
So, I’ll never forget as a teenager being introduced to the metro Atlanta Bible
Study. And I lived south of Atlanta a bit and so I would have friends and we would jump
in the car and we’d say let’s go. We got to this place, as much as we were able to go, and
we walked in the school auditorium and it was packed with young people and old people,
it was packed with all kinds of people. But here is what I remember about that. The
music was alive and refreshing! And the guy that spoke opened his Bible and he
explained God’s word in ways that could be easily understood and he was normal! Like
he didn’t use a preacher voice! You know what I mean? Like, I would use that now, but
it would go viral and people think ewww that was me. Ok? There was something about
being able to understand God’s word and to be challenged to live it, and, in addition to
that, people that were there appeared like they wanted to be there! So it was like this
exciting opportunity and I’ll never forget saying to God, “God, if you ever let me be a
part of a church, I want it to be like that!” Why complicate and cloud up the
understanding of God’s word? Why not create an environment that is alive and
refreshing as we seek to live for Him?
But, get this…church is not something you attend, its something you are. The church
is not a church service. Church is something we are…the body of Christ. That’s how it’s
described in the New Testament. The church is God’s movement on earth and capital “c”
The church is about every person who has placed their faith in Jesus whether they are dead
now, alive now, or whether they are not yet born and will believe in Him. That’s the
church. And the capital “c” Church is deployed through little lower case “c” churches of
which Lifepoint is one. This is how God works in the world and so you and I are part of
I don’t know if you noticed coming in, maybe you examined your notes page in
our worship guide, but I am talking to you today about our story together. You see its
one thing to have a story that we are individually a part of, every one of us has that. We
talked about that last week and I want to broaden that a little bit. And I want to start with
some encouraging ideas and pepper them throughout the message here.
Here’s the first one…in our church, we are writing and living a story together. So
step aside for a minute out of your individual story, which is important and exciting, and
realize that if you placed your faith in Jesus, if you call this church your home, we are
together writing a story and living that story. This is enormously significant and it takes
us beyond our individual stories to a shared story. So just as your personal story has
chapters, so too does our story as a church. Some of us have been here for multiple
decades. Others of you have only been here for several months. And the truth is, those
of you who are new to our church are standing on the shoulders of those who have gone
before you. You’re the recipients of a lot of hard work and tears, and joys, and all that
from years past. And those of you who have been around for lots of years are given the
chance the help those new to our church to take up a pen-like you and help write the story
of our church’s future. That’s how big this really is. The point is we’re in this together.
This is something we’re experiencing together.
I think it’s significant that we are talking about writing a story because of the apostle
Paul also uses that kind of language when he refers to the church at Corinth as a letter.
Take a look at a couple of verses in 2 Corinthians, Chapter 3, let’s start at verse 2:
2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by
everyone. 3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our
ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on
tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
2 Corinthians 3:2-3
What a beautiful image! Paul is saying to this church, and if you know anything
about the church in Corinth, you know it was a sinful church, a messed up church. A
church, in fact, that Paul pointed to the believers in the church in Corinth and he said,
“You guys are indistinguishable from non-Christians.” Yet, they’re Christians. He says,
“You’re behaving like mere men.” in 1 Corinthians 3. And he says to them, I have
invested my life in you and he says you are my letter, written on our hearts, known and
read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ. So regardless of their
success or their failure as a church, he was still referring to them as a letter from Christ
because Jesus had saved them. Jesus was at work in their midst successfully sometimes
and as they failed time and time again.
You know I don’t think it’s an interpretive stretch to suggest that Lifepoint
Church is a letter. Every local church … a letter. In other words, God is writing a story,
our story, together and He intends that that it be known and read by everyone. That His
people stand outside the fence and kinda tiptoe over to get a peek inside. That they will
see that something supernatural is happening. That a story is being written that they can’t
quite get their heads around. That they can’t quite explain. So what are people reading
when they read our letter…our story together? Because we are writing and we are living
So let me offer another idea related to our story together. At our church, we are
sharing the good news of the grace of God together. The good news of the grace of God
together. God’s grace is amazing! Somebody should write a song about that! (Chuckle)
It is incredible! It stretches our minds. It challenges our categories. It prods against our
self-sufficiency and the idea that we think we can contribute something to this transaction
called salvation. It is bizarre in fact. So with increasing regularity the Gospel is being
perverted by many who insist on human effort and works in order to get salvation. And
this is everywhere friends, everywhere within the church in America. Because the grace
of God is sometimes so offensive to us that we feel as though that can’t be enough. It
can’t be that easy. I have to do something else in order to gain God’s favor.
So several weeks ago in one of our elder meetings we spent almost an entire
evening reaffirming our church’s commitment to the grace of God. It was just an
awesome discussion and all of us just weighed in on how indispensible this idea is and
we are here to protect it and guard it. We are as a church embracing a story that includes
the grace of God. That sees the grace of God as a prominent piece of what God is doing.
And I’m amazed at how all of this stuff sort of comes in spurts. You know when God is
trying to teach you something it kind of comes over and over again?
So this past week I was contacted by several people concerned about the
disintegration of grace among Christians in our country. One man, a leader in a national
Christian organization, contacted me looking for resources to help people understand that
it is not by works that they are saved. And this is in a national organization where there
is confusion related to this, a national Christian organization, where you would think
people would have this down.
A friend of mine who lives in Montana joins us via live stream. I traded emails
with him and in a little line in his email he said to me “Keep pounding grace” because he
understands like so many of us do that grace is indispensable to the Christian life and to
our story together.
I traded emails with a guy who visits this church with his family, but lives in
Montgomery County. And he said to me, ”I love the message of grace.” Would you help
me find a church in Montgomery County that preaches grace because I cannot find one?
Friends, this is incredible.
And so this is why our story includes this message of grace, because it is so easily
perverted in our day and we will stand for it, and we will highlight it, and we will say this
is why God has breathed us into existence. So maybe this is a reminder for some of you
or new to others, the story of you includes the story of God’s grace…His unmerited
favor…the fact that God would move toward you and me in our inability to do anything
about the dilemma of separation from God. And once he moves into our lives, offers us
this free gift by grace alone, and that it is received, I would argue that it is in
understanding grace that we are motivated to live for Christ. Not by threat of Hell. Not
by how much God hates us and wants us to shape up. Once that message of Grace sinks
deep within our souls there becomes in us a kind of gratitude, by which we are motivated
to live for Him.
The apostle Paul figured this out. Remember it was Paul who was arresting
Christians, killing Christians. He was a bad guy. And Jesus met him, saved him, and
transformed his life. So that Paul would essentially say in Acts 20:24 words that have for
me become a very personal kind of life verse when he said, “My life is worth nothing to
me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus, the work of
telling others, the good news about the wonderful grace of God.” He was obsessed with it
as we should be, too. He built his life around the message. He was willing to defend
God’s grace from those that would pervert His grace he would stand strong against it and
call it what it was. God’s grace is found in Jesus and it is the most wonderful news in the
So here is another final idea around our story together. In our church, we’re
learning to love God and others in good times and bad. Learning to love. So with te
new covenant, God tells us that the old covenant is obsolete. That’s the word used in
Hebrews. So when Jesus comes along and introduces this new covenant, He takes a look
at the old covenant and He says, you know what, the law could never justify. Paul writes
in Galatians that the law could never save us, nor can it grow you up as a Christian. The
law produces the awareness of utter failure. The letter of the law kills the Bible it says.
Jesus comes along and He says I want to give you a new commandment because that old
stuff is frustrating. You don’t get transformed by trying to be good. I want to give you a
new commandment and here it is, he announces in John 13:34. “A new commandment I
give you… That you love one another”. That you love one another. You ever notice that
Jesus, when you look throughout the New Testament, Jesus never says that his disciples
would be known by what they don’t do. He doesn’t say hey you want to be a God
follower here’s the list: Don’t do this…don’t do this…don’t do this. And yet that’s how
many of us approach the Christian life. Jesus never said that. He said we would be
known by what we do. We would be known by the love that exudes from us because
Christ loved in that same manner.
You know around here we talk a lot about our mission, which is to influence
people to find and follow Jesus. I think it is an incredible, memorable way to summarize
the great commission. But there is an equally important part of what we embrace around
here. It’s our vision, which is something we don’t talk about as much, but it goes like
this. Our vision, what we’re becoming, is to build a family of believers who bring
pleasure to God as we love Him completely, love each other unselfishly, and reach out
with Christ’s love to the world. You see if it were only about reaching the lost with the
Good News, which is a vital part of what we’re all about, but if we are only that, we
would cheat ourselves of something else that God wants us to understand. And that is
this. The church is a kind of laboratory for love. It is a grand experiment to see if we
who name the name of Jesus can love each other. That’s why this statement on the
screen in our church ….we are learning to love one another. I could have put a period
there, but it important we understand that sentence because it’s easy to love people in
good times, isn’t it? A little more challenging to love people in bad times. As we rub
shoulders with each other we’re given the opportunity in this laboratory called the church
to put this into practice. And if we can’t get it right, what do we have to say out there?
And so the story that we are writing includes the reality that we are together here working
things out and learning to love.
Would you agree that church is challenging? Like church is hard. Getting along
with each other is really difficult sometimes. That’s why I appreciate the sign outside of
a church that said ‘Don’t let worry kill you, let the church help.’ (Laughter) Because we
will face challenges together that we may not find anywhere else. And so, let me just
remind you, in your connection to our church, it’s just a matter of time, it’s just a matter of
time, before you are hurt, or offended. It’s just a matter of time. So, don’t run. Don’t
retaliate. Understand that God has brought us together to write a story that reaches
beyond this to share the good news of the world, the good news with the world, the good
news of Jesus Christ, but, in addition to that, for us to live out a loving relationship with
each other. It’s part of our story. And when you and I bale, how can we work on that?
How can we become a people that God wants us to be? Don’t run. Don’t retaliate. So
with God’s help, we are writing a story together. It’s not a short story. It’s a long story!
And it’s written with faith, and hard work, and time, and it is of eternal significance. I
appreciate the words, Eugene Peterson, because he uses a phrase I think that vividly
captures the idea that I’m trying to communicate. He says this…that it’s all about a long
obedience in the same direction. A long obedience in the same direction. And that comes
with a commitment to the story that we are writing together that understands that it is not
quick, it’s not instant, it’s over time and it is worth it. Good stories are not written overnight.
We’re writing a story together. And I would invite you to consider if you’re able
to say “I’m in”. I’m in. I’m in the story writing with all these other people who call
Lifepoint home. I’m in. Now, I get it. I often say it this way…you’re going to find things
in our church that you don’t like. But if there’s about 70% that happens here that
resonates with you, hop in! There are things about this church I don’t like. OK? Are you
in? Are you in? And to be able to say, you know what, I can deal with that. I can live
with that. But, there is so much about what we’re doing together, a story together, where
I choose to say I’m not running, I’m not retaliating, I’m in this together, I’m in. Because
in that God gets glorious and we live out this marvelous thing, this challenging thing
called the church. And through it, all, glory be to Him, the Head of the church.
So I want to pray for us and ask God to help us as we write this story together.
Father, we thank you that before any of us were born you knew we would be a part of the
movement called Lifepoint. We ask for a deepening of the powerful sense of your grace
in our lives. We pray that as we write our story together, that you would be lifted up, that
you would be glorified, that you would be honored by our effort together. Would you
help us, God? Will you help us to become more like the Lord Jesus as we seek to love as
He loved, knowing that there is power in that. And that by loving each other, we
embrace one of the most powerful tools of evangelism where people see what an
incredible thing is happening as these people love each other. And we ask it in Jesus’
You’ll always have an individual story. But the moment you believe in Jesus for salvation, you become part of the larger story of the church. What is the church? How is your story part of God’s movement in the world?
Read Matthew 16:13-19. Why did Jesus praise Peter? What does Jesus mean when He says that He will “build my church”? How will the gates of Hades not prevail against the church?
Read 2 Corinthians 3:2-3. In what sense is our church an “epistle of Christ”? What do you know about the church at Corinth? With sin rampant at the church in Corinth, how could that church be called an “epistle of Christ”?
What are the greatest threats to the local church? What does a healthy or godly church look like?
For an extended study, read Revelation 2-3. Notice the description of each of these seven churches. Which churches are reprimanded and which are praised and why?
What are you most thankful for when you think of our church? What could you do personally to make LifePoint a better church?
Your life is a story. Its chapters are filled with joys and sorrows, successes and failures, good people and hurtful people. Maybe you’ve found it difficult to follow the plotline at times. But there are no wasted experiences in your life. That’s because the main...