Question: How many people do you know that you would actually die for?
Answer: How many people do you love with all your heart?

I often read of someone who died attempting to save someone else. Intellectually I ask, "Why did he do that? That situation obviously offered virtually no chance of rescue." But in my heart, I know why. That happens for two reasons. The first reason: the person did not think about risking his life. In the moment of crisis, he did not think about dying; he thought only of saving. In that moment, he was certain that he could do it. The second reason: the person knows that he is risking his life, but he loves so much that he has to try. And, because he loves, he dies.

You might say that you would never die for someone else. But you might surprise yourself. If the person you love the most is dying, you likely would take any possible action to save him or her--even if that action meant risking your life. In fact, if you could save the person you love by dying yourself, you probably would.

Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). That is the love Jesus had for us. He knowingly, deliberately surrendered his life to death to save your life--and mine. The night before he died, Jesus made this statement: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34, 35).

If, tonight, your house caught on fire while you were asleep, and someone literally kept you from being burned to death, how grateful would you be? If this person died in the process of saving you, how grateful would you be? Would you find ways to express your gratitude?

  1. Jesus, who died in the act of saving us, did so because he loved us.
    1. That is what it took to rescue you and me from evil.
      1. He knew it was the only way--there was no other way.
      2. So he did what had to be done--he laid down his life.
      3. When you surrender your life, you give it all.
    2. His request was simple.
      1. It is simple to understand, but it is not simple to do.
      2. Basically, he asked us to do two things: love him enough to belong to him, and love each other.
      3. That is the bottom line of all his requests.

  2. Paul did his best to get the Christians in Rome to understand that request.
    1. These Christians were like Christians today--too often their differences got in the way of their love.
      1. In the book of Romans Paul powerfully explained that Jesus loved each of them in spite of their differences.
      2. Because Jesus Christ loved each of them, Paul said they must realize the importance of building a love bond between each other.
    2. Paul emphasized the reality of this love bond by using the words "one another."
      1. 12:5--We, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.
      2. 12:10--Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.
      3. 12:16--Be of the same mind toward one another.
      4. 13:6--Owe no man anything except to love one another.
      5. 14:13--Therefore let us not judge one another any more, but rather determine this--not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother's way.
      6. 14:19--Let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.
      7. 15:5--Now, may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus.
      8. 15:7--Wherefore, accept one another, just as Christ Jesus also accepted us to the glory of God.
      9. 15:14--Concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able also to admonish one another.
      10. 16:16--Greet one another with a holy kiss.

  3. How can we at West-Ark improve this "one another" bond, this basic evidence that we each love Jesus Christ?
    1. There are many things we need to do in many areas, but this morning the one area that I want you to consider is the area of our Sunday morning assemblies.
    2. First, we each need to help each other be better acquainted.
      1. I have heard several people say, "I have been a member at West-Ark for several years, and I don't know 20 people."
      2. May I ask a question: what do you mean when you say, "I don't know 20 people?"
        1. Do you mean that you don't recognize 20 people?
        2. "Oh, I probably recognize 100 people. I recognize their faces, but I don't know their names."
      3. How many people can you call by first and last name? 10? 20? 30?
      4. "Well, I can't call many people by name because the congregation is so big."
        1. That raises an interesting question: what is the relationship between the size of the congregation and the number of names you know?
        2. Can you learn 30 names more quickly in a congregation of 300 than in a congregation of 600?
        3. I have discovered that size does not prevent me from learning names.
        4. Size keeps us from trying to learn names if size intimidates us.
      5. "But when there are 600 people, you can't know everybody."
        1. When you worshipped with a congregation of 200, you know everybody?
        2. When I preached for a college congregation of 300, I did not know everybody and could not call everyone by name.
      6. Do you wonder how many people know your face but not your name?
      7. Wonder how many of those people wish they knew your name?
    3. We will do two things, soon, to assist all of us with names and getting acquainted.
      1. Our new directory will be out early this fall (and I can hardly wait).
        1. I think it will be our first pictorial directory that will allow updates as often as we need them.
      2. This week we ordered the equipment to make name tags for everyone.
        1. We can make them ourselves as often as we need to.
        2. Everyone will have one--it is yours.
        3. It will be laminated, it will attach easily to our clothing without harming our clothing, and it will be simple to use.

  4. The second thing we can do is advance the quality of worship.
    1. I want you to look forward to being in worship--I want you to look forward to worship because you know you will be blessed, encouraged, and moved.
    2. I want our Sunday morning assembles to be one of the most uplifting, beneficial experiences of your entire week--I want worship to "make your week."
    3. I want the impact of our whole worship assembly to encourage you so much that you literally do not want to be out of town.
      1. These are things I want you to say to yourself about worship.
      2. "When I am down, it picks me up."
      3. "When I am happy, it makes me happier."
      4. "When I have made a mistake, it moves me to repent."
      5. "When I feel all 'used up' inside, it renews me."
      6. "When I feel lonely, it reminds me that I am not alone."
    4. When visitors are a part of our assembly, I want them to say to themselves, "These people know God, and they love God."
      1. "I can hear it, I can see it, and I can feel it."
      2. "I want to know God like these people know God."
      3. "They don't have a 'doing church' habit; these people really worship."

  5. This morning I am asking you for some demographic information; it will help all the leaders better understand the composition of the congregation--which will help us better address your spiritual needs.
    1. I am going to walk you through the form. It is really simple. All you need to do is make check marks. Do not sign the sheet.
      1. Check male or female, and then check
        ( ) visitor,
        ( ) a frequent attender, or
        ( ) a member.
      2. Check your age group.
      3. Then check the "I am" categories:
        1. I am a college student.
        2. I am a single
          ( ) out of college but unmarried,
          ( ) single as a result of divorce, or
          ( ) single as a result of the death of my spouse.
        3. I am married and this is
          ( ) my first marriage,
          ( ) remarried after divorce, or
          ( ) remarried after the death of my spouse.
        4. I have
          ( ) preschool children,
          ( ) preteen children,
          ( ) teenage children.
        5. Spiritually, I consider myself to be
          ( )struggling,
          ( ) weak,
          ( ) adequate,
          ( ) strong.
        6. On average, I attend these assemblies three times or more a week:
          ( ) Sunday am Bible classes,
          ( ) Sunday am worship,
          ( ) Sunday pm worship,
          ( ) Wednesday pm Bible classes.
    2. One thing we need to do and want to do is to have more time for singing in our Sunday morning worship assemblies--singing is a powerful.
      1. There simply is not enough time to sing more.
      2. We want to have time for worship in song by increasing the time of our morning worship assembly 15 minutes, and no more than 15 minutes.
      3. This time will be used for singing, not for announcements or preaching.
      4. Would you prefer to add the time at the beginning of our worship assembly and meet earlier? If so check:
        1. "I would prefer to add 15 minutes at the beginning of Sunday morning assemblies," and check the time you prefer to begin--
          ( ) 9:00 for Bible study and 10:00 for worship, or
          ( ) 9:15 for Bible study and 10:15 for worship.
        2. Or, if you want the starting times to remain as they are and add the time to the end of the assemblies, check
          ( ) "I would prefer for Sunday morning assemblies to begin at the same time but extend the assembly by 15 minutes."
      5. Just leave the forms in the pew, and the teenagers will pick them up after we have been dismissed.

Now let me have your full attention. I am dead serious about this congregation becoming a more powerful spiritual influence in Fort Smith. To do that, we must reach out to this community. If we touch a person, the first thing he or she is going to do is come worship with us. When he or she attends our worship, that should be a powerful moment. If he or she says, "The singing was bad; communion was strange; the sermon was interesting," many will show no interest. If they say, "These people know God. I can hear it, I can see it, and I can feel it. I want to know God like these people know God. They don't have a religious habit; they worship." If these people say that, they will want to know and understand more.

When will visitors say that? When our worship picks you up when you are down, when it makes you happier when you are happy, when it moves you to repent when you have made a mistake, when it renews you when you feel "used up" inside, and when it reminds you that you are not alone.

That is what I want for you when we worship. I don't want you to "come to church." I want you to come worship God. I want all the worship, including the singing, to move you.

The way you worship, the face you wear, the joy in your heart, the way you live your life, etc., probably will do more to change someone's destiny than anything I will say.

They will see it in you more than they will hear it from me.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 13 July 1997

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