Notes from the first service in the New Building:
Good morning! Welcome home Cornerstone Bible Church! Our time in the Word today is going to look a little different as we’re going to jump around a bit with a more topical message. But it feels so good to finally be in our church home, doesn’t it? Now, I recognize that the church is made up of redeemed followers of Jesus Christ of every nation and every era. So the church, the body of believers, we could meet anywhere. We could meet in homes, that is where the early church oftentimes met. We could meet in a local park, in a local camp… or in a local school… or a number of other places. The church is not defined by its building or the place that it gathers. The church is defined by what happens within the gathering of those people who are sincerely seeking to follow Jesus Christ.
So, the church is not defined by the place, but it does need a place. We need a place to gather. And that is what has brought us to this place today. I want to talk about this place in our time together today. Now, in several weeks, on August 8, we will have our big celebration and building dedication. On that day we’ll talk about the focus of the church, the direction of the church, and what we ought to be doing as a church. But considering that this is our first Sunday here, I thought it would be appropriate to do something different than business as usual.
We can’t just treat this as a typical Sunday, because it’s not typical. It’s a day of celebration! Wouldn’t you agree? You’ve been praying about God’s leading in this direction and you’ve been giving towards this project, anticipating when it would actually happen. And this morning, you got up and drove to a new location; approximately 3 miles west of where we used to meet. You walked in here, hopefully, with a smile on your face excited to see the evidence of answered prayers. Eager to join in with your church family as we seek to press on for the glory of God in this new place.
And maybe you didn’t even think about it this morning, but in this new place, you’re already starting to develop some new habits. For instance: I hope that you’ve found a good section to sit in, because we know that most of you aren’t moving. You’ve more than likely chosen your area to sit and you will stay there. And that’s fine, you’re free to stay where you’re at on Sunday mornings and you’re welcome to move around from week to week. But you’ll develop some new habits and new routines within this place.
But one thing that has not changed and will not change by the grace of God, is the desire of this church to reach this area with the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s a new building, but it’s still the same plan. We preach Christ, crucified. It is our desire that Jesus would be the focus of this ministry – that Jesus would be pointed to as the only source of hope, the only source of joy, the only way to God the Father.
We pray that for generations to come, Cornerstone Bible Church would be a lighthouse in this community. I want to start there by talking about how The Church is a Lighthouse (Mt. 5:14-16). And then in a little while, we will discuss how The Church Building is a Toolbox. But let’s begin with this idea of a lighthouse. People in the community will at times look to the church for help in navigating the treacherous waters of life and they need the church to warn of the dangers that this life presents. And when the church is walking by the Spirit of God, seeking to glorify Christ in all that they do, they become all the more effective in carrying out the mission that God has placed upon them. Therefore the church must keep the light burning. As Jesus told His followers,
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and gives light to all who are in the house.” – Matthew 5:14-16
In this text, Jesus told his followers that we’re the light of the world. Now ultimately, Jesus is the light. He told us He is the light of the world in John 8. Well, what made him shine? Certainly, it was his words (John 7:46). But it wasn’t only his words; it was also his works. He said (John 10:25), “The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me.” Jesus’s works made who he was strikingly clear. His works shined brightly, and they still shine.
And then in this passage, Jesus called us the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). What makes us shine? Well, it does include our words, the things that we say. We should have an accurate understanding of truth and be able to talk about Jesus and the things of God in simple and clear ways.
It isn’t only our words, but our works. The works we do in Jesus’s name bear witness about us and about Him. Our outward, observable, public works make who we are and whose we are abundantly clear. Just like Jesus, our works will cause some to revile us, cancel us, persecute us and utter all kinds of evil against us falsely on his account, but our works will also cause others to give glory to our heavenly Father.
Our text also says, “A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” What kind of good works shine like that? It’s not a difficult question to answer. Ask yourself what good works have other Christians done that stand out most in your memory? Who are the people you’ve known who have been most radiant with the light of Jesus?
The people who are shining the brightest haven’t necessarily been the smartest, or most articulate, or most talented, or had the most publicly influential platforms. They’ve been the most servant-hearted and sacrificially loving people. They’ve been the ones who find God’s steadfast love better than life (Psalm 63:3). They’ve consistently loved others in both word and deed (1 John 3:18). Their words and deeds have sometimes been tender and other times tough, depending on the need. Their actions have demonstrated that they truly consider others more significant than themselves (Philippians 2:3), and that they pursue others’ good more than others’ approval.
It’s not merely what the shining people do, but why they do it and how they do it that makes them literally remarkable — people talk about them. Some praise them, and others slander them. But it is their doing, not just their talking, that sets them apart. And some will be drawn to their light that reflects Jesus Christ and others will repelled because that light exposes their selfishness and pride.
But a lifestyle that is consistent with this eternal truth [hold up Bible] is like a bonfire in the middle of the night – it’s a light that cannot be hidden. When you highly regard what you have discovered in Jesus, and you’re walking consistently with Jesus, the natural response is let your light shine before all mankind.
What a great joy and privilege it is to follow the light of the world, to lead us through the darkness!
But there’s a sad story… there are plenty of churches that have let their light go out. On average in the United States, over 3,000 churches a year close their doors, to never open them again. And there are other churches that may still be open… but they’re not clinging to absolute the truth of Jesus Christ. We firmly believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation… But that’s not being proclaimed from every pulpit, or Sunday School class, or small group gathering across the world. Many churches no longer take stands on moral issues in the community and some even compromise the standards of God so that they don’t to offend anyone. There is a fear of being canceled by the community. So what ends up happening is the truth of the Word of God is watered down.
A group of people who began with conviction and a light shining brightly begins to compromise the truth. And little by little that light begins to fade… eventually being snuffed out.
When churches are no longer lighthouses in their communities, then disaster is invited into the community, and shipwrecked lives abound. When churches that once had influence in their communities no longer do, then the community has no one to help navigate the turbulent waters of life or no one to warn them of what dangers lay beneath those deep waters.
There is a tremendous problem when people don’t know Christ, but the problem becomes all the greater when the church has its light go out. So as a point of action, I encourage you to… PRAY!
- Pray that we would value Jesus to such a degree that everything else pales in comparison (Phil. 3:8).
- Pray that Cornerstone, for generations to come, would cultivate our convictions based upon the Word of God and we would recognize how valuable this resource is (Psalm 19:7-11).
- Pray that the light of Jesus Christ would not be snuffed out here at CBC (1 Pt. 5:8). The devil would like nothing more than to destroy you along with this entire church.
- Pray that the fruit of the Spirit would be evident within this body of believers (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control) (Gal. 5:22-23)
- Pray that we would boldly and compassionately carry the message of Jesus to this lost and dying world that is wandering through the darkness (Rm. 1:16, Mt. 28:18-20).
- And… Pray that we would use this facility for the advancement of the Kingdom of God.
You see, we didn’t move here simply to make life easier and more comfortable. Now… will it make some things easier? Will there be some conveniences to having our own facility? Yes. YES! Absolutely yes! But that’s not the motivation behind this move – that’s not the motivation behind us asking you to contribute towards this huge undertaking. Ease and comfort are not the fundamental reasons we’re rejoicing being in this place. We are rejoicing, we’re inviting you to rejoice as a church because we believe that this place can help us become more effective in doing what God has called us to do in this community, which is to shine brightly by making His name known.
When we first set out on this project, do you remember what we likened this facility to? What we compared it to? We said that The Church Building is a Toolbox… and more specifically it’s a toolbox to support the church in advancing the kingdom of God. Now, many of you have a toolbox at your home and it’s filled with all sorts of things to help accomplish the various projects that you undertake. And I think there is something that is exhilarating about getting your toolbox out and pulling out just the right tool to accomplish a task. And I believe that this facility contains a number of tools that we will pull out over and over again as we seek to be faithful with the mission of Jesus Christ. I would like to use the remainder of our time to talk about the tools in this toolbox. I’m going to two tools, there are many, many others that we won’t get to today. These tools that I will share will be rather obvious, but necessary to be reminded of.
First, this facility will be used for the Teaching of God’s Word. This is a must! We’re told in Ephesians 4 (11-12),
And he [Jesus] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.
One of the primary tools that God uses to shape hearts and minds for the work that He has prepared for His followers is through the teaching of His Word. It is through teaching that faith comes to the one who hears the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). It is through teaching that wayward sinners repent (Luke 15:7). It through teaching the whole counsel of God — that teachers themselves fulfill their call to be faithful “stewards” (Acts 20:27; 2 Timothy 4:1-5).
So the bottom line is: the church needs the Word of God to be faithfully taught. No matter how important the financial needs of a church are, no matter what programs the church wants to pursue or what kind of upcoming events need to be announced, the most important item of “business” when the church gathers is not the business of fundraising or convincing people to register for a retreat, it is the business of feeding sheep the Word of God. Many practical things will certainly need to (and should) happen when the church gathers, but nothing is more essential than the teaching.
For hearts have the potential to be transformed when it comes in contact with the living Word of God. Think of it like this: Over the course of this last year we’ve seen this place transformed. July of 2020, we stood in this exact location for a groundbreaking ceremony. And in the months to follow we watched as the blocks were laid, walls went up, roof go on, concrete was poured… In twelve months this place went from an open field to this structure that holds the gathering of the people of God. I bring that up because that’s a good picture of what happens when the teaching of God’s Word comes in contact with a heart that is eager for truth.
God, by His Spirit, uses the teaching of God’s Word to shape and transform the heart. And it’s going to take longer than 12 months. And I know that God uses far more than just teaching for the shaping of a life, but… Teaching is a key component. And here at Cornerstone, in this facility, we are eager to see boys and girls, teenagers, men and women, have the Word of God faithfully taught to them… WHY? So that they can be conformed to the likeness of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. So that they too can let their light shine in this dark world. We are eager to see people, not just act righteously, but love righteousness. We are eager to see people grow in their hatred of sin, not just hatred of the consequences of sin.
We want to teach the Word faithfully so that people little by little can look more and more like Jesus. And to be like Jesus is not simply to stop committing a few obvious sins such as lying, cheating, gossiping, and thinking impure thoughts. To be like Jesus is to always seek to do the will of the Father. It is to come to the place where we delight to do the will of God, however sacrificial or unpleasant that may seem to us at the time… and teaching the Word of God is crucial in shaping a life toward that end.
Throughout the week a multitude of people within this congregation [Pastors, Kid’s Kingdom teachers, S.S. teachers, Small group leaders, Women’s bible study teachers, and more ], pull out the Word and they study it and they prepare to teach it. I pray that teaching/preaching would be a strong tool within this toolbox [this facility] for generations to come–
- Teaching that feeds the people of God.
- Teaching that opens the eyes of those who are far from God
- Teaching that creates within us a proper fear of God.
- Teaching that gives us a proper perspective on this life and on the life to come.
- Teaching that is fueled by love. A love for God and a love for people.
- Teaching that transforms lives into the likeness of Jesus Christ.
That’s one of the tools of this toolbox. Let’s consider another.
Second, this facility will be used for the Fellowship of the Body. God has ordained that His grace will come in various forms and through various ways. His grace will come through the teaching/studying/meditating of His Word; His grace will come through prayer, it will come through the various things that we experience, it will come through dependency upon Him as you walk through the highs and lows of life… but that’s not all. God’s grace is extended to you through the relationships that are developed within the body of Christ. You are not to be an island in and of yourself. Your walk with Jesus may be personal, but it’s not private.
In order to grow, you need other people and other people need you. Want proof of that? Simply do a study of the “one another” passages of Scripture…
- Love one another (John 13:34 – This command occurs at least 16 times)
- Be devoted to one another (Romans 12:10)
- Honor one another above yourselves (Romans 12:10)
- Live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16)
- Build up one another (Romans 14:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:11)
- Be likeminded towards one another (Romans 15:5)
- Accept one another (Romans 15:7)
- Admonish one another (Romans 15:14; Colossians 3:16)
- Greet one another (Romans 16:16)
- Care for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25)
- Serve one another (Galatians 5:13)
- Bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2)
- Forgive one another (Ephesians 4:2, 32; Colossians 3:13)
- Be patient with one another (Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:13)
- Speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15, 25)
- Be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32)
- Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19)
- Submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21, 1 Peter 5:5)
- Consider others better than yourselves (Philippians 2:3)
- Look to the interests of one another (Philippians 2:4)
- Bear with one another (Colossians 3:13)
- Teach one another (Colossians 3:16)
- Comfort one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18)
- Encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
- Exhort one another (Hebrews 3:13)
- Stir up [provoke, stimulate] one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24)
- Show hospitality to one another (1 Peter 4:9)
- Employ the gifts that God has given us for the benefit of one another (1 Peter 4:10)
- Clothe yourselves with humility towards one another (1 Peter 5:5)
- Pray for one another (James 5:16)
- Confess your sins to one another (James 5:16)
Everybody needs people because God has set it up—here’s the key—to get more glory through a unified church and its interaction with each other than through isolated individuals all over the world sending up their prayers of praise in solitary closets and never getting anything from anybody, never giving anything to anybody. God is glorified through the fellowship of a body of believers. We need the fellowship of the body. I’ve oftentimes defined fellowship as friendship at its best. Because the fellowship of the church is rooted in our relationship with Christ… and as we pursue that vertical relationship with Christ together, it is inevitable that our bond with each other will grow all the more solid.
What a joy it is to be united with people who share the same values, are pursuing the same goals, and are looking at life through the same lenses.
We experienced the loss of this fellowship last year when for nine long weeks we didn’t gather on a Sunday morning. We stayed in our own homes and tuned in through a television screen or a computer monitor due to the restrictions of COVID. The vast majority of us felt that absence to such a degree that there was such eagerness to meet in the Sale Barn over on Nauvoo Road for a couple of weeks. You knew you had to be with One Another.
I am eager to see the fellowship, the friendship of this church grow as we regularly gather within this place together. That fellowship will come in all sorts of ways.
- Standing in the hallways and within this auditorium
- Talking about what is going on in life
- Praying for another
- Discussing God’s Word together
- There is no rush to leave this place.
- Exploring this property – 40 acres, put a walking path around here.
- Serving one another and alongside one another
- Linking arms with others to do outreach in this community.
I could go on and talk about a lot more tools in this toolbox:
But these two tools that I talked about, the Teaching of God’s Word and the Fellowship of this body, are fundamental components of a church that is shining brightly within this community. You take away the teaching of God’s Word, and we’re just a social club where we’re just sharing our own philosophies and ideas, and stories. Or if you take away the fellowship, we’re just transferring information.
But when you bring both of them together, eternal truth is revealed and we’re given the opportunity to live it out amongst likeminded individuals – where it’s not always easy. And by the grace of God, the light of Jesus Christ shines all the brighter.
So Cornerstone, welcome home. We pray that this toolbox is used by God to make His light shine within this community until He returns.