Welcome to week five, the last week of our series called “I Love Sundays!”We been learning how to love Sundays because once we make Sundays a priority and use them in the way they were designed for us, then every part of our lives begins to go better.
And that’s because Jesus told us in Mark 2:27, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
So it’s not just another day to get work done, to get ahead. It’s a day that God blessed and made holy for you and for me. It’s not a day to meet the world’s requirements. It’s a day designed for us to refocus on God as number one in our lives, refocus on our families, and rest and refuel for the week ahead.
On the first week of the series, we learned that not only does God intend for Sunday to be the best day of our week, but also why it’s important to be in church. We need it, and God asks us to be here. He asks us to attend, to remember and learn who God is through worship, and to be a part of a church.
On the second week, we learned that good Sundays make better Mondays because when God wired up the human soul, He created us with an internal rhythm for work and rest. Just like there’s day and night, there’s a time for work and there’s a time for rest. So God created the Sabbath—a day for refocusing, refueling, and refreshing and then it happens every seven days.
During the third week of our series, we learned how to use Sundays to build better families. Proverbs 22:6 – “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” And even if you didn’t start off this way, it’s never too late to start.
And last week, we learned how Sundays can change eternities because God’s plan, since man’s failure in the Garden, has been to restore us to His family. The entire Bible is the story of God’s reconciliation with His children. All the way from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22.
Along the way, we’ve talked about some solid principles for how to love Sundays.
- Decided to let Sunday be the best day of your week.
- Invest something great into church. If you want something great out of church, you’re going to have to invest something into it.
- Honor God’s rhythm by celebrating the Sabbath.
- Prepare for Sunday as if it’s the highlight of your week. Really put some effort into it.
- Start your children off the way they should go.
- Become a part of God’s family.
Every one of these principles start with a verb. Meaning we have a part in this. As we learned last week, the gift, the invite is right there waiting for us, but it’s up to us to believe and receive. Believe that Jesus is who He says he is, the Son of God, born of a virgin, took the punishment for our sins on that cross, and rose from the grave to give us eternal life. And then receive Him as your Lord and Savior, letting Him live through you each and every day.
Throughout this series we’ve been reading the words of the prophet Isaiah, who promised that: Isaiah 58:13–14
If you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land.
I don’t know about you, but I want that joy. I love that joy. It’s a joy that can’t come from anything or anyone else. And it really is possible to ride in triumph on the heights. I want to talk to you today about how to ride in triumph and how to benefit from it for all of eternity. In fact, this morning I want to show you how Sunday has changed the world.
See, once you become a Christian, you automatically become part of Jesus’ family, the Church. Christians are the Church. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important that we become involved in church. And because the Church is Jesus’ family, it does the work of God here on earth.
There is a gigantic amount of good that has been done by the Church over the last two thousand years. So I’m going to go ahead and make a bold statement that I believe that the Church of Jesus Christ, God’s Sunday people, have done more good for this world than any other group in history. And I believe I can back that up today. I’ve always been impressed by people who could look into the future and shape the world in a positive way.
People like Charlemagne (shar-la-main), or better known as Charles the Great, who was an emperor that ruled much of Western Europe from 768 to 814, who decided that every child in his empire should have the opportunity to learn to read, so he created the first public education system.
Or in our own country, people like Patrick Henry, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, who stirred up a revolution by declaring that liberty was more precious to him than life itself. In a rousing speech in 1775, he famously declared, “Give me liberty, or give me death!”—which fired up the America’s fight for independence. His influence helped create the Bill of Rights, which guaranteed personal freedoms and set limits on the government’s power.
Or how about Abraham Lincoln who led the United States through the Civil War and ended slavery. Or just fifty couple years ago, Martin Luther King Jr., who was able to envision a day when people would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character, and therefore the civil rights movement was born.
The ability to imagine a better future and help create it is a gift, and when people use it, they give a great gift to others. History is full of people who had that gift and used it, but in my humble opinion, the greatest foreseer and shaper of the future was a carpenter from Nazareth named Jesus. No one has given the world a greater gift than He has. How did it happen?
In the closing days of His life on earth, Jesus stood beneath a great rock in Caesarea (Kay-ser-e-a) Philippi and boldly announced that He would build His Church and that nothing and no one would keep Him from it.
His exact words: Matthew 16:13-18
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
If you had been hiding in a bush that day and overheard those words, you would have been tempted to think that Jesus was a little delusional. He was speaking to twelve adolescent boys, in an out-of-the-way place, in a ‘middle of nowhere’ kind of nation, who was under the oppressive thumb of the Roman Empire. How could one Rabbi with twelve teenagers/young adults establish the most generous, charitable, and compassionate organization in the world?
Add to that the handicap that this Rabbi was going to die a horrible death at the hands of the Romans just a few short months later, the odds were well south of impossible. And yet it’s true: The Church of Jesus has improved our world more than any other entity on earth.
The story of Jesus and His Church is an underdog story. Jesus is about to overcome the world with both hands tied behind His back. Skim through the Gospel records and you’ll find thirteen times when Jesus makes a two-word request of His disciples: “Follow me.” It’s His most frequently repeated phrase. By it, Jesus was asking His followers to imitate His values and actions. “Follow me” meant “Do as I do. Think as I think. Love people they way I love them.”
The disciples took His request seriously. Wherever they went, they cared for people, listening to their hurts, healing them when possible, proclaiming the Good News that God was real and had come to earth in the form of a man named Jesus.
Those original disciples followed Jesus to Greece, Turkey, Spain, Italy, India, Africa, and all the parts in between. Within a century, well less than 100 years, Christianity had spread throughout the Mediterranean region. Wherever they went, they loved people so authentically that their faith was contagious.
But….new religions were illegal in the Roman Empire, so Christians were persecuted. Sometimes their belongings were seized. Other times, they were killed. But instead of scaring people from Christianity, the heroic acts of the disciples actually drew people to the Church. No one could argue about the sincerity of Christians’ beliefs. So the movement grew and grew.
Jesus taught His followers to love their neighbors as themselves, so during the first few weeks after the Church was born, the Bible says,
Acts 2:44-45, 47
All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need….and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
No wonder so many were attracted to Jesus’ followers, these Sunday people! As Jesus’ Sunday people spread to other parts of the world, they started a church in Antioch. Listen to this description from a book called ‘The Rise of Christianity,’ written by historian Rodney Stark of what Antioch was like before Christianity arrived.
“[It was…] a city filled with misery, danger, fear, despair, and hatred. A city where the average family lived a squalid life in filthy and cramped quarters, where at least half of the children died at birth or during infancy, and where most of the children who lived lost at least one parent before reaching maturity. A city filled with hatred and fear rooted in intense ethnic antagonisms.”
Now listen to Stark’s description of what happened when Sunday people showed up there:
“Once Christianity did appear, its superior capacity for meeting these chronic problems soon became evident and played a major role in its ultimate triumph.”
That type of story has repeated itself year after year in every country and place where Jesus’ people dwell.
Here’s another example: In AD 260, the entire Roman Empire was hit with a plague that killed somewhere between one-third and one-half the people. Stark writes,
“Dionysius (Di-uh-ni-sus) [a bishop at the time] wrote, ‘At the first onset of the disease, [the pagans] pushed the sufferers away and fled from their dearest, throwing them into the roads before they were dead and treated unburied corpses as dirt, hoping thereby to avert that spread and contagion of the fatal disease.’
Meanwhile, the followers of Jesus “nursed the sick and dying and even spared nothing in preparing the dead for proper burial.” (The Rise of Christianity, Rodney Stark)
In AD 362, 100 years later, Emperor Julian was bothered that so many people were converting to Christianity because of the loving actions of Christians, that he launched a campaign to create pagan charities in an effort to match the Sunday people. It failed miserably. After all, what would motivate people to risk their own lives for the sake of others? Only Sunday people have the answer. Right? Since the Sunday Jesus rose from the dead, Christians have been serving in the name of Jesus, because Jesus is their Savior.
Sunday people invented the modern hospital, gave literacy and education. Sunday people were the ones who abolished slavery in England and the United States, elevated the status of women, and invented the very concepts of charity. Study the roots of the Red Cross, the YMCA, the Salvation Army, World Vision, Compassion International, or Samaritan’s Purse and you’ll discover they were all founded by Christians.
We have been Jesus’ hands and feet in transforming hurting people into helping people, takers into givers, and we’ve seen countless souls saved for eternity. I love Sundays, in part because Sundays infect the people who celebrate them—and those people infect the world with good!
The story of God building His Church is a David versus Goliath kind-of story. A Rabbi named Jesus, joined by twelve teenagers/young adults, was then joined by hundreds, then thousands, then millions, and now billions. And we, God’s Sunday people, have changed and are changing the world with intentional institutions and random acts of kindness every single day.
A few minutes ago, I said that I have always been impressed by people who could look into the future and shape the world in a positive way. Most of the people who’ve done that have been Christians.
Charlemagne, founder of the Holy Roman Empire, was motivated to create public school education because he wanted every person in his realm to be able to read the Bible.
Patrick Henry, the one who shouted “Give me liberty or give me death,” the cry that launched the American Revolution, did so while standing in a church in Richmond, Virginia.
Abraham Lincoln, the e-man-ci-pator of slaves, was a committed Christ follower.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister.
History confirms that the Church of Jesus has affected more positive changes on our world than any other entity. It has done so because of the energized efforts of Sunday people. More than any other group, the Church has changed the world, and more than every other group together, the Church has changed the world.
In the book “I Love Sundays,” there’s a story of a church planter named Francis Kamau, who felt called to plant a church in his hometown of Nairobi, Kenya. When choosing a site for his church, Kamau decided to locate it in one of the worst districts he could find. His church bought land two blocks off a main boulevard that was home to lots of bars and prostitutes. Within two years of Francis moving in, most of the bars were closed and many former prostitutes were now church members, because the people had been won by the Lord and had sought better and more wholesome professions.
This is the story of the Church. Wherever Sunday people go, God goes. Lives change and hope grows.
That’s what Jesus had in mind when He stood beneath that rock in Caesarea Philippi and announced, “I will build my church.” In his mind, Jesus saw His people reaching out with love and kindness to help others. Jesus’ vision was that His people would gather on Sundays to rest, be refreshed, and refocus, and then scatter on weekdays to take His love to their neighborhoods and communities.
Pastor Bill Hybels has said, “The Church is the hope of the world.” And he’s right! Jesus, working through Sunday people, has altered our world. And He’s not done.
Two thousand years ago, Jesus announced that nothing was going to stop Him from building His church. And nothing has. World history isn’t over, but we know where it’s headed. There’s a great event coming for people who love Sundays and live them out on weekdays to anticipate. I want to show it to you before we close this series.
Revelation 19 depicts a day in the future when Jesus will be married to His people in the great Wedding Supper.
The apostle John describes it this way: Revelation 19:6–9
Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean, was given to her to wear.”
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)
Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”
When God was looking for a way to describe the joy and excitement of the day when Christ will be joined to His people, He described the greatest event available in New Testament times: a wedding feast. The wedding supper of the Lamb will literally be the greatest day in history. It’s a real day, and it’s really coming. The Bible says we will be dressed that day in fine linen, and “Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.”
How do you get fine linen to wear to that wedding? You do good deeds in the name of Jesus.
Friends, don’t miss this. People get to heaven because of grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8–9). In a first-century wedding, the first act of a groom was to pay the bride price. Jesus paid that price on the cross of Calvary. You and me, the bride, have been paid for.
Once the bride price has been paid, the bride returns home to prepare for her wedding. She makes everything for her new home, including her wedding garments.
If you’re a Christ follower, your price into heaven has already been paid. Now is the time to create your clothes. You do that by doing righteous acts, like Sunday people have always done.
Let me read you one more passage. It begins in Matthew 25:14. Jesus, just a few days before going to the cross, told this parable, which has become known as “The Parable of the Talents.” A “talent” was a huge sum of money.
[The kingdom of heaven] will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.”
His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”
The man with two bags of gold also came. “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.” His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”
Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. “Master,” he said, “I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.”
His master replied, “You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
“So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
This is such an important lesson. When your life is over, there will be a moment when you are united with your Master. You will see Jesus face-to-face, and He will tell you what He thinks of the efforts you put toward advancing His kingdom. This is one thing I believe we Christians have slacked on teaching in recent years.
According to this parable, those who do an outstanding job will hear, “Well done!” and be given incredible rewards. Those who do well will hear, “Well done!” and be given good rewards. And those who serve themselves instead of the king will hear, “You wicked, lazy servant!”
More than anything I could receive in this world, I want to hear “well done” from my Bridegroom and Savior, Jesus Christ. And I want each of you to hear those words too. I want us all to be dressed in fine linens and present the Lord with bags of gold.
APPLICATION: So I have three suggestions for you during our last week of ‘I Love Sundays.’
1. Be the Church.
Take your place in history beside the Sunday people of every generation by finding someone in need and helping them, or caring for someone who is hurting, or by founding a charity or volunteering at one. Help with New Hope or Ruth’s Harvest. Help come up with ways our church can serve others. I would love to have someone head up the missions of this church. We need an Outreach Coordinator.
The major focus of this series has been to help us refuel, refresh, and refocus by building the rhythm of our weeks around Sundays. But the outcome of great Sundays ought to have an effect on the world we live in, don’t you think? So come to church every week, but along with coming to church, be the Church.
2. Read the conclusion, chapter 5, in the “I Love Sundays” study guide.
3. Come back next Sunday.
Next Sunday we’ll be starting a brand-new series called Samson.
Till then, let’s all say it together: I Love Sundays!
Father, thank you for calling us to be Sunday people. Jesus, thank you for paying the price to make us your bride. Help us to live like Sunday people all week long, and bring us back next Sunday to celebrate you and to refuel again for more of what you have in store for us in life. We love you and we love Sundays. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.