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South Fellowship Church

Putting It All Together

This brief series offered a lot to think on. What if we were the local church that Littleton needs in 2021? What if we found new ways to live in the way of Jesus and the heart of Jesus? What if we were people who were relationally connected, deeply formed, and outward focused?

As Christians we so often turn sermon applications into “to do’s” and “have to’s.” What you may have heard over the last five weeks- get connected, pray, serve, get involved in the community, go deeper with Jesus- might feel like a lot right now. You’re a busy person, with so much in your life already, how are you going to add in all of this?

Please know that this series was not intended as a command or series of guilt-trips. “What If We” is an invitation to see new opportunities for our church community and for ourselves as individuals. It’s an opportunity to examine what God is doing in your life and where he might be inviting you or prompting you to take a next step. Maybe you’re already committed to a Bible Study and are relationally connected at South- but he’s nudging you to see where you might take the next step in your formation.

So as we close this series and look forward to the fall, don’t reject what you’ve heard because it seems overwhelming, or like too much pressure, or you’re too busy. Take time to genuinely examine your life and ask God how he might be inviting you to apply what you’ve learned. Maybe it means saying no to something so you can join a Rooted Group or begin serving in the Food Bank. Maybe it means inviting a neighbor over for dinner this week. Maybe it just means picking up your Bible again. Whatever it is, find out what your next step is and commit to doing it for this fall season.

By Jessica Rust

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Putting It All Together2021-08-26T18:52:21-06:00

Ambassadors for Christ | Matthew 28:16-20

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20

Today’s news reports often remind us of various political responsibilities we have toward other nations as citizens of the world’s richest and most influential country. It’s a challenge to filter through that myriad of earthly pleas for money and action.

This limited space isn’t enough to unpack the above passage, so let’s focus on verses 18-20 in conjunction with the following statement by the Apostle Paul: …we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making his plea through us. We plead with you on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God!” 2 Cor 5:20.

When Jesus calls us to walk in his way with his heart, he clarifies his position of authority as we represent his heavenly interests on earth… “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” The authority he imparts to us is amazing as it is not just earthly, but heavenly. “ …we are ambassadors for Christ…”…therefore go and make disciples of all nations…” We are called to be his ambassadors anywhere his Holy Spirit directs us. His purpose is to establish an outpost of his presence in order to issue invitations to join his everlasting and benevolent kingdom …as though God were making his plea through us. We plead with you on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God!

To give us confidence to carry out this mission, Jesus adds: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

As U.S. citizens we have recently been reminded that a U.S. ambassador and entourage can be swiftly displaced under hostile conditions. Paul, a seasoned ambassador of Christ, said this in Eph 6:20 …I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may be able to speak boldly as I ought to speak. Paul’s statement illustrates that our earthly conditions of ambassadorship can more closely resemble the sufferings of Jesus than the luxuries of a well-situated embassy.

So how can we be part of Jesus’ call to worldwide ambassadorship?

Being Christ’s ambassador to other nations sometimes means moving to another country as a formal missionary. However, as members of Christ’s body, all of us are called to support his call to all nations in a variety of ways. For example, we can give prayer support to South Fellowship’s Ministry Partners in one of our five Missions Advocacy Teams. Some of us can also reach out directly to refugees from other countries who have recently arrived in our city. For opportunities to be involved in this effort, contact South Fellowship’s Hannah Levers at [email protected].

By Kathleen Petersen

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Ambassadors for Christ | Matthew 28:16-202021-08-26T18:50:34-06:00

An Outworking of Outreach: Local | 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. I Corinthians 9:19-23 NIV

This passage is in the middle of three chapters in the letter written by Paul to the church at Corinth that are addressing the overall principle that all things should be done for the glory of God. This passage has to be looked at in the context of the freedom we have as believers in Christ along with the consideration we must have for the people around us with whom we hope to share Christ’s love. In I Corinthians 10:23 Paul writes, “’I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” Paul is talking about many different behaviors as they relate to new believers and to those who have not yet understood Christ’s love. But one of the main issues in the Corinthian church at the time was whether or not it was permissible to eat meat sacrificed to idols. If you want to understand this teaching more fully, I encourage you to read and study Chapters 8 – 11:1 of I Corinthians. But the overall principle of a mature believer taking into consideration another person’s point of view, or customs, or beliefs in order to be better able to present the gospel in a way that it is understood is, I believe, the point Paul is making here. He does not change his message so that it violates God’s law, but he does consider what is beneficial for the audience he is trying to reach for Christ.

So how do we do this too? Are you currently involved in a local outreach that impacts people here in your own neighborhood? If not, here are some ideas of places and ways you could serve people in and around South Fellowship and have an impact for God’s kingdom right here in Littleton. Join a prayer walk Hannah Levers – praying for refugees, serve at Graceful Café, help at the South Food Bank, tutor with Whiz Kids or with North Littleton Promise, or help Family Promise. Remember Paul’s advice to seek the good of others, while presenting Christ’s love for others in a way that can be understood by the person you are sharing with.

By Grace Hunter

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An Outworking of Outreach: Local | 1 Corinthians 9:19-232021-08-26T18:47:00-06:00

A Great Challenge | 1 John 2:22

This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”  Jeremiah 31:33-34 NIV

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. I John 1:8-2:2 NIV

The Apostle John wrote the book of I John as a letter to the churches of Asia to assure the believers of their salvation and to combat a heresy called Gnosticism. One of the core Gnostic beliefs was that the body was evil and the spirit was good. Another was that since the body was evil, obeying moral law by one’s actions with their body was impossible, as it was evil, so immorality was not considered sin.

It is important to keep this in mind when reading the book of I John as John is addressing these issues directly in his writing. He clearly describes for us that God desires us to acknowledge sin as sin, confess it to Him, and allow Jesus to be our advocate before God. John tells us, Jesus is the “Righteous One” and that He is, “the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world,” I John 2:2. God desires all people to acknowledge their sin, confess it, turn from it and he is eager to have compassion on us, forgive us, and be in relationship with us. Micah 7:18-19, Psalm 32:5, and Jeremiah 31:33-34 are some of the scriptures from the Old Testament that make it clear that God has always wanted this kind of relationship with people.

This is incredibly good news! God desires a relationship with not just his people, the Jews, but anyone in the whole world. John clearly tells us this in the first book he wrote. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him,” John 3:16-17.

We who understand this, embrace this, and live this also need to share this with those we interact with. Pray about who God might want you to share this incredible news with. Is there a family member, friend, co-worker or neighbor who needs to hear that God is compassionate, forgiving, and loving? Do you know someone who needs to know that all of his or her sins have already been atoned for? Consider, pray and share.

By Grace Hunter

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A Great Challenge | 1 John 2:222021-08-26T14:18:53-06:00

The Great Commission | Matthew 20:16-20

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭28:18-20‬

For much of my Christian life, I think I’ve missed the full scope of what Jesus is saying in this text. I grew up hearing sermons that told me that there is one command in this passage, “make disciples.” For some reason, that idea caused me to deemphasize the rest of the text as subservient to that one command. In reality, the two verbs that follow are arguably more helpful than the command itself. Why? Because they point us to the how of disciple-making. The two words I’m talking about are baptizing and teaching. They are participles that describe the actions required to fulfill Jesus’ command to make disciples. They are the answer to the question, “what does it mean to make a disciple?”

In essence, making a disciple involves helping people come to a place where they identify with God through baptism and then teaching them how to obey Jesus. This short commission is like a springboard into all that Jesus taught. Notice it is not a challenge to tell people to obey, it is a challenge to teach them to obey. Do you feel the difference? Telling people to obey is impersonal. Teaching people how to obey requires that we first know how to obey ourselves. We are tour guides on the journey of obeying Jesus, which brings me to a final observation in the passage.

We can’t overlook Jesus’ final statement, “I am with you always.” We don’t become or make disciples alone, we do it alongside Jesus. He is alive and he still communicates with us as we learn and teach others how to live.

So what teaching of Jesus have you learned how to obey recently? Have you taught anyone what you have learned? If you are not sure how to answer these questions, maybe start by reading Matthew 5-7 which is called, “the Sermon On the Mount.” Find something from one of Jesus’ most famous sermons and learn to obey it.

By Aaron Bjorklund

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The Great Commission | Matthew 20:16-202021-08-26T14:15:51-06:00

A Practice of Formation | John 14:16-21

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them. John 14:16-21

There is so much to digest in this short passage of John 14:16-21. Try reading it again through the practice of Lectio Divina. First, ask God to speak to you as you read this passage. Read the passage slowly, out loud if possible. What word or phrase stands out to you? Read John 14:16-21 again. Reflect on the part of the passage that stood out to you the first time. What might God be saying to you? Read the passage a third time. Respond to what God is showing you through prayer. Read the passage a final time. Be still and contemplate what God might be inviting you to do as a result of what he showed you in this passage.

By Jessica Rust

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A Practice of Formation | John 14:16-212021-08-26T21:22:19-06:00

Commitment & Spiritual Formation | 1 Thessalonians 2:7-11

Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children. 1 Thessalonians 2:7-11

I sometimes fondly recall how many Christians influenced and cared for me when I was first discovering how to follow Jesus. The above passage conveys the intense passion of the Apostle Paul in his role in the spiritual formation of new followers of Jesus in the ancient city of Thessalonica.

Paul expresses the dedication necessary for those eager to help new followers persevere beyond the surface excitement of discovering Jesus. It is the same connection loving parents have toward their newborns. This connection is generated by the Holy Spirit, not by an online matching service.

As I reflect on the many ways God has used to guide my spiritual formation, I observe he has and continues to use organizations, groups, individual mentors, books, sermons, Bible study, prayer, outreach efforts, volunteer work, marriage, extended family, and more to securely fold me into his forever family and draw me closer to him.

Does this picture seem too enveloping? Does the idea of having a spiritual parent as described above in I Thessalonians seem too possessive? If you are hoping to be more fully formed in Christ, it is necessary to commit to significant interaction with other followers of Jesus – although, warning: such commitment involves course correction and occasionally disappointing experiences.

As you begin this Fall season, pray for and trust God to help you find a mentor (or be mentor), find or solidify friendships that encourage your faith, join a ministry team and/or a Rooted/Life Group that will encourage your continuing formation in Jesus.

By Kathleen Petersen

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Commitment & Spiritual Formation | 1 Thessalonians 2:7-112021-08-19T13:35:25-06:00

Are We There Yet? | Philippians 3:12-21

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Following Paul’s Example All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Philippians 3:12-21 NIV

As a young teenager I longed to go to sleep and wake up transported to a time perhaps 10 years later, married, a mother, happy. But – none of us who have attained adulthood achieved it by skipping our teenage years. Paul uses an athletic example of a long race, perhaps a marathon, in this passage to demonstrate the concept of spiritual perseverance. He uses phrases like, “forgetting what is behind and straining toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 3:13b-14. I picture a runner not looking back, or side to side, but putting all of his strength, concentration, and effort into moving forward as best as he is able to run. A champion marathon runner is never a young child, but instead is a young adult who has spent years training, practicing, failing, and trying again. The champion keeps his goal in mind.

There are several women I think of who are examples to me of spiritual perseverance. Joni Eareckson Tada, Gladys Aylward, and Corrie Ten Boom come to mind. Joni injured her spine as a teenager and has been in a wheelchair for over 50 years. She perseveres daily through pain and discomfort everyday as she relies on God for her strength. She has a ministry called Joni and Friends that ministers to disabled children and their families all over the world. Her story is at Joniandfriends.org. Gladys Aylward was a British missionary who had to persevere to even get to China, as no one would allow her to join their organization. She raised her own money to travel to China over several years, and she was instrumental in saving nearly 100 orphaned Chinese children’s lives in 1938. There are many articles and books written about her perseverance in presenting the gospel to the Chinese people. Corrie Ten Boom’s family hid Jews during WWII in German-occupied Holland. They were betrayed, sent to a concentration camp and only Corrie survived. She and her sister Betsy led Bible studies, prayed with and shared Jesus with their fellow inmates in Ravensbruck. Her story is told in her book called The Hiding Place and in the movie of the same name.

Paul and these women fixed their eyes on Jesus and remembered their, “citizenship is in heaven,” Philippians 3:20. Pray today about keeping your eyes on Jesus – remembering this world is not our home.

By Grace Hunter

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Are We There Yet? | Philippians 3:12-212021-08-19T13:19:09-06:00

Who Is In Who? | Colossians 1:27; Romans 8:29

“My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you,” Galatians 4:19 

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Galatians 3:26-27

In Galatians, Paul says he wants to see that, “Christ is formed in you” (Gal 4:19). He also says that we are “baptized into Christ” (Gal. 3:27). So which is it? Are we in Christ or is Christ in us? If you were to do a survey of all of Paul’s letters you would find that he describes our lives in both ways frequently. What do these two descriptions teach us about formation?

It is in these kinds of questions that we often discover interesting insights into life with Jesus. At a macro level both descriptions speak of intimacy with Jesus, he is in us and we are in him. If you take a closer look, there could be something deeper going on here. There is something mysterious that takes place when we embrace Jesus as king and savior. We are said to be, “in Christ.” Paul speaks of this in numerous places. Our new position in him is what allows us to fellowship with God again. The second idea of Christ being in us is one that is fleshed out as we continue in relationship with Jesus. Over time, we begin to look more like the savior who loves us and who we are growing to love. That is expressed by this idea of Christ being formed in us. Salvation saves us, but it also transforms us from the inside out.

Which image resonates most with you? Take a few minutes to contemplate being in Christ and also Christ being in you. It may help you to focus by trying to diagram this mysterious reality on a sheet of paper. What is Jesus saying to you through these ideas?

By Aaron Bjorklund

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Who Is In Who? | Colossians 1:27; Romans 8:292021-08-19T13:13:00-06:00

Until Christ is Formed In You | Galatians 4:19

My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you… Galatians 4:19

Spiritual Formation is the beautifully mysterious way of Jesus – demonstrated in his life, death, and resurrection. Jesus Christ formed in our likeness, that we might become like him through a similar process of Spiritual Formation. The phrase is currently the best set of vocabulary we have to describe the journey of faith as a process, because it is spiritual in nature and it involves a deep process of forming and re-forming throughout one’s entire lifespan.

How does Spiritual Formation work?

Spiritual Formation is rooted in the way and heart of Jesus and takes us through a process of maturation and deep integration.

Jesus’ human life took many years to develop. Jesus was present at the Creation yet allowed himself to go through the process of being formed under the influence of earthly parents, rabbis, baptism, wilderness, and a season of leadership development. He learned to listen to his Father, partner with the Spirit, as well as grow strong emotional maturity through relational drama, human suffering, and even agonizing physical death. If Jesus himself can go through a process of formation, we can too. And, because Jesus offers us his strength from the position of resurrection, we know full transformation is possible, even when it involves death!

Maturation always requires integration. When Jesus invites us to follow him, we must accept the lifelong journey and open to the process of Jesus’ way integrating into every aspect of our souls. This is the most difficult work of Spiritual Formation. No matter how painful or uncomfortable the process of formation becomes, we surrender to the integration process where we see old ways dying off, new ways being established, and our true character mirroring the way and heart of Jesus.

We witness the integration work of Spiritual Formation when our theology matches our practice, our ability to hold paradoxical mysteries of the faith expands, and healthy emotional muscles strengthen our capacity for love. Because above all, Spiritual Formation is exemplified in the maturity of our love – love of God, love of others, love of self, and ultimately love of our enemy.

By Yvonne Biel

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Until Christ is Formed In You | Galatians 4:192021-08-19T12:58:18-06:00
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