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CONNECT | Grow | Serve

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested Him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:34-40 NIV)

At Grace Church, where I have the privilege to pastor and lead, we have adopted the mission of the Global Methodist Church as our mission: To make disciples of Jesus Christ who worship passionately, love extravagantly and witness boldly. We exist to become disciples of Jesus who worship with our whole hearts, love with His love and show the world the Savior we have discovered. And we exist to help other people come into a relationship with Jesus that results in their becoming His worshiping, loving, witnessing disciples.

Our vision to accomplish this mission is simple: Grace Church is a caring community where people can CONNECT with Christ, GROW deep faith and SERVE as bold witnesses in the world. We aim to connect with Jesus Christ in a real relationship, loving Him with our heart and soul and mind and strength. We believe connecting with Jesus Christ connects us with one another in real community, doing life together and watching over one another in love. And we believe out of those two primary connections, with the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit and faithfulness of the Word of God, we will indeed grow deep, sustainable faith and serve not only within the congregation but also in the community around us.

We were created in the image of God for relationship. God's essence is relationship in His triune existence as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Living God is a relational God, and being created in His image at least partly means we are relational beings who have the capacity to love and be loved. As image-bearers, we also have the free will to accept or reject God's love for us, either living in relationship with Him or without Him.

In their fall from Grace, Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, and brought sin into the world and into their hearts. All of humanity has been born since with a fallen sin nature that has bent our hearts toward independence from the One who created us, and toward sin and death. God could have given up on rebellious humanity and washed His hands of us. He could have left us alone to self destruct or wiped us out as a failed experiment.

But God loves us. He loves us unconditionally. He loves us in spite of our rebellion and selfishness. And so He acted to redeem us by sending His Son, Jesus, to take on flesh, to show us the face and heart of the Living God, and to lay down His life as a perfect sacrifice for our sin on a Roman cross. And He offers us a new life in relationship with Him by trusting Jesus.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 NIV)

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV)

The path from sin and death to forgiveness and life is found in a relationship with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died for our sins and was raised from the dead to conquer sin and death for us. Jesus identified the greatest commandment in Scripture thusly:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.

Loving God means having a relationship with Him. It means far more than knowing about Him because we have read and studied the Bible. Loving God is much more than believing the right doctrines about His nature. Loving God requires knowing Him for ourselves. It means connecting with Him by trusting Jesus as Savior and making Him Lord of our lives. We please God most not by clenching our teeth and obeying His commandments, but rather by trusting our lives to Him in faith and beginning to walk with Jesus in love.

When Jesus identified the greatest commandment, He gave us a BOGO. He may have originated the two-for-one-sale in expanding the greatest commandment to be the greatest two:

And the second is like it: "Love your neighbor as yourself."

Connecting with Jesus by faith connects us to one another in the community of His church. We are called to love each other as we have been loved. We are called to love one another, and to love our neighbors, our co-workers, our fellow students, with the love of Jesus. We cannot keep the commands of God without being in relationship with others. And so we watch over one another in love in the church and witness to the love of Jesus outside the church in the community.

William Temple, British theologian and Archbishop of Canterbury, is quoted as saying, “The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.” I believe Temple hits the right chord in echoing the Great Commandment. If we love God, we will love others. If we love God, we will love each other in the church and love those outside the church. If we love God we will love the lost enough to show them Jesus' love and tell them about how He has changed our lives.

The vision of Grace Church is a Kingdom-sized vision. It is fulfilled when the presence and power of the Holy Spirit (Jesus living in our hearts) has complete freedom to root out sin and grow us to be more and more Christlike. It is beyond our trying harder to do religious things. It is the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. And the outcome brings glory to God and fulfillment to us. Hallelujah! What a Savior!


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