Series: Church Around the Table
Last week we introduced the idea of Church Around the Table. I’m supposed to get to the book of Acts. I’m supposed to start talking to you about the table and all these things, but I just can’t. Last week I just started looking at Jesus’ life and I was like, “Man, we’ve to go back and really get this Church thing figured out.”
We spent the last couple of months in the book of Ephesians, trying to get Paul’s inspired vision of the Church, as it was in the first century when it was really just an underground, persecuted, not-going-to-make-it type thing. Yet he had a grand vision. And if he could see the Church today around the world, I’m sure Paul would just be dancing some sort of jig, or whatever they did back then.
It’s really been amazing what the Church is. We talked about how the Church is not the organizations that call themselves church. Living Streams Church is not the Church. Living Streams is an organization that, hopefully, is a good house for the organism of the Church. Jesus is the head of the organism—which is the people who are actually following and practicing the way of Christ; people who are living in the light of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection; people who have seen that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection actually left a way for us through this confusing, consequential maze we call life. And they’re doing their best to walk in this thing. That is what the Church is. That’s all it is.
Living Streams is hopefully just like—okay, you’re following the way—we’re one of those tables that has orange slices and a little bit of Gatorade, and we’re just here. And you’re following the way, and we’re like, “All right. Come on, man! Go man, go man!” That’s all that Living Streams is, just a little table by the side of the way, trying to help people get a little further down. And maybe if you need to rest a while, that’s fine. But then, eventually we’re going to be like, “You’ve got to stop resting, man. Get back on the way, get down the road!” That’s all this is. It’s just supposed to be a help.
The organization has been helpful at times, and at times it’s been absolutely horrible to the organism of the Church. But Jesus died for the organism. He died for the people. He calls that his Bride. Living Streams is not his Bride. It’s just an organization. Are we getting that? I’ve said that a lot, so if you’re not getting it, it’s just not going to work at this point.
Church is not what Christians do, as far as the Sunday morning Living Streams context. Church is just supposed to help Christians do what they’re supposed to do. And it can happen in here. And it does happen in here. The reason you’re here is not because Living Streams does something to you. But when you’re here, the house of Living Streams is a good place to find the Spirit of God. And heaven and earth does feel a little bit closer together here, hopefully. And Church can happen here.
But then Church is supposed to happen outside of these walls—very importantly. Jesus said he would rather us leave the ninety-nine and go after the one. That’s a priority. So really, Church should happen outside these walls more so than inside these walls. That’s what we’re trying to get to.
Jesus lived that way perfectly. Last week we talked about how Jesus had Church in a dirty man’s boat. He was there, sharing with the crowd in Peter’s boat—it was just Simon at that point. And Simon, at the end of Jesus’ talk with the people, said, “You’ve got to get away from me because I’m a dirty man.”
And Jesus looked at him and said, “Hey, if you will follow my path, I will take you from being a dirty fisherman and make you into something beautiful that will actually catch men.”
And, sure enough, we got to watch that story unfold. Three years later, Peter was sitting in a room around a table with Jesus. And Jesus was basically saying the same thing to him. He’s telling him what Church is really about. And he hands out to all of the disciples there, and he says, “This is the new covenant. This is all it’s ever been about. This is the economy of heaven. This is the only thing that really matters. This is what you were made for. And he breaks some bread and he passes it around and he says, “This is my body given for you.”
The disciples could probably understand what that meant, even without the cross. They had been with Jesus for three years and watched him break off parts of his life for their own sake, and for the sake of so many others. So that actually could have worked even without what happened the next day.
And then he took the cup and he said, “This wine is a sign of the new covenant. This is forgiveness for you.”
And he hands it out to them and, basically says, “I’m being poured for you. I’m being broken and given to you. I’m being poured out for you.”
The message in that moment was definitely what we have done with it, it’s a picture of what Jesus did on the cross. But that was just the final example. That was the most important example. But Jesus had been breaking off his body and handing it to them and others. Jesus had been pouring out his blood in forgiveness all through his ministry already. Are you with me there?
So when Jesus is doing this to his disciples, he’s once again teaching them a lesson. And they’re going to get that lesson once they see him die and rise from the dead. All of a sudden, these dense disciples will be like, “Oh!” So they still didn’t quite get it. But the lesson Jesus was giving was, “I want you to go now and do for the world what I have done for you.”
Which means, “I want you to give them your body and your blood, just as I have given body and blood to you. This covenant that I’m making with you. This Church that I am birthing for you.”
Every time you go into this world and break off a piece of your life sacrificially, and you pour out a part of your life sacrificially, that’s when Church happens. That’s what Church is.
Last week I told you guys about the guy with food stamps, who was just caring for me, loving on me, so interested in my life. And then one time I watched him pay for groceries with food stamps. He thought it was kind of an embarrassing thing, but, honestly, for me it showed a deep love. Because he had bought me stuff. He had taken me places. He had done things, and yet he was providing for his family on food stamps. What I felt was, “Man. He really loves me.” And he opened for me the love of Christ. He loved me in the way that Christ had loved him—sacrificially. He was breaking off body and blood for me. It compelled me to want to follow Jesus.
Then I talked to you about the guy in the fifteen-passenger van, “stealing” the boat and all of that. And we went on and we both basically said, “You know, Jesus did this.”
We talked about Jan Tyranowski, how Pope John Paul remembers this apartment of this tailor named Jan Tyranowski that he used to go to. And he said that he “opened up his life to us and showed us the love of Christ.” And it compelled this guy to become pope. It’s a big deal.
That’s what we’re talking about—defining Church. I was like, “Okay. Good, we got Church defined, now let’s go to the table.” But we can’t go there yet. We’ve got to talk about Jesus some more.
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John are these four preserved accounts of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. We call them the gospels. There are four of them. Matthew, Mark and Luke all have this Last Supper story. They all four have the Last Supper story, but Matthew, Mark and Luke focus on the “body and blood” moment.
But John, who also talks about the Last Supper in John in John 13, never once mentions the body and blood. It could be that John wrote later, so he’s like, “Well, it’s already in the other three accounts, so I don’t need to reiterate it.” But John focuses on a different element of what took place in that Last Supper—that first real moment of Church Around a Table—that so compelled there. So I want to go there and look at what John’s perspective is.
We all know that John is a little “out there.” John would have been an awesome hippy. John is a little more spiritually inclined. John is laying on Jesus’ bosom and he actually tells people about it. He feels. He’s emotional. He’s driven that way. When you read his gospel and then his other writings, he’s just kind of wired that way. It’s beautiful and wonderful. He adds so much to it. This is who he is.
1 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal…
Having all the power and authority in heaven and in earth. Just think about it. Let’s say you have all the power. Last night at the ASU game they showed on the JumboTron there was a sun shot with a solar flare hitting down on the desert. And—poof—out comes Sparky, this little devil guy. And he’s walking over Phoenix, and there’s a big haboob behind him. He’s got all this power and his pitchfork. And I don’t know what happened after that. They just lost.
But picture yourself being endowed with all the power. You’ve seen it in the movies. The bad guy is like, “Arghhhhhh!” getting all the power, and then he does something stupid and dies.
But he’s got all the power. This is no joke. This is real God, real power, and all authority. All power has been put in his hands. And look what he does with it. Who knows John 13? Who knows what’s going to happen? Okay. For just a second, stop knowing what’s going to happen. Let this be the first time you’ve ever heard this. I know it’s hard, but try.
He’s got all the power.
…he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
This is what he did with all the power in all the universe. He got down on his hands and knees and he washed the disciples’ feet. This is Jesus. This is God. This is why the Jews can’t believe it and the Greeks think it’s foolishness. Do you get that? What kind of God is this?
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing…
“Just shut your mouth,” is basically what he’s saying.
…but later you will understand.”
8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, [Peter]
Uh-oh. What was the first interaction between Jesus and Simon? “I’m a dirty man!” And now, Jesus is saying, “You’re a clean man, Peter. You’re a clean man. You’ve been washed. Yeah, your feet stink a little bit, but your whole body is clean, Peter. You know that now. You know that.” Oh, what an amazing day that would be if we could actually believe we are clean!
…And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.
That’s basically the question he’s been asking since the very beginning. And he’s never once gotten a very good answer. And now this is his last chance, his last night with them. He says, “Do you understand what I’ve done for you?”
13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
This is Church. This is new covenant. This is the same story as the giving of body and blood, but the way John says it is, you need to go and wash people. You need to wash people’s feet. That’s what the Church really is supposed to do. We’re supposed to go into this world and find all these people who are filthy and dirty from walking in this world, and we’re supposed to wash their feet with the love and forgiveness of Christ. We’re supposed to invite people into our homes so they can sit at our tables and so we can wash their feet.
We just had Life Groups launch this week. Thirty-something groups, over three hundred and sixty people all getting together in homes outside this context. Hallelujah! How many of you washed their feet? I’m just kidding. I’m not trying to put a guilt trip on you. Like, “If you knew Jesus, the first thing, as soon as they walk in your door —bam—whip off the clothes, get down on the knee, ‘May I see your feet, ma’am? Sir?’ Wash them. Wipe them with a towel." Don’t do that! That’s weird.
Jesus knew these guys really well. It’s all guys in the room and he spent three years, so… maybe someday…but don’t be like, “Oh, the message. Let’s just do it.” No. Don’t do it. Okay? Don’t do it. Don’t do it.
But you can wash them in other ways. Right? And I think you guys probably did. You loved on each other. You leaned into each other. You listened to their stories and you pronounced blessing and encouragement. You allowed raw authenticity, relentless encouragement, and biblical counsel, in the hopes of genuine friendship forming.
That’s what we’re going for. We’re teaching on Church Around the Table and we’re practicing Church Around the Table, all at the same time. When we practice the way of Jesus, it changes us. We’ll talk more about that in a minute.
But do you see how beautiful this is? Do you see how amazing this is? To sum it up, Jesus says, “Give body and blood for the sake of others.” That’s what you’re supposed to do as the Church. Give love to others the same way that Christ loved you.
Yes! It’s so beautiful! Have you ever done that? Loved somebody to the same degree that Christ has loved you? I don’t know.
Seek to wash and cleanse others instead of condemning others because that’s what Jesus did. Those who are willing to admit they were unclean. The way Mother Theresa says it is, “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” Or, what I would say is, “Washed, rinsed, cleansed by the words that come out of your mouth and the love that comes out of your heart.”
This is why it’s so beautiful. This is why the Christian Church is what it is today. Because the movement is legit. Because they are the most “woke” people walking around this world. Now, we get it wrong from time to time. We add to it. We get a little squirrly. We start throwing in all kinds of other stuff, no doubt. But this beauty is undeniable—that the God of the universe, the One who created it all and we jacked it all up—he comes and lives a perfect, clean life, sinless in every way—tempted in every way, but sinless in every way.
And then he is—at this moment when he is endowed with all of the power—he is fully God, but he has never cheated by using any of those powers. Yet in this moment he is so aware of exactly what this moment is. And what he chooses to do with all the power, all the righteousness—self-righteousness that is actually true for him—he gets down underneath his disciples and he washes their dirty feet. Hallelujah!
In so doing, John said that after that he said, “Now blessed are you if you go and do the same thing.”
So my question to us is, when is the last time you washed someone’s feet? And I’m not just talking about shoes and socks and stuff. That’s what Church Around the Table is. It’s just these moments where we wash people’s feet.
Last Sunday, I was talking about body and blood. It sounds weird, but I learned a lot from that message. I don’t know any of this stuff. I’m learning it the same time as you guys. Maybe just a little ahead. But I was just so convicted and compelled by Jesus’ message and all of that, and I was thinking, "Body and blood. Body and blood. Giving body and blood.”
I knew that John 13 was going this other direction with it and I was stirring on all of that. I went home and was studying more. I was thinking, “I just did the message. I don’t have to study anymore.” And I was like, “Yes, I do!” So I was chewing on it and studying and going, “Lord, what are you saying? I need to get a little further in.”
It was my birthday. I just really felt like I wanted to wash my family’s feet. I wanted to. And don’t think we’re like a spiritual household. We’re not that great at Bible studies. We’re just now trying to get in this routine on Sunday night where we sing a couple of songs and pray a little bit. My kids hate it most of the time. And we hate them most of the time because of it. So don’t get this picture.
But this was a good moment, where, for my birthday I told them I wanted to wash their feet. And my wife was like, “Okay. We’ll see how this goes.” Because she’s right. And my girls were like, “Whaaa?” You know? (Our boys were actually with their siblings at this time.)
I sat them down. I didn’t take my clothes off. I got a bowl of warm water and I got a towel. And I sat them down and washed their feet. They were a little bit giggly, but they held it together pretty well. I was trying to tell them about what Jesus did and how I just want to love them in the same way. I think they were able to receive some of that.
Then my wife was like, “It’s your birthday. We want to wash your feet.” So they all decided that they wanted to wash my feet. I felt washed and cared for and appreciated. It was a moment where I was just trying to practice something, not really having much expectation. But there was a bit of a moment, and I think we kind of had Church Around the Table. Church around a bowl of warm water in this moment. It was precious and I was so thankful for it.
Then this morning, we were downstairs and I had three kids with me. I live in a weird situation. A couple of nephews and a foster boy were with me. We were downstairs and the whole team was praying and worshiping, getting ready for this. And my mind was on a thousand things. We’ve got a Belize Men’s Retreat barbecue afterwards. So I was stressing about that, my message, just everything in mind. And I felt like the Lord was like, “Right now.”
So I got up and I walked behind the boys that were just sitting there. They were being good, but they were like, “These people are always singing all the time.” I don’t know what they were thinking. That’s what I’m thinking they were thinking.
I go behind them and I put my hands on the shoulders of the first one. He tensed up like, “What’s happening?” And I just prayed a prayer of blessing in his ear. Then I went to the next one and prayed. I don’t know what it meant to them at all. But I felt like I was being filled with the love of God for them as I was trying to love them. Does that make sense?
It was like I was practicing the way of Jesus and I was being filled with the Spirit of Jesus. That might sound really weird to you, but those of you who know what I’m talking about—it’s not weird. It’s very natural. It’s actually beautiful.
There’s this love that God is wanting us to do. We’re supposed to love our spouse the same way that Christ loved us. Husbands are to love your wives the same way Christ love you and laid his life down for you. There’s the same imagery. This is what cultivated and motivated the First Church experience.
Paul was like, “You should forgive one another. Why? Because God in Christ Jesus has forgiven you.” This was the crux of their operation. It was their mission and vision statement. We’re supposed to love the way Christ loved us.
All I can think is, “That’s impossible.” Not because my wife is hard She’s awesome. But because I’m bad at stuff. So at the same time, I’ve been compelled by the beauty of this vision and so overwhelmed, going, “How am I going to live into this thing?”
I could think of a thousand times I got it wrong and I had to work really hard to give you two really good examples. And then there’s the rest of today, you know? And tomorrow, and all of that.
I want us to just know that Jesus understands that. He taught them and pointed them in this direction. But then, if you go into John 14, 15, 16 and 17, you find how. We don’t have time to go through all of it. But in John 14, I just want to read one verse to you. This is Jesus’ plan for how. For how you could love others in the way that he loved you, including, if you notice, Jesus washed all of his disciples’ feet. All twelve of them.
You get what I’m saying? He washed Judas’ feet, knowing that the devil was already in him to betray him. He got down on his knees, with all the power, and he picked up Judas’ feet and he rubbed those feet, he cleansed those feet, and he probably prayed, “Father, if there’s any other way, let him know your love.” And he washed his feet.
Loving your kids, loving your wife, loving your friends, loving your coworkers, loving your enemies—loving those who have absolutely betrayed you—is this heavy, awesome, beautiful call. How is it possible? John 14:15
In your Life Groups, if you want to unpack the main points of 14, 15, 16 and 17, of how Jesus said, “This is how it’s going to work out.” You can do that. But to sum it up:
15 “If you love me, keep my commands.
And what are his commands? That you will love others in the same way that he has loved you. Bam. Done. Too heavy. Too beautiful. If you will do this…
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate [or helper] to help you and be with you forever— 17 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 …
Helping you to see the vision
…and will be in you…
Helping you walk in the way of that vision. That’s it. There are no other tricks. You don’t have to climb a mountain, stare at your belly button, or anything else. You just have to take your step in the way, in the direction of the commands of God in your life—and Jesus will ask the Father and he will give you a helper—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot receive him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him for he lives with you. He’s the one giving you the compelling. He’s the one giving you the conviction. He’s the one who’s opening your mind to see this way. Then he will be in you to empower you to walk in it.
In Acts 1, Jesus rises from the dead. He’s sitting with the disciples. John was the only one that was at the cross. The rest of them were out of there. Forget it. Jesus’ thing didn’t work. He’s dead. And now, they’re all out fishing again—fishing for fish. And Jesus comes up on the shore and he has a little time with them.
In Acts 1, he’s with them and he says, “I’m going to leave like I told you I would. But this time I’m not coming back. But I want you to go to Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Father. For when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be empowered to be my witnesses. You will be empowered to walk in the way and everyone else will watch you walk in the way and think, ‘Huh. I need to learn Jesus’ way. I need to know about Jesus.’”
It’s the Spirit that empowers us toward this beautiful end. And like I just explained to you—How practical is it? I was not feeling it. I’m a little tired. My mind’s all a blur of things. I feel like the Lord’s saying, “Right now. Wash someone’s feet. Give some body and blood.”
I’m like, “Man, these are all church people. Well, those three dudes right behind me. I don’t know what’s going on with this.” So I just walked back, and like I said, I stepped into the commands of the Lord. I said, “Okay, I’ll try. And I’m going to fail.” But then, as I was doing it, I was being filled with love that didn’t come from my own tank. It came from somewhere else. And I was able to pray these genuine prayers. I really was praying these prayers. I wanted to see these things happen for these three boys. And I got filled with Jesus in that little moment, and maybe they got a little splash. I don’t know. I’ll ask them later. They’ll probably say, “I don't know what you’re talking about.” But it’s just a little way it works out. When you lean in, the Spirit empowers you.
We’ve got a lot more to come in the next few weeks, at 8:30, 10:00 and 11:30. But right now we’re going to spend a little time waiting on the Father to give the Holy Spirit—waiting on the promise of the Father. We’re going to have the ushers come forward to pass out the bread and the cup. We’ll once again have this time of teaching ourselves in the way that Jesus taught his disciples—once again remembering and being compelled by the love of Christ, who gave body and blood for us, who just spit in his face, who so often have chosen sin instead of his way.
As you get this piece of bread and this cup, just hold on to it. We’ll all take it together in the end. This is definitely that time when we’re going to try and get filled with the Spirit of God for the task that we have in front of us. Be thinking, have you received the Spirit of God or not? If you have received the Spirit of God, how full is your tank? How full is your tank? Would you like him to fill you again? Fill you afresh? Are you willing to make room? To surrender things that are blocking the filling of the Spirit? Communion is a good time to confess those things and do that transaction with the Lord. Give up your sin and your junk for his Spirit and his power.
I have a couple more things to mention. I really want to talk to people in the room that maybe don’t know where they are at with Christ. I had a friend come to church recently. He is someone that has a real critical mind. He’s sharp. He’s actually super smart and still kind. He came to church and, I knew that he’s not a follower of Jesus. He has, at times, been against things like that. So I asked him afterwards. I said, “How was it?”
This is what he said. And this is for you that are at Living Streams, and loving people well, to encourage you. But this is also where maybe some of you are at.
“I found myself wondering about how I could replicate, develop or steal what seems like super powers that you believers have. There is an obvious depth and value that I’m missing out on, so it made me want to figure out how to hack that in myself.”
I loved the honesty. This guy’s mind is brilliant. He’s not pretending. He’s saying, “I see something.” And what he sees is the Spirit of God empower us and compelling us toward each other. He’s saying, “Yeah. I’m missing that.”
I don’t know if he’s willing to surrender to Christ and make that move, but I thought it was pretty beautiful that he could recognize that. But some of you are in this room and you can say the same thing, if you’re honest. And this is your moment. It’s never going to be easier than right now to receive Jesus in this room, in this moment. It will only get harder. I just want to encourage you to receive Jesus.
We’re all going to take communion now. We’re all going to partake together. Those of us who know Jesus, we’re just once again saying, “Jesus, more of you in our lives.” But if you’re someone who has never made that decision, this is a great place to start. If you’re someone who doesn’t want anything to do with Jesus, please don’t take this. There’s some verses about that. It doesn’t go well. But if you’re someone who is saying, “Yes, I’m ready to receive Jesus for the first time,” then you are more than welcome to partake with us.
Jesus, we thank you for your body that you gave so freely to us. We receive it now and ask for more of you in our lives.
Let’s take the bread.
And Jesus, we thank you that you wash us and cleanse us by your blood—that perfect blood that was sacrificed for us. We ask that you would cleanse us once again, Lord.
Let’s take the cup.
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Scripture is taken from Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.