Faith Bible Church’s focus for 2015 was on “Discipleship.” This was part of the Mission emphasis as we formulated a mission statement based on Matthew 18:19-20.

Today, I am introducing our 2016 theme.  This is fitting because today is our first Sunday of the New Year!.  The theme that I want us to focus on this year is CONNECTING

This new theme for 2016 does not mean that we are changing direction.  Our mission is still the same.  We are simply taking the next step in order to fulfill this mission.
The Mission of the Church cannot be fulfilled in isolation.  It is through relationships that we accomplish the task to
PRESENT Christ as Savior,
PURSUE Christ as Lord,
PRAISE God as King.

God never created the human heart for isolation.
We were created for relationships.
Isolation quenches our heart
Isolation robs our joy/
Isolation depletes our health
Isolation can shorten our life.

I was moved by the story of Navy Captain Eugene “Red” McDaniel
McDaniel was a POW for 6 years at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton”
He was brutally tortured for not giving up the names of the prisoners who helped plan an escape.  His communist captors wanted to keep all of their American guests isolated and vulnerable.  Prisoners caught trying to communicate would be tortured, and McDaniel had already been through that.   McDaniel came to fear isolation more than the threats of torture.The highlight of each day was being taken to the washroom, where he managed to whisper briefly with two other Americans brought in at the same time. They told him about the camp code, an acrostic system that involved using taps to spell out letters of the alphabet. If a new prisoner couldn’t learn the code and communicate with fellow Americans within thirty days of his arrival, he would gradually start to draw inward and deteriorate.  Those that didn’t communicate, didn’t make it.

We cannot survive in isolation
We cannot serve in Isolation
We must be connected.
Hence, the upcoming 4 PART SERMON SERIES
Connecting with God
Connecting with Others
Connecting with Ministry
Connecting with the World

We begin today with a passage that teaches the importance of spiritual unity.
“For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:18–22, NIV84)

The first consideration about connecting with others to form spiritual unity is to realize that:    Our Ability to Bless Others Flows from our Connection with God.
The Context of Ephesians 2 demonstrates this as it covers the two primary themes if Salvation and Spiritual unity.
SALVATION. This is summarized in the familiar verses on salvation,  Eph 2:8-9  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9, NIV84)

SPIRITUAL UNITY.  This second theme of Eph 2 is found in Eph 2:11-22    “For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:18, NIV84)

The chapter emphasizes SEPARATION and UNITY. Notice the following descriptions of separation and unity:
Believers are separated from a life of sin  “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,” (Ephesians 2:1, NIV84)
Believers are separated from God’s wrath.  “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.” (Ephesians 2:3, NIV84)
Believers are united with Christ (seated with Christ).  “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,” (Ephesians 2:6, NIV84)
Gentiles (those who trust Christ) are brought near to Christ.  “Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)—” (Ephesians 2:11, NIV84)
All believers whether Jew or Gentile are made one.  “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” (Ephesians 2:14–16, NIV84)
Believers are connected by Faith to the Father.  “For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:18, NIV84)
Believers are connected to God’s household.  “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household,” (Ephesians 2:19, NIV84)
Believers are connected to the Apostles.  “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” (Ephesians 2:20, NIV84)
We are connected as one body.  “In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.” (Ephesians 2:21, NIV84)
God Dwells in the CHURCH corporately.  “And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:22, NIV84)

God has saved us to be in unity with Him and with one another.  God loves unity.  Satan is the one who divides and destroys.

The Personal Aspect of our Connection to God
Here are three necessities in your personal relationship with the Lord.  In order to have fellowship with the Father, we must experience these three priorities
KNOWING CHRIST.
Eph 2:1 “As for you, you were DEAD….”
John 14 : “no one comes to the Father, except by me”

YIELDED to CHRIST.  John 15:5.  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, NIV84)

TIME in the WORD.
Our relationship with Christ transforms our lives (2 Cor 5:21).  But how exactly does that happen?  It happens through the transforming power of the Word of God.  Believers must spend time daily with God by meditating on His Word, the Bible.  This provides the spiritual resource for God to transform our hearts and minds.  It is through God’s Word that our minds are transformed.
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2, NIV84)

It is through God’s Word that our lives change.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16, NIV84)
“I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”” (Psalm 40:8, NIV84)
“Praise the Lord. Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands.” (Psalm 112:1, NIV84)
“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11, NIV84)

This transformation transcends to our families as well.  Times of family worship stimulate God’s work in our children’s lives, and create a climate in which they can be transformed by the Word of God. “The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous.” (Proverbs 3:33, NIV84)

PRACTICAL IDEAS for Personal Worship
As you begin this new year, here are some practical suggestions to utilize as a format for your Daily Quiet Time.
Our Daily Bread. Print copies available at FBC. Online available at www.ourdailybread.org
Word of Life Quiet Time. Available by free daily e-mail www.family-times.net
Read through the Bible. Various reading plans available at www.biblegateway.org under the tab “study”
Charles Stanley online devotionals www.guidelines.org

So, first and foremost, there must be an ongoing personal relationship with the Lord through a daily quiet time.  But there is also a corporate aspect of our relationship with God.

The Corporate Aspect of our Connection with God.
Paul emphasizes this in Eph 2:22   “And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:22, NIV84)

Just as the Holy Spirit indwells individual believers (1 Cor 6:19-20), the Spirit also indwells the Church as a corporate body!
“There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism;” (Ephesians 4:4–5, NIV84)

Our Witness is directly linked to our unity.  “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20–21, NIV84)

Here are some New Years suggestions to strengthen your walk with God.
Let me suggest three ESSENTIAL church activities.  These are a priority for every Christian:
1- Sunday AM Worship.  During our Sunday service, we experience discipleship in a Large setting.  We are encouraged in the POWER of Saints worshiping together!
2- Small Group.  Small groups provide discipleship in a small setting.  This is the best way to build spiritual accountability, encouragement, and prayer.
3- SERVE the members of the body (Ministry). Utilize your spiritual gift in serving others in the Body.    “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10, NIV84)

If you are prioritizing these three practices, there are some additional opportunities that you might want to consider.  It is not intended that everyone utilize ALL of these ministries.  You should pursue the ones that provide the greatest encouragement for you and your family in light of your schedule, spiritual needs and desires.
1- Bible Life Group (Sunday School)
2- Sunday night
3- Wed Family Night
4- Ladies/ Men/ Counseling/ Camping/

APPLICATION: There are two ways that trees grow tall.
1) DEEP ROOTS
2) INTERCONNECTED ROOTS
Tallest trees in the world grow by being interconnected.  The roots of the Giant Redwoods and Sequoias on the West Coast grow only a few inches into the soil.  BUT they are all connected together!

We too need to be rooted together to grow strong for Christ.