Where does our community find God? That’s why every local church in every community is so important. The series we are in is called, ‘Finding God.’ We are talking about church, the presence of God and our role in all of it.
Last week, we jumped right into scripture. We read about a party that Matthew, the tax collector, hosted for Jesus. The church people of Jesus’ day lost their minds because, to use their words, Jesus was hanging out with ‘notorious sinners.’ When Jesus found out what they said, this is how he responded to the Pharisees.
31 “It is the sick who need a doctor, not those in good health. 32 My purpose is to invite sinners to turn from their sins, not to spend my time with those who think themselves already good enough.” TLB Luke 5:31-32
That’s a pretty strong response. Almost offensive. Jesus states, ‘My purpose is to spend time with sinners.’ And to be even more clear, Jesus said, ‘I’m not here to spend time with people who think they are already good enough.’ That’s code for: I’m not here to hang out with you. Wow. Can you even imagine how offended the Pharisees would have been?
Last week we said this is a stunning story because it completely shatters everyone’s assumptions about God. What do we assume about God? We think, ‘I have sinned and failed so God wants nothing to do with me.’ We think, ‘Because of my failure to be a good person, I should avoid God and church.’ If you believe that, you couldn’t be more wrong. What does God do? He shatters our understanding about Him. God enters earth in the form of Jesus and He and runs to a party and engages notorious sinners.
We said our community is no different than Jesus’ community. People need God. We said church needs to be about God’s presence. Our role is to simply be friends with people and bring them into God’s presence.
Today, I want to share with you the big picture of God. The story of God for thousands of years. I really want you to think about what we are saying today.
When Adam sinned, sin entered the entire human race. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. NLT Romans 5:12
God created a perfect world for us to live in. Adam and Eve sinned. What did God do? Did God hit the reset button? He could have but He didn’t. How simple and easy it would have been to get rid of two people. He doesn’t do that.
God does something remarkable. God doesn’t run away from the mess; God engages the mess.
23 Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, 24 God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. 25 God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. MSG Romans 3:23-25
That’s our reality. We are incapable of living a holy life, so God did it for us. When we believe in God, it puts us right with God. That’s for you now. That’s today.
So why doesn’t God come today and finally hit the reset button? Scripture explains:
God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change. MSG 2 Peter 3:8-9
That means, God could have hit the reset button last year, but didn’t. God wanted to give people more space and time to fall in love with Him. Do you have family, friends, neighbors and co-workers who don’t know about God’s love? God is showing mercy by pushing back the end of time. Over thousands of years, God has been pursuing people to love them, redeem them and heal them. That is the story of God. That is what God has been up to for thousands of years.
Here is my big point of the day. What God is up to, is relevant. And, I want to add, everything in our culture that we think is relevant, is only a distraction to what God is up to. Think about what our culture cares about, talks about, creates movies and songs about. Think about what people get passionate about. Think about what people get angry about.
Think with me for a second as I list the following areas. Area of money. Who has it and who doesn’t? Greed. Jealousy. We need more of it for safety and security. Area of Sex. Our culture can’t stop talking about sex. Sex out of marriage, male, female, gay, lesbian, transgender, celebrate who and how I have sex with or you hate me. Area of sports. Who wins? Who loses? What team is building for next year and all the implications. Twenty-year old guys playing sports, they lose, and it emotionally destroys your day the next day. How does that happen? Area of politics. The other side is evil. Be careful what news channel you watch. Fake news. In the area of entertainment. Much of what we create today we call new and edgy. It’s basically soft pornography with a story line. Think about the area of social media. Could there be more of a fake world than social media? I can follow you on Instagram and know all the highlights of your life. But, if I see you at the Giant food story, we will walk by each other like we never met. People get happy or sad based on how many people follow them or ‘like’ them. Social media is so fake.
Hear me. What God has been up to for thousands of years is relevant. And everything in our culture that we think is relevant, is nothing more than a distraction.
When Paul wrote a letter called Romans, he explained it like this.
19 …the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! 20 By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse. 21 What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. 22 They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. 23 They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand.
24 So God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.” It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out. 25 And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them – the God we bless, the God who blesses us. Oh, yes!
26 Worse followed. Refusing to know God, they soon didn’t know how to be human either – women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men. 27 Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men – all lust, no love. And then they paid for it, oh, how they paid for it – emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches.
28 Since they didn’t bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering them and let them run loose. 29 And then all hell broke loose: rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, vicious backstabbing. They made life hell on earth with their envy, wanton killing, bickering, and cheating. Look at them: mean-spirited, venomous, 30 fork-tongued God-bashers. Bullies, swaggerers, insufferable windbags! They keep inventing new ways of wrecking lives. They ditch their parents when they get in the way. 31 Stupid, slimy, cruel, cold-blooded. 32 And it’s not as if they don’t know better. They know perfectly well they’re spitting in God’s face. And they don’t care – worse, they hand out prizes to those who do the worst things best! MSG Romans 1:19-32
Do you see what Paul is saying? When we take our eyes, our focus, off of God, when we fail to treat Him like God, we become confused. Who God is and what God is up to no longer is relevant to us. We replace God with what we want. We replace God with how I feel. Over time, God isn’t relevant and everything in this world becomes more relevant. That’s why scripture says, we trade the glory of God for cheap figurines. We trade the glory of God for what we want and how we feel.
When the things of this world are more relevant to us than what God is up to, that’s when we know we made the trade.
Please hear me, what God has been up to for thousands of years is relevant. Everything in our culture that we think is relevant, is nothing more than a distraction.
I want to walk you through a couple of questions to think through.
Can you tell me what is more important than the human heart that connects with God and is fully redeemed? I can’t think of anything more important than that.
Can you tell me something that you would be involved with that is more important than helping someone connect with the love, the grace and the redemption of God?
When you look at culture, what to you is relevant to you? Is it what God has been up to for thousands of years? Is it money? Sex? Sports? Politics? Entertainment? Social media? What makes you passionately happy or mad? Is it the mission of Christ?
Please hear me. The story of God, pursuing and loving people is a story about you and His love for you. I pray that it is your reality. I pray that you have experienced being fully redeemed by God.
And this is why church is so important. We are joining God in what He has been up to for thousands of years. We come together and invite God’s presence into our lives. And when we have hundreds of people coming together who are passionate, relentless and unapologetic about joining God, that’s when the church becomes normal.
I leave you with a statement and a question. The statement: What God has been up to for thousands of years is relevant. Everything in our culture that we think is relevant, is nothing more than a distraction.
The question/s: When you are at a Penn State game, what do you see? What makes you passionately happy or sad or mad? Things from this world? Or the things of God? Things like, people who are lost and busted up but don’t yet know about God’s love?