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.
We started with the story of Jesus going to a party to hang out with what the church people of His day called, ‘notorious sinners.’ When Jesus heard their criticism, Jesus shot back:
“It is the sick who need a doctor, not those in good health. 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
The people in Jesus’ day are the same as people today. People need God. People need the presence of God. This should make us rethink church. When we do church, it needs to be about God’s presence because we need God, not more things to do.
We said, what God has been up to for thousands and thousands and thousands of years is relevant. And, everything our culture thinks is relevant, is only a distraction to what God is up to. When we do church, it is relevant because we are joining God in what He has been up to for thousands of years.
Last week we talked about the five decisions each person, couple or family needs to make to build a church that joins God in what He has been up to.
Love God. Live in an intentional way that pursues a relationship with Christ your Lord and Savior. It’s allowing space and time for His grace to impact you. “Greatest achievement of the day: when you sense God’s grace in your life.”
Love Others. To intentionally build a relationship with people who need God. Engage them, serve them, pray for them, be a real friend. “It starts at home and grows out to others.”
Love Growing. To intentionally grow and develop. Do something that grows your dependence on God. Risk. Lead. Serve. Read. Something. “The greatest tragedy isn’t our sin, it’s the life we never live.”
Love Serving. Be a person with the capacity to bring others up. Serve with courage and see that the ordinariness of the day has eternal implications. “Only in losing yourself, Jesus said, will you find yourself. There are things you discover in serving that you cannot discover in a book or a conference. Only in serving do you learn things like empathy, humility and purpose.”
Love Giving. Giving our first 10% to the local church is worship. It’s practically putting God in first place in our life and declares our dependence on God. “Test me in this and see if I don’t open up heaven itself to you.” – God
When you hear these five decisions, how does your heart respond to them? Do these decisions inspire you and bring you to life? Do you think, finally, someone told me how to join God in what He is doing and made it simple? Do you see how your decision impacts the local church and how you join God in what He has been doing for thousands of years? Do you see how that all fits together? Or, do those five decisions make you cringe a little and you begin to make excuses as to why they don’t really apply to you? How does your heart respond?
Here is what I want to talk about today. Did you know that each decision God asks of you is for your spiritual benefit? When you step into those five decisions, it shapes and molds your life spiritually.
Think about that for a second. For example, what kind of Dad do you want raising you? A dad who spends time with God, praying and reading and walking away feeling God’s grace? A dad who lived in a way he built relationships with people? A dad who modeled for you how to take a risk in life. A dad who served in the local church? A dad who gave to the church and spoke often with you about the significance of that?
Or, do you want a dad who does none of those things? Disconnected. Discontent. Hight light of his life is a six pack on the weekend?
Do you see my point? When you step into those five decisions, they are for your benefit. They shape and mold you spiritually. Those five things have huge implications that impact generations of people.
However, what are we tempted to think? That’s spiritual stuff, I can ignore it. That stuff is only for church people and it isn’t relevant at all.
Here is the reality of life. We can live life at a chaotic blur. We can feel tired, depressed and overwhelmed. We might feel like we are in survivor mode. When we come to church, we see the five decisions and we can look at them as a to do list that we have no time for. Who has time to take those things and jam them into their already jam-packed life?
Jesus told His disciples:
13 Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. 14 The way to life – to God! – is vigorous and requires total attention. MSG Matthew 7:13-14
Jesus was saying, this is a whole new life to jump into. This isn’t a couple-times a month religious activity, that you may or may not get around to. It’s about total surrender.
We look at the five decisions and we are afraid to surrender our lives to God. We are afraid of what God asks of us because we would have to give up control. If we fully surrender, we wonder, will God will come through for me the way I want Him to? How do I know what will happen next? We think, I would give God control if you could lay out the plan and promise me security, wealth, health and happiness. But that’s not how God works. He is in control and we can fight Him or surrender to Him.
It leaves us in a frozen state because we want to stay in control. We want a religion that makes sense. We don’t want a relationship that might lead us into the unknown. We might dip our toe into the water, but we don’t fully jump in like Peter jumping out of the boat to walk on water.
When we stay in control, we come to God when we need Him. We attend church when we can. We try to be good people. We can become people who have lots of information about God, but God’s love doesn’t always show up in our relationships. What is worse, we don’t really feel connected or close to God. We can settle for a religious activity that makes us feel okay. We wouldn’t describe our relationship with God as passionate or meaningful.
Did you know that each decision God asks of you is for your spiritual benefit? It’s not a religion you are walking into, it’s a relationship.
Why love God? Because that is how God anoints us with the Holy Spirit. To not be alone with God means we aren’t walking with the Holy Spirit every day.
Why love others? Because how we love others is the indicator of our heart condition. To pull away from others in hopes that we protect ourselves means we put ourselves in a prison of loneliness. Our heart wasn’t built to be alone.
Why love growing? Because a life of faith overcomes fear. To always do what is the easiest, to be passive in life means fear will always push us into a small life.
Why love serving? Because it’s the best way to experience empathy, humility and purpose. To not serve means you might struggle to experience the most powerful emotions that would bring healing and joy to you.
Why love giving? Because giving ends our love affair with greed. To not give like God asks us to give might lead us to believe, “We need more money not more of God.”
Did you know that each decision God asks of you is for your spiritual benefit?
That’s why Jesus said to His disciples:
24 If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me. 25 If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life. 26 And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process? Is anything worth more than your soul? NLT Matthew 16:24-27
Did you see the promise of Jesus? If you surrender your life to Christ, you will find true life. Do you believe that?
I must ask you, how is your life? Are you trying to stay in control and hold onto your life and at the same time wondering why you can’t find true life?
Maybe you feel lukewarm about God. Maybe you don’t really care. You’re not against God, but you don’t really see the need to surrender to God. That’s a dangerous place to be. If you want to break out of your indifference, you need to give your life to God.
This is the tension of following Christ. It’s called surrender. It comes down to what you believe. Do you believe, to find true life, you must stay in control? Or, do you believe that following Jesus, giving up control, would lead you to true life?
I want you to see the connection and then close with a few questions.
The connection is this. What God has been up to for thousands of years is redeeming people. We call it the ‘God Story.’ We see this when God entered earth in the form of Jesus. He ran to the notorious sinner to love them. It’s a picture for us today. Church is about God and God’s presence to redeem us all.
To join God in what He has been doing for thousands of years, we do church. What is required to do church well is that each person, couple or family would fully engage church. It’s not to keep us busy with activity. Not for religions events to make us feel better. But for God’s presence.
Imagine one hundred people deciding to fully surrender to God to lead them. They look forward to the next visitor to share God’s grace with them. Now imagine a church of one hundred people deciding to stay in control and settling for religious events. They tend to weigh and measure each other. Which church would you attend? Which church is filled with God’s redemptive presence?
My questions for you. Who is God to you? What church do you want to attend? What role do you want God to play in your life? Do you want to fully surrender to a relationship with God?