So, I don’t know what you do for a living or how you spend your time, but I am reasonably sure that you have spent some or a lot of your time around people.  Well, I have to ask you, have you ever been around someone that just won’t listen to you?  You know, the kind of person that assumes they are just a little better than everyone around them?  That is not a lot of fun, is it?  Maybe you go to work and you just have that one person that no matter what you say, you know they aren’t going to listen or follow your leadership.  Ha, maybe you just are a parent to teenagers and know exactly how this feels in your home!  Maybe, you coach your child’s sports team, I have done a lot of that myself over the years, and there is just that one kid that assumes they are the greatest athlete of all time, probably with a parent behind them fueling that idea, and well, that kid is a real treat to coach aren’t they?  I will just say this, people get frustrated at coaches because they play favorites, but I will say there is a reason coaches have favorites, and yes, they do play their favorites because those are the kids that listen, work hard, and help the team succeed…there is a reason why the term “coach’s dream” came into existence!  Maybe it’s someone in your family that just walks into the big family get together and they just know it all, say it all, and leave you feeling tired, frustrated, and hurt along the way.  We see this in church a lot too.  Frankly, we see this type of person more than we would like to admit to it in church if I’m being open and honest with you today.  Hard hearted towards others, but just the elite of the elite in their faith.  You know, two weeks ago when I was talking with you guys, I brought up the different types of people that we have run into in our 20 years here at MRC, and then showed you how Jesus described those different types of hearts and people with the parable of the farmer throwing seed.  The person we described whether in your family, workplace, sports teams, or church was described by Jesus this way in that particular teaching…

Luke 8:11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is God’s word. 12 The seeds that fell on the footpath represent those who hear the message, only to have the devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved.”

I think we see this person a lot, like the seed that fell on the footpath, hard hearted, self-focused, and well, I will just say very confident in themselves.  We see this in a lot of Christians and I’m just going to tell you that mindset leads to so many hurts, so much confusion, and the saddest thing is over the years it has pushed many people who need God’s love, grace, and forgiveness away from God and the church because of the hard-hearted judgement and the ‘better than thou attitude’ a hurting person came into contact with from someone who identifies themselves as a Christian.  Which is heartbreaking, hurtful, and is the complete opposite of what it would actually mean to call ourselves a Christian!  When I say I’m a Christian I’m saying, “Hey, I’m a sinner, who desperately needs a Savior, and God loved me enough to give me that Savior in His Son Jesus!”  It’s not me saying that I think I’m better than someone else!  I mean all through Scripture we are called to love and serve and help others experience the grace and mercy of God’s incredible love the way we are…yet all through our Scriptures, and all through our lives we see people around our churches, and our lives who say they love God yet judge, think they are above others, aren’t willing to surrender their lives to Christ, and just aren’t showing the same love, forgiveness, and grace that we should.  All through Scripture from the Old Testament to new, we see the prophets and apostles, and Jesus pushing in on this very concept which is where we are headed today.  Let’s start with an Old Testament warning that leads into our topic today, this is God speaking through the prophet Hosea…

Hosea 6:6 I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices.  I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings. NLT

How powerful is that?  I want you to love others, not practice more religious rituals.  I want you walking in a personal relationship with me, and to know me intimately more so than to keep doing good religious practices.  Let’s go to the Message version and add some of the surrounding verses here just for fun as we get warmed up here this morning…this will tie back into our teaching today.

Hosea 6:4 “What am I to do with you, Ephraim?  What do I make of you, Judah?  Your declarations of love last no longer than morning mist and predawn dew. 5 That’s why I use prophets to shake you to attention, why my words cut you to the quick: To wake you up to my judgment blazing like light. 6 I’m after love that lasts, not more religion.”  MSG

God is saying I use prophets to try and wake us up, to see eternal things rather than the things of this world, because God is after love not more religion…so wow!  This gives us a lot to talk about for sure and I’m really excited to dive into Jesus’ teachings on the subject, but before we get too far into this today, I want to dive into what we are up to and our big truth statement of the day.  So, this is week four of our big conversation this spring on truth.  This series is called The Christian Atheist because we are seeing more and more people who would say they believe in God, without actually living like God exists and is part of their lives.  Really this whole conversation is on truth, and how we are watching the world and our culture pushing back truth, and wearing out many Christians, and churches.  We are seeing the world and our culture influencing the church more so than the church is influencing our culture which is tough to watch unfold and is leading more and more Christians and churches to adopt unbiblical beliefs.

So, this series really has centered around a study done last year by the Cultural Research Center of Arizona Christian University which surveyed 2,000 U.S. adults from four major groups: Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Mainline Protestants, and Catholics.  They surveyed them on a lot of different topics and the results are astounding, and was something we wanted to discuss with you, and to do that we are walking through the different Truth Statements, each Sunday.  So far, we have hit three truth statements with you that have led to some great discussions which give us a clear window into culture and our world today, so let’s take a quick look at where we have been so far.

  1. Truth – God is the basis of all truth.  Rejected by around 30% of Christians surveyed.
  2. Truth – The Bible is the word of God it is trustworthy and reliable.  Rejected by around 44% of Christians surveyed.
  3. Truth – The Bible is the primary source of moral guidance. Rejected by around 57% of Christians surveyed.

As we walk through this study and look at this survey, I think it really gives us a true look at culture and church and faith today.  I can’t say it’s a really encouraging look to see the reality of the numbers, but we are hoping that you are personalizing and thinking through these truth statements for yourselves while seeing just how much ground the world is taking in this spiritual battle here culturally against our faith, against The Bible, and against Truth.

Today we are going to look at another truth statement, and while the first three really focused on truth, where we find it and the Bible itself, today we are going to look more at a mentality of how we view ourselves and other people.  This is a new direction for the study, but one that has major ramifications for us as Christians and for those around us who don’t yet know God.  So here’s our truth statement of the day.

Truth – People are not basically good; we are all sinners.  How do you feel about this statement? Have you ever thought about it?  This is an important question because if you believe this statement to be true as the true condition of who we are as people, it leads us to the understanding of our deep need of God in our lives.  It means I am so grateful to have the gift of Salvation, and Jesus in my life.  I would also be very willing to surrender my life to God and His leadership over my life, submitting to His will over my own!  If I don’t believe this…well, I’m probably more like that person we spoke of earlier than I would be willing to admit.  I am just above it all, I’m quick to judge, and just not open to God, His teaching, or Jesus as the Lord of my life.  Well, we need to think about this TRUTH statement… Truth – People are not basically good; we are all sinners.  Where do you come out on this?  Have you ever stopped and thought about it?  While you think this through, let’s look at our survey of 2,000 Christians from last year and see where they came out on this statement.

Over 2,000 people surveyed said the following. Evangelicals 25% agree, 75% reject.  Pentecostal 24% agree, 76% reject.  Mainline Protestant 19% agree, 81% reject.  Catholic 16% agree, 84% reject. [Source:]

I have to tell you, when I first saw these numbers, I had to go back and double check it to make sure I wasn’t reading this wrong.  What we are seeing here is that almost 80% of Christians surveyed reject the idea that we people are not basically good…almost 80% reject the idea that we are all sinners.  These numbers are astounding and leave us with major ramifications for our lives, our churches, and those around us in need of God’s love, mercy, and grace in their lives too.  Is there any wonder then why so many people feel judged, hurt, and rejected by Christians when they show up to church broken, hurting, and fully aware of their sin?  Oh man, this hurts my heart, and gives us a lot to talk about here today…so before I just go off the rails here a bit, we need to tie into Scripture and see what it tells us about this statement, because while almost 80% of those Christians surveyed reject this statement the Bible does not.  Let’s start with Paul here in Romans 3, who by the way calls himself “The Chief of All Sinners” this is a statement that comes up almost weekly here at MRC…

Romans 3:22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. NIV

Paul says that we all sin and fall short of the glory of God, which is so important because it means we all need Jesus to come and do what Jesus came and did.  If we weren’t all sinners and didn’t all fall short of God’s glorious standard than we minimize and trivialize Christ and His incredible sacrifice on the Cross and victory over sin and death…and anytime we minimize what Jesus did for us on The Cross, we are moving into religion and away from God’s love.  If we don’t believe that we are part of the “all” in all who sin and fall short…I think it would be pretty easy to feel a little better than everyone who is part of the “all.”  Which just should not happen.

So, there is one more place in Scripture we need to go as we think through this truth statement before we dive into some of Jesus’ teachings today and that is found in First John and ties in perfectly to the idea and thought process we need as Christians, and once again is completely opposite to the idea that we are good and not all sinners.

1 John 1:8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. NIV

I am not sure I could make it any clearer than what we just read there in Romans 3 and 1 John.  Remember our truth statement.  Truth – People are not basically good; we are all sinners.  So, the question has to be asked, if the Bible so clearly let’s us know that we are all sinners, and if we claim to be without sin, we are liars who do not center on truth then why do so many reject this as truth.  We wonder why the church struggles to reach those who are far from God?  This is why!  We aren’t able to connect to the struggling and lost people of this world because in our eyes they are beneath us, which is heartbreaking!  Somehow, we lose sight of our own desperate need of God, our own hurts, issues, and sin.  When we do that, we elevate ourselves and can view someone who needs God as we all do as less, while losing sight of the fact that we all are sinners…we can judge, and cram their issues down their throats, while ignoring our own…without ever placing ourselves in their shoes.  We are called as Christians to do two things, right?  Love God, and love others…which sounds so simple and so clear but when we reject this truth statement it can block both of those two things we are to do, making it almost impossible to ever hear and accept Jesus’ teachings, and even harder to not judge those around us because we somehow elevate ourselves to a place that we shouldn’t…even though we are warned of this time and time again in Scripture.  This makes me think of the same statement we can find in three places in our Bibles that God gives grace to the humble, it’s found in Proverbs, then later quoted in 1 Peter, and in James.  I will just read it here in James 4…

James 4:4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?  6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.  NIV

Can I tell you something that is hard to do when you don’t feel like you have any issues, or any need of help or saving?  We started this talk by talking about those people that we deal with every day that struggle so much to hear, listen, or just follow leadership and I think we would all say it’s frustrating and hard to deal with…well I’m trying to help you see something here today.  This idea that we aren’t sinners that so many of us cling too, can lead to this same mentality.  It blocks us from following Jesus.  It distances us from surrender in our own lives to God and hurts those who are in desperate need of Jesus in their lives too, you know, the way we all need Jesus in our lives too!  It’s a devastating problem, created through pride, which we know really is at the very center of this sin problem we all deal with.

Lately I have been really focused on just how similar the challenges were in Jesus’ time as to what we face today.  I am amazed at how Jesus was teaching and leading through times that were so similar even though it was so long ago.  We talked two weeks ago about how Jesus used parables to teach as a way to try to penetrate hearts and get past all this religion that they are living in but it’s amazing how often He was met with prideful religion and people that just want nothing to do with His teaching.  It’s amazing how people rejected Him and just couldn’t accept anything He had to say.  I guess what I’m saying is our problems today aren’t new problems.  So, I’d like to hang out today in a couple of different parables and teachings that hit this idea hard.  Remember our statement of the day, that we are all sinners…which the majority of Christians surveyed reject.  This mirrors what Jesus dealt with and pushed against, and I’m just amazed at what He said and how they responded.  I can’t get over the fact that all these years later we are still dealing with these same issues even with the benefit we have of His teachings to live by.  So, the first parable that struck me as I thought through this statement is found in Luke 18…

Luke 18:9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”  NIV

I love this, and it is a sad story, but does kind of crack me up how Jesus presses in with this teaching.  We see two very different people going in to pray and two very different prayers.  We see a Pharisee, who would be the spiritual elite person of this time.  They would have been admired for their faith.  They followed all the rules of the church and knew the Scriptures better than anyone.  We also have a tax collector.  It’s important to remember that they were like the lowest of the low in culture in those times, known as cheats and hated by the people.  So, this is the scene, a good church leader, and a lowly mess of a person that would have been despised and check out the prayers!  WOW!  The tax collector comes in crushed by the mess of His life, humbled and in deep repentance broken over his sin asking God for mercy on him, acknowledging himself as a sinner, while how does the Pharisee pray?  WOW!  He goes down through all the things that he does so well and looks over at the tax collector and says and Lord I’m glad I’m not like that guy!  I think we can picture this moment and think, good grief, who would ever be like the Pharisee in this story…while thinking that way, we learned today that most of us (80% of Christians surveyed) are actually acting and living in this kind of mindset.  We often make out the religious leaders who opposed Jesus as the villains when we read our Bible, but I find it amazing how similar we Christians can be to them, and this survey backs it up, that most of us end up acting like them!  Remember our truth statement of the day and keep checking your heart on where you come out on this mentality…Truth – People are not basically good; we are all sinners.  Jesus tells us in this teaching the person who believes they are a sinner in need of a savior (he who humbles themselves) will be exalted by God…while the proud who believe they are above it all will someday be humbled.

When I think about this parable from Jesus it really mirrors what God spoke through the prophet Hosea, do you remember what God said through the prophet Hosea?  We were talking about this earlier.

Hosea 6:6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings. NIV

The irony to me is that the Pharisee would have known this Scripture and probably taught others on it.  Yet he sits there judging and with a hard-heartedness towards the broken and hurting man right in front of him while pridefully telling God about all his sacrifice and burnt offerings…amazing, isn’t it?  This is what pride does, and why we must think through this truth statement today.  Once I think I’m above it all, Jesus could literally stand here today and talk to you all day long, and you simply won’t get it.  In fact, Jesus talked about this in another teaching I would like to get into with you today and again much like how I can tie God’s words through Hosea to the last parable we can do it again here.  Remember how God told us He uses prophets to teach and lead us…

Hosea 6:4 “What am I to do with you, Ephraim?  What do I make of you, Judah?  Your declarations of love last no longer than morning mist and predawn dew. 5 That’s why I use prophets to shake you to attention, why my words cut you to the quick: To wake you up to my judgment blazing like light. 6 I’m after love that lasts, not more religion.”  MSG

Well Jesus tells us that while the Prophets are there to teach and lead us, it doesn’t mean anyone will listen.  So, let’s look at one last parable today because in a way it is Jesus really taking us to the day He spoke of in that last parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector praying.  Remember, Jesus said the day will come when the humble will be exalted, and the proud will be humbled, well that leads us to another teaching of Jesus where He gives us a parable on that very moment here, which should really open our eyes to the reality of eternity, and the concept of accepting truth…or not.  This one is found in Luke 16 and is the Parable of the Rich Young Man and Lazarus.

Luke 16:19 Jesus said, “There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury. 20 At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. 21 As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores. 22 “Finally, the poor man died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and his soul went to the place of the dead. There, in torment, he saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at his side. 24 “The rich man shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames.’ 25 “But Abraham said to him, ‘Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides, there is a great chasm separating us. No one can cross over to you from here, and no one can cross over to us from there.’ 27 “Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, at least send him to my father’s home. 28 For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment.’ 29 “But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’ 30 “The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.’ 31 “But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.'” NLT

I really wanted you to see this, remember Jesus said there would be a day when the humble are exalted and the proud are humbled…well here it is.  We have a person who had it all during their life in the days of this world.  Who seems to be completely distracted from eternal things while enjoying all this world had to offer and again Jesus shows us the opposite person as well!  A poor person, who would have been completely rejected by the world, and looked at as less all his life, yet now in eternity the tables have turned.  I could preach a whole other message on this, and hopefully will at some point but I want you to see that even from Hell, pride still blind this guy, he wants Abraham to have Lazarus serve him, he still sees himself as more…which, is just a wow moment for sure, but more than that moment I want you to see, that really should open your eyes is that at this point the rich person wants Abraham to go warn his family so they don’t end up where he is, because he now sees what eternity is going to be like…and what does Abraham say?  This is so incredible.

Vs 29 “But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’ 30 “The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.’ 31 “But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.'” NLT

I think we need to stop right here and reflect on that.  Abraham is saying, no, they have been warned.  They have their Bibles.  They have the prophets to listen to…and then takes it a step farther saying this…

31 “…They won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.'” NLT

Whoa, they won’t even listen to someone who rises from the dead.  They won’t even allow Jesus to coach them up himself.  So, as we close, I want you thinking through this teaching and the truth statement and the ramifications of the idea that more Christians reject it than accept it.

Truth – We are all sinners in need of a Savior.  When we accept this statement as truth we walk in humility, in gratitude, we don’t judge others but show empathy and compassion for them because we know they are just like us.  When we reject this statement, we judge, we become critical, we elevate ourselves and become the proud who eventually will be humbled.  Search your heart today and think through this truth statement.  Do you accept or reject the idea that we are all sinners in need of a Savior?  Take some time, think it through for yourself today.  Line it up with the Scriptures from the talk and the countless other places in Scripture that warn us of this very same thing time and time again that we couldn’t get into in a half hour discussion today.

Ask yourself how you feel when you are trying to teach, lead, coach, or help someone who is completely unwilling to listen or follow because they think they are above it all.  Double check to make sure that you are not actually that person to others, and most importantly take some time to make sure that you aren’t that person who is unable to surrender their lives to Christ the way we are warned In Scripture.

1 John 1:8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. NIV