I ask you, ‘What is the point of Church?’ That is the series we are in. I want to share 10 things about church. Then I want to talk about what makes church messy. Church can feel messy because it’s filled with, wait for it, messy people.
Point 1. Church is God’s body [Ephesians 1:21-23, 1 Corinthians 12].
That means, church is God’s only strategy to offer hope, healing, and forgiveness to the local community. To prove my point, imagine a world where all local churches closed. Where would the community go to find God’s body, hope, healing, forgiveness, and worship?
Point 2. If it is true, that the church is God’s body, that means for us to thrive, we must have the Holy Spirit.
Sam explained, the Holy Spirit is how the first church got started. And because they pursued the Holy Spirit, the first church thrived.
Point 3. If it is true, that the church is God’s body, that means it’s our spiritual family.
It’s that family that you walk through life with. The good times and the bad times. You stick together and love each other as you walk through life.
Point 4. If it is true, that the church is God’s body, how we respond to Church is how we respond to what God is up to in our community.
Point 5. If it is true, that how we respond to church is how we respond to what God is up to in our community, that means, our choices matter.
You know the choices laid out in scripture. Love God, Love others, grow, serve, and give. Making these choices directly impacts you and your local church. Question to think through: If everyone in church made the decisions you made, what would your church look like?
Point 6. If it is true that our choices matter, that means God did something remarkable, risky, and maybe even reckless.
When God created Church, He made church dependent on people. Think about it. If no one showed up to church, we would lock the doors and go back into our jammies.
Point 7. If Church is God’s body, why is the North American Church struggling?
First, spiritual warfare is real, but our enemy doesn’t have to attack the church in North America. Why? As long has Christians don’t pursue God and don’t make choices to join God in the local church, we will defeat ourselves. We shouldn’t blame our enemy because we aren’t following Jesus.
Point 8. The church problem is people don’t see how valuable they are.
Because of that, people check out. They think church is like a big faceless corporation that will continue on regardless of choices they make.
Point 9. The North American church is at a tipping point, and we must decide personally, which way are we tipping the church?
Remember what Sam shared last week? We are in a tipping point in our church culture. Do we want surface, or do we want substance? Do we want emotions, or do we want truth? Do we want what our culture says is relevant or do we want Jesus said is relevant?
Point 10. Every time God moves, it seems like people have a way to mess it up.
You see this all through scripture. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve sin. The Children of Israel are freed from slavery, roughly 4 months into their journey, they worship a golden calf. God leads the children of Israel into the promised land, they begin worshipping idols. Jesus comes to save the world, the religious leaders kill Him. The Holy Spirit anoints the disciples and the first church begins. What happens next? People problems.
You probably know that thousands of people joined the first church and there was passion, fellowship, eating together, and praying. All of this was recorded in Acts 2. What people don’t talk about as much is what happened next in Acts, 3, 4, 5, and 6. The disciples are arrested and put into jail. Ananias and Sapphira sold property and lied about how much they were giving the church and died. Many people in Jerusalem joined the church, but it’s recorded that other people in Jerusalem were suspicious of the new church. The disciples were put in jail a second time but this time they were whipped before they were released. Let me read what happened next in chapter 6. Ready?
But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food. NLT Acts 6:1
What happened next? People problems. And that is what we talk about today. People problems in church.
We must start with this. If you aren’t in a real relationship with Jesus, people and relationships will always be a struggle. Why? Because we expect from people what only God can give. Let me explain.
In a relationship with Jesus, He does things in us that we cannot do. The Holy Spirit produces spiritual things in our lives that we cannot produce. Let’s start with what Jesus told us.
“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.” MSG Matthew 6:6
Then later the Bible tells us what the Holy Spirit does.
When the Holy Spirit controls our lives he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. TLB Galatians 5:22-23a
Do you see it? When we get alone to read the Bible and pray, as we surrender our lives, He produces spiritual things in us that we cannot produce. When we say things like ‘pursue Jesus’, that means we, over time, continue to get alone to be with Jesus.
As we get alone with Jesus to read the Bible and pray, we begin to understand that God loves us just as we are. That’s called grace. As we surrender our lives to Jesus, the Holy Spirit produces things in our life that we can’t produce. Here is the same list again but this time, from the Message Version.
Affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. MSG Galatians 5:22-23a
Think about this. Can you produce these things? The honest answer is no. One of the things that Christians do today that makes no sense is, they try to produce these spiritual things in their lives on their own strength. This way of living we call religious. That means with no relationship with Jesus, we try to produce spiritual things in our lives. We try to be more loving, and we fail. We try to be more joyful, and we fail. We try to be more patient, and we fail. Etc. We work hard at trying to produce spiritual things that we have no ability to create so we fake it. What is amazing is, people can live this way for decades. And over time, they become more frazzled, more controlling, more unhappy, and more critical of others. And if you point this out to them, it might end your relationship with them.
Before we move on, let’s recap where we have been. As you get alone to pray and read the Bible, over time you experience God’s grace. As you get alone and surrender your life to Jesus, the Holy Spirit produces spiritual things that you have no ability to produce. Why am I walking you through this? Because it’s the foundation to Christianity. It’s what it means to be a Christian. Please see this. There is a direct connection between a real relationship with God and the condition of our heart.
As you get alone with Jesus and surrender your life, over time, you will experience grace. And the Holy Spirit will produce everything you are looking for in this life. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Please make that connection.
Let’s ask three very important and obvious questions.
First, if we don’t have that relationship with Jesus, what is it that we don’t have? God’s grace. Instead of grace we will believe that God is disappointed in us. And we won’t have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Without that relationship, we have no ability to produce or enjoy those spiritual things.
Secondly, if we don’t have a relationship with Jesus, how will we view church, the Bible, worship, and God stuff? It’s a burden, a religious requirement. It’s a burden because we feel like it’s something we have to do while at the same time we never experience freedom or joy. We are caught in a trap. We know that we are supposed to have the things in our lives like love, joy, patience, etc. but we don’t so we try to fake it. Our way of living out Christianity becomes a heavy burden. That’s why John explained what real love of God looks like.
The proof that we love God comes when we keep his commandments and they are not at all troublesome. MSG 1 John 5:3
I believe it might be harder to be a person in church with no real relationship with God than not being a Christian at all. Why? You are stuck with all the information and knowledge of how you are supposed to live as a Christian, but you can’t make it happen. You walk through the religious requirements. When you see others, you have to smile and put on a mask to appear like you have it all together. You feel all the guilt and regret but have no freedom or joy. What an exhausting and defeating way to live.
Third, if we don’t have that relationship with Jesus, how do we treat people? As objects. As nice as we try to act, we see people as things that we use to get what we want. And, I must add, we don’t have empathy for people. We don’t care about them, their insecurities, their hurts, what they are walking through, we only care about what we can get from them. We end up expecting way too much from people and of course, people end up disappointing us. Our spouses. Our bosses. Our parents and leaders. People we go to school with. Our kids.
Jesus taught us how to treat others and it’s completely opposite of what comes naturally to us.
“Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.” MSG Matthew 7:12
We simply don’t have the ability to do what Jesus taught. We struggle to love people with no strings attached. We struggle to treat others with pure motives from a pure heart. We struggle to treat others like we want to be treated.
This is our people problem. Where did this people problem come from? Not being in a relationship with Jesus. Why? Because we expect people to do for us what only God can do. Please see this. There is a direct connection between a real relationship with God and how we view and treat people.
Now think about this. What happens when you take individuals and put them together in a bigger group of people? In a family? In a school? In politics? Or working together in a business? Or even a church? What happens? It’s a mess. Why? People are a mix of hurts, sins, and insecurities. That’s why companies have a Human Resource department. They had to create a code of ethics, an agreed way of living together. That’s why God gave the 10 commandments, like, don’t kill each other. That’s why State Parks have rules, like, don’t litter.
Imagine it if each individual isn’t in a relationship with Jesus. They aren’t experiencing God’s grace and the Holy Spirit is not able to put spiritual things inside them, what happens? The Bible explains.
19 When you follow your own wrong inclinations, your lives will produce these evil results: impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, 20 idolatry, spiritism (that is, encouraging the activity of demons), hatred and fighting, jealousy and anger, constant effort to get the best for yourself, complaints and criticisms, the feeling that everyone else is wrong except those in your own little group – and there will be wrong doctrine, 21 envy, murder, drunkenness, wild parties. TLB Galatians 5:19-21
Do you see the connection? When we don’t surrender our lives to the Holy Spirit, we do what we want. The Bible lists the things that will come out of us, and they will ruin our relationships and our community. Do you see it? No relationship with Jesus leads to hatred and fighting, jealousy and anger, constant effort to get the best for yourself, complaints and criticisms, the feeling that everyone else is wrong except those in your own little group. Do you see those things in the different groups you are a part of?
The problem we have in our country is a God problem. A huge God problem.
The problem we have in our marriages and families is a God problem.
The problem for our mental health crises, outside of real medical issues, is a God problem.
The problem we have in our schools, our workplaces, our community events, is a God problem.
The problem we have in our lives of struggle and fear is a God problem.
And to solve this problem, it begins with us. The choice we make to get alone with Jesus to read and pray and surrender our lives to God.
Imagine two churches. Both churches are on a country road miles apart. Both churches are filled with 100 people. The first church is filled with 100 people who have a real relationship with Jesus. They get alone with Jesus to pray and read and surrender their lives. The Holy Spirit fills them with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. They show up and ask themselves, “What is it that I would want here at church?” Then they grab the initiative to treat others that way.
The leadership, the worship, the things they try to accomplish have challenges but because they love each other, it seems easy. They are flexible. People visit and they don’t feel judged but loved.
The second church is different. They don’t spend time alone with Jesus. They don’t feel Gods’ grace. Instead, they feel guilt and regret and God’s disappointment. They are caught in a trap. Always doing church but never really happy. Because they don’t surrender their lives to the Holy Spirit, they don’t have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. So, they fake it. They show up with masks and try to act like good people at church but they go back home to their ruts and routines. Peter would call it the ‘old groves of evil.’ MSG I Peter 1:13.
Things are happening in the church, and no one can really figure it out. Things like hatred and fighting, jealousy and anger, constant effort to get the best for yourself, complaints and criticisms, the feeling that everyone else is wrong except those in your own little group. To get a handle on this, they work hard to keep everyone happy. Programs. Events. Small groups. Service groups. All of it just seems to fall apart.
Which church do you want to attend? Which church has a better chance to show God’s hope, healing, and forgiveness to people? What is the difference between the churches? People making the decision to get alone with God to read and pray and surrender their lives to God. The surrender and it shows up in their relationships.
This issue of people and church is huge. The reason people don’t go to church many times is because they were in church. And when they were in church it felt dead or worse, they were hurt. Denominations and churches are being torn apart over theology. People see the news and think, I hate organized religion. All of this damage is from people messing up what God did. How did people end up in this spot? They never made the connection. Their real relationship with Jesus directly impacts their heart, their relationships, and their church. They thought they could fake it.
I’m asking you today to please make those connections. Questions to close.
Do you see the connection between your real relationship with Jesus and the condition of your heart? Do you live everyday knowing that God loves you just the way you are? Do you feel like God is disappointed in you? Are the following things growing in you: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?
How do you view church, the Bible, worship, and God stuff? Is it a burden to you? Are you stuck in a trap where you feel like you have to do religious things while at the same time you don’t experience God’s freedom? Is this way of living wearing you down and making your heart hard?
How do you treat people? Are they objects to you? Are people objects you try to guilt or control to get things from them? Are you only happy with people when you get what you want from them? Do you have empathy for people around you? When you go to church, do you ask yourself, ‘What is it that I would want?’ and then do that for people? Or do you find that you are easily hurt and quickly feel rejected?
Do you see the connection? When you don’t surrender your life to the Holy Spirit, you end up doing what you want. Do the following things show up in our relationships? Hatred and fighting, jealousy and anger, constant effort to get the best for yourself, complaints and criticisms, the feeling that everyone else is wrong except those in your own little group?
Please make these connections.
First. If we don’t get alone with Jesus to read the Bible and pray, if we are not surrendering our lives, we will struggle to enjoy God’s grace. Instead of grace we might believe that God is disappointed in us. And we won’t have the Holy Spirit planting these things in our lives, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Second. If we have no relationship with Jesus, if we do what we want, it leads to leads to hatred and fighting, jealousy and anger, constant effort to get the best for yourself, complaints and criticisms, the feeling that everyone else is wrong except those in your own little group. And that destroys community.
Third. It’s that simple. If I don’t have a real relationship with Jesus, I will always expect from people what only God can give me.