Here in 2023, we have been in a conversation that is centering around one very specific question, it’s a question many people have been asking themselves over the last couple of years.  What’s the point of church?  It’s a good question, and one that many people are wrestling with these days and I believe at this point of the series we are starting to understand just how essential the church really is to us, and to those around us who don’t yet know God.  You know there have been some concepts that we have discussed that can really open us up to some incredible truths and hopefully new ways of seeing our faith as individuals and really as a church community.  We talked early on in this series, about how we humans should view the church, and that was that we should see and view the church as our spiritual family.  This is a different mindset and mentality, isn’t it?  To view and treat the church as my family, means I would treat it very differently!  It wouldn’t be a resource I take from, or something I hope someone else takes care of, no, it would matter to me!  I would love, bring support and strength to it and stick with it even if it’s messy at times, or if it isn’t going the way I would like all the time!  And I would add, this mindset wasn’t a way for me to spin some PR or advertising campaign to get you to do things around the church, it comes right from God’s Word.

1 Timothy 3:15 …I want you to know how people who are members of God’s family must live. God’s family is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. GWT

When I see the church and view it as my spiritual family, I would treat it very differently wouldn’t I?  We have also continued to look at how God views the church…and I want us to take a moment here, because Ken has made a statement in every one of his talks with us so far, have you picked up on it? Now we need to think about this, if he keeps on repeating it, he is trying to show us something that is very important.  He keeps saying, “the church IS God’s body.”  Every talk he has brought this up.  The fact that it’s been on repeat means it must be very important!  And once again I would add, this isn’t something a Pastor made up to twist our arms into doing things around the church, this also comes right from God’s word.

Ephesians 1:21-23 The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence. MSG

1 Corinthians 12:25,27 The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church… 27 You are Christ’s body – that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your “part” mean anything. MSG

Ok, so let’s stop and talk…what does this statement mean to you?  It’s been repeated in pretty much every conversation we have had in this series, so it must be important…so what does it mean to you?  Well, in a world where so many of us wonder if we matter, if we have purpose or any value at all, this is an essential question and massive thought.  You are part of something bigger, something so important, because eternal destinies are at stake.  Your life has a greater purpose, and plan, and you matter and are essential to it!  The church is God’s plan to redeem people, to give hope to the hopeless, and to help us walk in our true identity as people!  Isn’t that something we all crave and want?  But why is it so hard to see, or accept that fact that we could matter this much to God?  You are essential…and I would like us to look very practically at how important you actually are to God’s plan to redeem people on this planet.

This is so important; how do you view the church?  Is it your Spiritual Family?  Do you understand the enormity of the statement that the church IS God’s body, and just how essential you are to that as an individual?  Do you see the ramifications of engaging and investing into the church?  Do you see it?

You know, the Christian life is just that, it’s a way of life.  It’s more than the words you say, and where you spend your time on a Sunday morning.  It’s a way to live your life, centered and focused on God, fully surrendered to God with Him as the number one priority of your life.  Which ironically is the only way we will ever find everything we want, and desire in the deepest parts of who we are as people, in the deepest cravings of our hearts, minds, and souls…but none of that ever takes place, without some very practical choices that we need to make individually.  Now, if you really step back and look at the church, God’s Body, which is His plan to redeem the world, it’s wild to think that it all boils down to individuals, making individual choices in their life to allow Him in, to pursue God and allow His Spirit to overflow in and out of us, then as a group of individuals making those choices comes together, the body operates at full efficiency and no other way.  It will never matter how exciting the lighting or visuals are at your church, or what the style of music is at your church, or how engaging the speaker is at your church, without real people making real choices to follow God into a life led by His Spirit it will stay an empty exercise.  The church can make, create, and build all the programs, and experiences, and events possible to lead you to that life we all want, but in the end, It’s all about our individual choices.  What an incredible way of thinking, how each of us individual makes something bigger and greater than ourselves…this makes me think of a type of painting or artwork called “Pointillism” where you use individual dots on a page, which are nothing, but put together and working alongside all the other dots become something just amazing…check this out…

The last time I was here with you, we were taking an honest look at culture and the world we live in and where the church does, or doesn’t fit into culture and the world these days.  We talked about the year 2023 as the tipping point of which direction the church will go, as the world, the people of it, and our culture pulls harder and harder on the church to get us over that tipping point and looking and acting just like them.  The hope was that we start to see that the tension you and I feel individually between God and this world, is actually the same tensions that the church feels between staying anchored in its primary function of pursuing the Holy Spirit, and rallying around Jesus Christ, and everything and anything the world can try to pull the church into that wouldn’t be this primary function that would allow the church to flourish.  Well I believe that has led us into some important Scriptures that we must all wrestle with that have come out in these last two conversations with Ken and I.  When we were talking about the tipping point, we focused in on an important Scripture, that I believe all humans have to wrestle with in their lives…do you remember what it was?

John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one can come to the Father except through me.” NLT

That was an important moment, where we did some crowd participation, and you guys told me that the place where everything we want, need, desire, and crave as humans can only be found in one place…God…do you remember?  You told me that it is only found in God.  Then we went back to Jesus’ words and you told me that you believe them to be true…that Jesus is the only way to get to God, which you said is where everything you need, want, and truly desire is found.  That felt like a big moment, didn’t it?  Just to say it out loud right here in our Spiritual Family.  Every human has this craving, this deep yearning in their heart and soul for fulfillment, inside them which God wired into us, He did this so we would be drawn to Him…and we all agreed, that it can only be filled by God…and the only way to God is through Jesus.  Which is so big, but can I ask you…what happened when you left that Sunday morning experience?  What daily choices did you make?  Did you leave that moment, and choose to spend time with Jesus on a daily basis so that you could find that fulfillment in life that you said is found in God through Jesus or did you choose to continue to do life your own way?

Last week Ken began to walk us through what happened to the church as humans started to pick at it in the book of Acts.  Remember, we see this glimpse early on in the book of Acts of Church in its purest form, but then just like we humans did with what could have been in Genesis, we get involved and mess things up as our selfish desires and needs push and pull on our own faith individually, well as it does to us individually so it does with the church.  Ken took us to another essential Scripture, and to what truly becomes the key to life, to our faith, and to our churches…and it comes in the choice to spend time with God which we know, and you told me the week before is where everything you need is found.  Do you remember the Scripture that Ken took us too?  It’s another essential one that we need to slow down and wrestle with…because it’s in this choice that we find the key to life, to our faith, and to our Churches.

Matthew 6:6 “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

If you aren’t in a real relationship with Jesus, if you don’t make the choice to spend time with God, people and relationships will always be a struggle, life will never make sense and we will spend our lives searching for something that we will NEVER find.  Why?  Because we aren’t looking where we should for fulfillment in life, and quite frankly, we know it.  Then we end up expecting people and things of this world to produce what only God can in our lives.  Last week, Ken said that in a relationship with Jesus, He does things in us that we cannot do.  As we make the individual choice to get alone with God and are just ourselves with Him…something really important happens…over time we will experience a shift in focus.  This shift is essential, because your focus shifts away from you and onto God, and then and only then will you truly experience God’s grace and have your heart and mind opened to the very life Jesus told you He came to provide for you all along, that abundant life to the full that we all want, and can’t understand why we never seem to find it, we get frustrated because we just aren’t experiencing it…which is interesting, because we saw, and agreed with Ken last week, we will not experience any of what we want without this essential shift in focus, off of us and onto God…which all starts with a daily choice, to spend time alone with Your Heavenly Father, where over time He becomes bigger and bigger in your life and you and the issues and distractions of this world become smaller and smaller.  So, can I ask you, when you left that Sunday morning experience, what choices did you make?  If you weren’t spending time with God before, did you choose to spend time with Him after hearing those words and agreeing with them?  What did your week look like?  What practical choices did you make that allowed you to engage God?  This is so important…because you told me two weeks ago the answer to everything you need in life is found in God and last week you agreed with Ken, that it’s in those choices you make individually that would allow you to find the key to everything in your life, your faith, and even here at church…so the question has to be asked, what did your week look like?  What choices did you make?

I want you to think about this, what does it mean to be a Christian?  Is it about where you spend your time on Sunday mornings, or what you project image wise or post on your social media, or could it be the true answer to everything in life?  For the last two weeks we have engaged two Scriptures that every human must wrestle with, and make our own choice with, so what is changing in your life as you sit in these thoughts.  That God truly is the answer to all fulfillment and life, and the only way to God is through Jesus…and that by choosing to get alone with God and just being ourselves, we will experience a shift in focus (off of us and onto Him) that must take place if we are to ever experience God in our lives the way we all desire in the deepest parts of who we are.  These are individual choices with implications far beyond anything our human eyes could possibly fathom…so what individual choices are you making?

So, all of what we just talked about is pretty powerful stuff.  We like to make things super complicated and overly difficult, but so much of this comes down to very simple, practical choices that we either are or are not making.  I would probably argue it comes down to one specific choice that centers on the word surrender, but let’s keep talking here.  It’s interesting, we tend to make this spiritual stuff really complex…we know that Jesus said, it wasn’t…remember this?

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” NIV

So it’s interesting how complicated we make this life with Christ even if Jesus says it’s easy and light…many people have many reasons why they can’t make these choices.  Some will get Spiritual and talk about spiritual warfare.  Some will talk about personality types and bring up the fact that it is easier for some to stay focused and self-disciplined than it could ever be for me.  Some talk about how much busier they are than others, you know they work harder and are more important than others who must have the time to spend with God…but in the end, it’s all just excuses.  And a choice is being made, which is the choice to live for me, instead of making the choice to live for God.  The tragedy is how far reaching the ramifications of that choice actually are.  That choice doesn’t just affect us as individuals, but then because we aren’t choosing God, it affects everyone around us, and also weakens God’s body.  Regardless of how complicated we would like this to be, it’s really one choice that leads to our action or inaction in our faith, That choice is, will I continue to live for me, or choose to live for God…I know, we don’t want it to be this simple, but it is.

Today we have a challenging topic, we are to be talking about how to unleash God in our lives, and we have been looking at the impact that our individual choices have on us, on everyone around us, and to the church, God’s body as well.  I know in the world we live in today, we are really drawn to quick fixes, and self-help, and are often looking for the 5 to 10 step plan to success, or health, or just asking for some tips and techniques to live our best lives.  Well, the issue with that is Jesus said this…

Matthew 7:13 “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

Listen, I get the draw to the quick fix or self-help, but I can’t give you that next great 10 Step Plan to give you your best life, because in the end, it all comes down to the choice you make, to live for God or to live for yourselves.  So, my goal today is to show you how to unleash God in your life and live this awesome life and life to the fullest, your best life…so here’s my statement.

You can’t.  God can.  But You Have to Let Him.

So how do you receive what I just said?  Is that disappointing?  Do you agree with this statement?  I mean, there has to be some sort of tip or technique that I could use to unleash God in my life?  What if it’s how I pray?  Maybe the position I pray in or just some order of the words I speak in prayer that will unleash God in me?  What if it’s how I hold my hands during worship on Sunday mornings, or how I post on Social Media?  Maybe it’s just to be nicer, smile more, and be more positive to others?  There must be something Sam, you can’t just say that I can’t, God can, and I need to let Him!  I mean, give me something tangible that I can go and do!  Well, if you are paying attention, and can hear me, I am…and quite frankly that is all we do here at MRC week after week, year after year, is give you something to go and do…the bigger question is what you choose to do with it.  What you need to go and do, is make the choice to live for God, who two weeks ago you told me was the answer to everything you need and want in life.  You also agreed with me that the only way to Him is through Jesus Christ.  Last week Ken came right back to it, and told you that Jesus does things in us that we cannot, so we have to choose to live for Him, because without the shift in focus…week after week, year after year, and whether you realize it or not, you are making a choice with your life each day.  When we ignore the choice to live for God and choose to live for ourselves we will always be looking for tips and techniques and never experience life with God as it could be.  So with the time we have left, I want to show you another one of these words from Jesus that each and every one of us must wrestle with.

John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 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. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. 9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. NIV

I know, if you have spent any length of time around church you have heard this Scripture before.  But let’s get into this.  Remember our individual choices have massive implications in our lives and in those around us…and what is Jesus saying here?  Let’s dive into this and talk for a bit and once again, I’m going to ask for crowd participation.

Vs 1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” NIV

Jesus says that He is the true vine, and God is the gardener who cuts off the branches that don’t bear fruit, and also prunes the ones that do bear fruit so they can be even more fruitful.  Well, we have heard of this idea of bearing fruit or a product of our lives before haven’t we?  So help me here, this is a two word answer…

What produces this fruit in me?  It’s the H________ S_________. (God in Us!)

This fruit is the product of The Holy Spirit in our lives, God in us.  And what did Ken say last week?  We can’t produce these things in our own life, we can’t expect the world and people to produce these things for us…only God can do that.  We just look in all the wrong places for what only God can produce. So Jesus says He is the True Vine, and God tends to the Vine, and helps those producing fruit to grow and be more fruitful…let’s continue…and just highlight a few more statements here so we can really talk.

Vs 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 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. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” NIV

Ok, let’s really slow down and talk here today…what do we see and take from these words from Jesus.  Jesus says we must remain in Him and if we do, He will remain in us.  Now I want some crowd participation again here today and I want you to fill in the blank here…

Jesus says, “Apart from me, you can do N__________.

Do you agree with this statement?  Is Jesus the True Vine?  Do you agree that apart from Him you can do nothing?  Do you agree that if you remain in Him, you will find everything?  Do you agree?  Yes or no?  So let’s backtrack over the last few weeks…and bring us to the concept of unleashing God in our lives.

We learned two weeks ago, actually you told me that everything we want in life is found in God.  You also told me there is only one way to everything we want, which is Jesus.  Then you left, went about your lives for a week, and had to wrestle with that choice.  You came back last week, Ken told us the key to life, to our faith, and to our churches is found in a relationship with God.  It’s found in a very critical individual choice to spend time with God, because it’s only God who can produce what we need in our lives…and as we spend time with Him, we start to experience this essential shift in focus, off of ourselves and onto God, that is when we truly experience God’s power, His grace, and life begins to take on a new direction.  Then you left, went about your week, faced all that you faced during that week and here we sit together again today looking at how we can unleash God in our lives.  I mean that sounds awesome, and inspiring doesn’t it?  Then I seemed to throw cold water on an awesome statement by telling you that in the end when it comes to unleashing God in your life…

You Can’t.  God Can.  But You Have to Let Him!

Ugh, why does it seem to keep coming back to the idea of my individual choice?  I mean, why should I have to let go of the way I want to live, and choose to live for God?  Well it’s because there is only one way to everything you want, desire, and need in your life…and if we are honest, we know it.  There is only one way to everything we want to see provided for our lives, and it’s not found in people, or anything this world can create…and if we are honest, we know that too.  In the end, if we remain in Jesus connected to Him, we will find everything we want, and apart from Him, we truly can do nothing…and if we are honest, we know that too.  It comes down to our individual choices, how are we going to live our lives, will I live for me, or will I live for God.  In the end, I believe every one of us wants to unleash God in our lives…I mean we are here at church, we want it, but the reality is we have a choice to make.  Will I live for God, and allow Him to be first in my life, or will I continue to live for me and wonder why this God stuff just never seems to work for me.  The reality is I have no tips or techniques for you, there is no shortcut, or easy going formula to practice in your spare time to unleash God in your life…it’s a choice.  You can’t.  God can…but you must choose to let Him…or not.

So here we are again, closing out another Sunday morning experience, and which is typically when we really start working through some important questions to ask ourselves so we can personalize the spiritual concept that we have been talking about today and I want you processing this as you leave here and head into another week with ups and downs, and responsibilities, and stressors, and people stuff, distractions, and all that life will throw at you…and it’s one simple question.

  • What choice will you make today, and each day of your life.  Will you live for you, or will you live for God?  

I know, we want it to be more complicated than that, but in the end, if you want to unleash God in your life this is what it comes down to, the choice to live for Him…or not.

You can’t.  God Can.  But you need to let Him.