I have three questions for you to begin today.
Question 1: Have you experienced God’s forgiveness? That means you lived with guilt and shame because you knew you had sin in your life, and you couldn’t do anything to get rid of it. That guilt and shame seemed to stick to you like cement boots. They wore you out. Then you prayed and asked God to forgive you and you felt God forgive you. The cement boots were shattered. The weight of your guilt and shame was removed. Your sin was washed away. You felt free.
Question 2: Have you experienced God’s grace? That means you looked at yourself and you didn’t like yourself. And because you didn’t like yourself, you assumed God didn’t like you. Maybe, at best, you thought God tolerates you. Then you realized Jesus lived as a human to take on your sin and wounds and you began to realize how much God loves you. And it impacted you when you realized, even though you may not like yourself, God is madly in love with you. It drives you crazy, in a good way, to discover that in the middle of your worst sinful moments, God was still in love with you and died for you. It is then, you begin to relax and allow God to love you. Like a crying child held by a loving parent, you become calm because you felt God’s grace.
Question 3: Have you experienced God’s righteousness in you? That means at one time you lived with the junk of life like, sin, fear, doubt, anxiety, depression, or rejection and you assumed that you were stuck. You assumed that because you felt stuck, you were disqualified to be near God. You didn’t even want to pray because you thought God wouldn’t listen to you. Then you realized what the Bible says. Because of what Jesus did, God removed those things from you and poured His righteousness into you. That means you are clean and pure. And every time you blow it, you go back to God and He makes you righteous again. Now you have a new courage to believe that there is nothing between you and God, in fact, God wants to be close to you. Now, because you feel clean and pure again, you have courage.
So, I ask you, have you experienced God’s forgiveness? Forgiveness makes you feel free because the weight of your sin is gone. Have you experienced God’s grace? God’s grace makes you feel relaxed because you know God loves you just the way you are. Have you experienced God’s righteousness? You know you are clean and pure because God filled you with His righteousness.
If we could put all that spiritual stuff we just talked about into a simple phrase, let’s call it “good news.” It’s the good news of God. He wants to give you forgiveness, grace, and righteousness. And if we could somehow communicate all that spiritual stuff with one verse, it might be this one.
The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. NLT Romans 8:11
That’s good news – right? The same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you. Actually, instead of good news, we should call that, “Spectacular News or Too Good To Be True News.”
I want to slow down and say this well. That’s why MRC exists. That’s the vision of MRC. That’s what we do at church. We offer God’s good news to the world we live in. If our vision at MRC could be put into one word, it would be, ‘Imagine.’
Imagine a church that wasn’t built on the likes and dislikes of people but was passionate, relentless, and unapologetic about going after people far from God. And of course, we invite Christians to be a part of that mission.
This entire series called ‘What is the Point of Church?’ was created to help us see Church the way God sees Church. God through the Church is offering the good news. He is offering forgiveness, grace, and righteousness to everyone who wants to surrender their lives to Jesus. That’s what we want for you. That’s what we want for our community.
The problem we have in the church today is people don’t view the church the way God views the church. People tend to view the church as a big faceless corporation that will continue regardless of the choices they make personally. They just don’t see their value. It’s the place people tend to ignore while things are going well until life becomes hard. And because we live in a consumer-driven culture, we tend to look at churches as options. The church isn’t the spiritual family that we commit to, it’s the place we are temporarily located until we are offended or something more exciting happens.
I think the struggle Sam and I have always had has been, we don’t look at MRC as an option or just another flavor. We look at it as the place that is doing the one thing that matters – going after people far from God.
The Church in North America is struggling because we don’t view Church the way God views Church. To prove my point, we shared statistics. Here is just one.
In 1972, 90% of people in America claimed to be Christian.
In 2020, 64% of people in America claimed to be Christian.
If the trend continues, they claim that it is possible that by 2070, between 35% to 54% of people will claim to be Christian.
That means, in our generation, we could see a country move from Godly to godless.
That’s what is happening right now in America. How is that possible? If God views Church as his strategy to share His good news, how is it possible that there is less attendance, less giving, less serving, and less impact on our culture? Think about what God is offering. Forgiveness, grace, and His righteousness. Think about how people respond. We are losing interest in Church and Christianity.
I want to read how God views Church.
4-11 God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful…
12-13 By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything…
14-18 I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, transparent and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.
19-24 But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, “Get lost; I don’t need you”? Or, Head telling Foot, “You’re fired; your job has been phased out”? As a matter of fact, in practice it works the other way—the “lower” the part, the more basic, and therefore necessary. You can live without an eye, for instance, but not without a stomach. When it’s a part of your own body you are concerned with, it makes no difference whether the part is visible or clothed, higher or lower. You give it dignity and honor just as it is, without comparisons. If anything, you have more concern for the lower parts than the higher. If you had to choose, wouldn’t you prefer good digestion to full-bodied hair?
25-26 The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.
27-31 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 1 Corinthians 12:4-31
God views Church as His body where He offers us the good news. To build His church, God places the Holy Spirit inside you so you can be a part of that church. That makes you significant. That makes your involvement important. You have been given the Holy Spirit to help build your local church. And as you serve, that is how God shapes and molds your heart. That is how God impacts others. That is how God makes His Church better at sharing His good news.
The opposite is true too. When you don’t serve and when you pull away, it has a significant impact. The Holy Spirit in you can’t impact others the way He wants through you. Your heart isn’t being shaped and molded. It makes it harder to share the good news with others.
It’s the most interesting thing. God created His church to be His body and it is dependent on you. However, as people get together to do church, we are dependent on the Holy Spirit to do things we cannot do. That is why we call it a mystery. And I would refer you to Sam’s talk last week.
Where am I going with this today? I want you to view church the way God views Church. And I want you to see how God is calling you to be a part of what He is doing. The challenge today is that people tend to pull away from being involved. Even after God gives us His forgiveness, His grace, and His righteousness, people tend to back away and say, ‘Well, I’m not worthy or, God could never use me’. And if you believe that, you couldn’t be more wrong. I want to talk about the struggles people have in joining God. Here are three very common responses.
First, “The magical moment.”
That means I am praying that God will anoint me, empower me, and give me the desire to do what He wants me to do. So, I wait for that magical moment when God will give me that desire to do what He asked me to do. Until that magical moment comes, I will wait and keep living the way I want. The problem with the magical moment way of living is, it completely goes against scripture. Jesus said this.
19 Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. NIV Matthew 28:19-20
What that means is, He is with us every day. That magical moment we are waiting for has already happened. You are fully anointed by God, right now, to make the right choice.
Let me ask you, when you were a kid and your parents asked you to clean your room, what did you do? Did you sit on the floor and pray and ask God to give you the desire to clean your room? Did you tell your parents, someday when that magical moment comes from God, on that day, I will clean up my room?
When God asks you to make a choice, you are fully anointed by God, today, right now to do it. The magical moment you are waiting for has already happened.
Second, “Tomorrow will be better.”
That means, whatever God expects from me now, I can’t, but tomorrow will be better. Don’t you feel like what God asks of you today just doesn’t seem to fit your life today? It’s almost like an interruption to what you want to do. And when you think about it, that thing God wants from you, wouldn’t tomorrow be better? Maybe when you are out of school it would be better. Or when you get married, then that would be better. Or when you get a more secure job or when the kids are out of school. And if you think about it, retirement would be best – right?
God’s invitation to you is to be His disciple today, not someday.
61 Someone else said, “I will follow you, sir; but first let me go and say good-bye to my family.” 62 Jesus said to him, “Anyone who starts to plow and then keeps looking back is of no use for the Kingdom of God.” GNT Luke 9:61-62
What has God asked of you? And did you push it off into the ‘tomorrow will be better,’ timeline? Jesus would tell you, at that moment, you are of no use in His Kingdom. You can attend church, you can pay your bills, you can get your kids to the sports fields and at the same time be of no use to the Kingdom of God. Why? Because God wanted to work through you and experience Him today and you pushed it off.
What has God asked of you? And did you push it off into, the ‘tomorrow will be better,’ timeline? God’s invitation to you is to be His disciple today, not someday.
Third, “It has to be exciting.”
That means, we tried Christianity and discovered it was more ordinary than we thought. And because it wasn’t exciting, we assumed it wasn’t working for me. For some reason, in North America, we just expect every God moment to be exciting, passionate, and filled with awe. It’s confusing because even after a quick read of scripture, all you read about in the New Testament, it’s filled with ordinary people who faced struggle after struggle with miracles in between. But for some reason we expect every God moment to be exciting, passionate, and filled with awe or we conclude, it’s not working.
Scripture even teaches us to give our ordinary lives to God.
1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. MSG Romans 12:1-2
I think one of the reasons why people believe that everything spiritual has to be exciting is because Christians haven’t been completely honest about their walk with God. It’s like the pastor who gets on stage and begins to act differently. Like a light switch being turned on, they are activated and they immediately change their voices, their tone, and their passion and they can get the Church excited. They talk about their times with God in such glowing ways. But, when they get off stage, like the light switch going off, they are deactivated and become normal and maybe we notice, they aren’t really living out what they are preaching.
The problem with that is, people wrongly assume, real spirituality is exciting all the time, passionate all the time, and filled with awe all the time and it’s not. Actually, the biggest spiritual moment in Jesus’ life was found when He surrendered His ordinary life and was obedient when He was crucified on the cross.
Much of the time, walking with God is ordinary. I would argue that a husband being faithful to his wife and bringing out the best in her is as spiritual as when God did miracles through Peter. I would argue that a wife being faithful to her husband and bringing out the best in him is as spiritual as when God did miracles through Paul. I would argue, your greatest spiritual moments are when you meet with God and no one knows. But we don’t see that, do we? Why? Loving our spouse is ordinary and behind the scenes compared to the big and exciting and sensational things. Meeting with God is ordinary and behind the scenes. It’s not flashy. It’s not going to get everyone’s attention.
How do I close this down? Our vision at MRC can be summed up in one word, imagine. Imagine a church that wasn’t built on the likes and dislikes of people but was passionate, relentless, and unapologetic about going after people far from God. And of course, we invite Christians to be a part of that mission.
Have you experienced God’s forgiveness? Have you experienced God’s grace? Have you experienced God’s righteousness? That’s why we built MRC. And now, we join together at MRC and offer that to everyone who walks into our front doors. That’s how God views Church.
What has been your response? Are you waiting for that magical moment? Truth is, that magical moment already happened. Do you believe tomorrow will be better? Truth is, you’re invited to be His disciple today, not someday. Does it have to be exciting? Truth is, if you are going to do it right, it’s going to feel ordinary most of the time.
It’s time to take the forgiveness, grace, and righteousness given to you and offer it to those who need God.