We Can’t Do Life Alone

I love to walk everyday…maybe even jog half the time and walk as I build endurance. But I have to tell you that I should be a lot further along. I have the best intentions and most days it gets done. And then there are those days where I can’t because I’m not feeling well or my schedule is just crazy. Then there are those times when my motivation is lacking. See, my exercise schedule and how hard I push myself is completely up to me. No one holds me accountable. I could tell you that I went jogging Friday but if I actually watched Sportscenter for the third time you would never know.

But, if there was someone that I was doing this with everyday, then I couldn’t cheat. This is intuitive. I’m going to be stronger if I workout with a partner. And so are you. The idea that you and I can make it alone in our walk with God is completely foreign. Here’s the idea: I just want each of us to get stronger in our walk. Do you know how we get stronger in our walk? We get more involved in church, particularly a small group, Sunday school class, Bible study, or service group where you can get to know people and be known by them without putting on a veneer or façade. Smaller groups really matter.

Now some people tell me, “I tried a small group but had a really bad experience.” I’ve had bad experiences at restaurants too but that doesn’t mean I stop going to restaurants. I might not go back to that particular one, but I still eat out.

I challenge you to get in one if you’re not already. Do you know why? Because Hebrews 10:23-25 says, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur 1one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another —& all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

I’ve been in full time min. for 19 yr.s now, do you know what the first step I see when people walk away from God? The first step people take in walking away from God is walking away from the people of God. Show me somebody who drops out of a church and the Christian community and  I’ll show you someone that’s getting ready to make some serious mistakes in their life. And some of you know that because that was your story. We are called to encourage one another & challenge one another.

That has been something I’ve needed and craved at both churches I’ve served. I’ve been part of small groups that met for a long time and I became close with people. When my mom died in 2001 I felt the comforting assurance of friends and the whole church but it was my small group that gave me the care, love and attention I needed because they knew I wouldn’t put on a veneer, a mask, a façade for them. They prayed during the whole ordeal and they knew more intimately what I was going through. So are you going to live in isolation your whole life or are you going to say, “I’m not afraid to be known & try my best to know others.” See, we can’t do life alone.

An Opportunity to become Great

You can want to use a crock pot or microwave or toaster or refrigerator but you can’t use them if they’re not plugged in. They’re not effective until they’re plugged in. In fact, until you plug them in, do you know what they are? Useless. Sitting on a table taking up some space.

Every follower of Christ , according to 1 Corinthians 12, God has gifted you with at least  one spiritual gift. There’s so much potential for you to do something great in this world that it’s not even funny. But Scripture says that we have to plug into the body of Christ, the local church. And until we plug in, we’re powerless to become all that Jesus has called us to be.

There are some people who love to attend churches but they don’t belong anywhere. That’s normal for a short time as you figure out which congregation you best fit into, but it shouldn’t be permanent. It’s foreign to Scripture that you could attend a church but not belong. And until you plug in, you’re powerless to become fully the person Jesus Christ has called you to be.

Everyone of us has the potential to do great things for God. Some people think, “There’s no way I could do anything great for God. There’s no way I could be anything significant for God.” If that’s you, you are in the perfect position to be used by God. You could do what so many others are doing in a Sunday morning service. Those who greeted you and will hand you your bulletin & communion on Sunday, by those who watch your toddlers & teach your children in Sunday school, by the audio/video techies in the balcony, by those who bring you music to praise God with. They’re just people who are plugged in. Every person in this room has potential for greatness in your life if you plug in.

For those of you who have plugged in and do those things. Those may not be the best places and ways for you to use your gifts. I would love for you to explore other avenues of service if you don’t find it fulfilling. But regardless, do you know how much of a difference you make? Do you realize that your smile as people walk in, that efficient control of volume for our ears, that beautiful voice and playing of instruments are all used by the Holy Spirit to lead people to places of commitment and deeper fellowship w/ God? You may not feel great, but then you don’t understand how God leverages our service.

I’m challenging you to commit to a local church because you’re too valuable to sit on a sideline. And if it’s not this church, then awesome. Get involved with a church some where.

Jesus said in Mark 10:43, when people. said, “Hey, I’m going to be great as people serve me,” J. said, “Nope. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be a servant.” Bec. saved peo. serve peo.

An Opportunity to be a part of something Bigger than Yourself

Anytime we go out and share the gospel, share our faith, invite someone to church, do you know that we’re participating in something bigger than us? Salvation is a lot bigger than me and you. It’s partnering with a God who works and says that salvation belongs to him in the first place. So whenever we go out and share our faith, we’re a part of something bigger than ourselves. That ties into one of our core values at FCC that I like to shorten to found people find people.

I like that Jesus never hid his agenda. Mark 1:14-18, “After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.” Could the world not use some good news right now? I don’t know about you but I just don’t watch the news much. Doesn’t matter if you’re a CNN or Fox news or local channel fan. If I watch the news tonight for 2 hr.s I won’t want to read my Bible. I’ll want to go to SAM’s and stock up on water, canned goods, and a shotgun because the end of the world is near. But Jesus declared the good news. That’s why I like talking about the good news, about hope. God sent Jesus Christ to die for my sins so that I could be made right with him. God loved me that much. We get enough hell from the world that we should come to worship to get some hope.

So Jesus declared the good news. What’s the good news? You can be forgiven for your sins and made right with God, have abundant life now, and eternal life with God. That’s good news. Why in the world would we want to hold that message in?

Back to Mark 1, “The time has come,” he said. “The K. of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “And I will send you out to fish for people.”

Jesus said that the natural by-product of following him would be concern for the people that he came to die for. He said that if we follow him, we’ll fish. Don’t miss this: followers fish.

I’ve had people say, “I’m not that concerned about lost peopled.” Then you’re not following Jesus as closely as you should. Jesus said that if we follow him then we’ll fish for people.

Jesus said in Luke 24:46-48, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations.” That’s awesome. Repentance and forgiveness of sins. We can turn from our sins, be forgiven, we have Jesus Christ in our lives and it will be preached to all nations. We’re here today because somebody took that seriously. He continues, “You are witnesses of these things.” That word “witnesses” in the Greek is where we get our word “martyr.”

I know it’s not easy sharing Christ. But listen, don’t tell me you love somebody if you don’t know where they’ll be spending eternity. There are friends and family that you know you need to share the gospel with. They are going to step into eternity some day. What are you waiting for? If you knew that your close friend or family member that doesn’t know Christ was going to die a year from today, would we just pray for them? Wouldn’t you find a way to have that conversation about what Jesus has done for you? I hope so. And here’s the thing: we don’t know when that day will be. We need to act with some sense of urgency. The best way to say, “I love you,” is to tell someone that God loves them. Somebody cared enough for us to make sure that we heard the good news. It’s not a secret to keep but a solution to share. Following Christ and being the Church, the Body of Christ, is bigger than yourself.

Wake up to Growing

Some are asleep to knowing, asleep to sowing, and some are asleep to growing in maturity in Christ. What does it mean to mature in Jesus? What does it mean to grow? Yeah, we have to have information. We need to know the Bible and what it says. But the big thing is application. That’s why 68% of Christ’s words were applicatoin. How do you mature? Most of us don’t need another Bible study. How do you mature? First of all, how many of you want to grow in your faith? How do you grow? You mature by serving. So don’t sleep!

Martin Luther had a dream one day of hell. He dreamed that the devil was sitting on the throne and a bunch of demons were reporting to Satan. One demon came up to him and said, “Satan, there were this group of Christians going on this caravan in the desert and I caused these tigers to attack and kill them.” Satan said, “That’s dumb. Because now their souls are with Jesus. That doesn’t do a thing for me.”

And another demon said, “Satan, there were missionaries on their way to this island and I caused this great wind and waves to hit the ship and it killed all those Christians.” Satan said, “Again, you don’t get it. I’m after their souls.”

And then this wise demon came up to Satan. He said, “Hey Devil, for 10 years I’ve been trying to lull this guy to sleep and finally he went to sleep.” And with that, Hell began to go crazy with a standing ovation because one person had fallen asleep. Don’t go to sleep. Wake up to the power and grace of God.

Wake Up to Sowing God

Some of us are asleep to knowing (as I wrote about yesterday) and some of us are asleep to sowing. We have to realize that our lives are seeds. If I plant corn, I’m not going to reap mangos. It’s just the law of the harvest. Whatever I sow, that’s what I’m going to be reaping. And if I’m sleeping, I’m not going to be doing much reaping.

God has given us these incredible lives to do great stuff for God and for our world. We have been given time to do great stuff for God. Don’t sleep your life away. Take advantage.

Did you hear in Acts 20 that the early church met together on the first day of the week. What’s the first day of the week? Sunday. Why Sunday? That’s resurrection day. I give God the first day of my week, that first element of time in corporate worship as I obey Hebrews 10:25. When I do that, God is going to bless the rest. I give God the first of my time, the first of my energy through my scripture reading, and prayer and God will bless the rest. I give my talent and ability to the Lord. As I leverage them within the church, God is going to take my talent and ability and multiply exponentially. I give the first of my resources, the first fruit of what I make, to the church, the first 10% of what I make to God, He’s going to bless the rest. It’s the law of the harvest, the law of the firsts. Read the Bible. The first born, the first fruits, the first day of the week, the first portion of everyday because when we give God the first, He will bless the rest. Jesus was God’s tithe. And look what happened. Look at the blessings because of it. Are you asleep to sowing?

If you have kids who are still under your supervision, you need to get them to church on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. You don’t know how much having a community of faith like that can have on them for their lives. But sometimes parents abdicate their responsibility to raise their children in the church and let them choose what they should do on Sundays and Wednesdays. Who is the parent? Who is the child? Sowing spiritual seeds in the lives of these children is more important than anything else because it has eternal consequences. And if you sleep-in one week, do something another week, skip Wednesday Night for another reason, what do you think will happen to them? I’m not trying to scare you. You just need to WAKE UP!

The cool thing is that my kids love being here. If one of my kids is sick on Wednesday Night and they can’t come, they start moping. That’s awesome! That’s a good sign! But some of our kids are choosing other options over church whether it’s sleep or homework or sports or whatever. The law of the harvest is going to apply to our children, and we are responsible. One day when we die God is going to look at us face to face and say, “What did you do with my church?” & many of us are going to say, “I slept through it.” Don’t let that be you. You’re turning your back on the only thing that Jesus built: the local church. Wake up!

And this isn’t about “our church.” I don’t care which church you go to, but you have to plug into a church family. If you can’t stand it when you come here, let’s talk about it. Maybe we can make some changes. Maybe you can make some changes. But let’s talk about it. Just don’t go to sleep.

Some of us are going to sleep with our time. Some of us are going to sleep with our abilities. We should use our abilities and gifts within the context of the church and outside the church to reach people for Christ. It takes time to do that and it takes talent to do that. God has gifted you and me to bring glory to him and to touch people for Jesus Christ. That’s part of sowing my life. So when I sow my time, my talent, I am going to be blessed. God is going to multiply all of that.

We all have different amounts of money but we are to sow our money in the church. I can’t make you do that. I can teach what the Bible says about it. I can ask. But I cannot force you. And some of us are financially asleep. You are going to miss out on some blessings in life until you get right on this one. People get funny when I talk about money. The Bible says that when I bring the first fruits of my income to the local church, when I wake up to this dynamic, God is going to bless the rest.

We have to choose if we want to be rivers or reservoirs? Conduits or do we dam the blessings up? So what are you? I don’t know what you give. I don’t want to know. But I do know that most Christians are asleep financially because\ surveys show that only about 5% of Christians tithe to their local church. God blessed you for the church and for the sake of the world. But God also wants us to enjoy the fruits of our labor. That’s cool. God said, “Enjoy it! But that first 10% is mine.” Some of you are asleep and you didn’t even know you were asleep.

Wake Up to Knowing God

A lot of us know about God but some of us don’t know God. What does it mean to know God through Christ?

Well, I talk to people now and then who are on this performance track, this religious thing. They think that being religious or being good will bring blessing into their life and that they’ll earn heaven. There’s a prob. with that. We will always fall short when we try to rely on our good works. The Bible says we’re going to fall short. The Bible says that the consequences of sin is death. The Bible says that we can never work our way into heaven.

I was talking to a guy who admitted that he was far from God and who had been raised in the church. I explained to him the gospel, about how Jesus had already done the work, already died for our sins and risen again. It’s nothing that we do. It’s something that’s been done. We either receive it or we don’t. And as I was talking to him, I said to myself, “This guy’s asleep.” He didn’t get it. It was like trying to wake somebody up but I couldn’t do it.

Are you asleep to Jesus Christ? Could it be that you have a “Do” mentality and you don’t realize it’s been “Done” for you because we’ll never do enough or be nice enough or be holy enough or righteous enough to have this connectivity to the Lord. It’s gotta happen when we admit the truth about who we are, turn from our sin and say, “Jesus, take control of my life. I receive you. I realize what you’ve done for me.”

Maybe you’ve said that. Are you walking with the Lord? Are you listening to his voice? Or are you asleep? Satan loves to sing lullabies. He can sing. And he especially likes to sing to Christians. As soon as you become a believer, “Come here. Come here. Come here. Rock a bye believer, in the tree tops, snoozing will cause your growth to stop. Ignore the alarm and stay in bed. You’ll never reach your potential you sleepy head. Don’t wake him. Shhhh!” Are you asleep to knowing God? God has a wonderful plan for everyone’s life. If we could see that plan then we would fall flat on our face and say, “God, you want me to do that much! God, you want to bless me that much! God, you want me to have that much adventure. You want me to do all of that, God?” We would be shocked.

So the devil’s favorite ploy is to get us to sleep because he wants us to be comfortable, relaxed. Yes, we’re comforted by Christ, but we need to be uncomfortable for him. We need to WAKE-UP!

BEEP!  BEEP! BEEP! The alarm says 5:14, Ephesians 5:14, “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

God Enters Into Suffering

God doesn’t magically dispel suffering, at least not most times: He enters into the thick of it and uses it to accomplish something in us, and often through us, that no amount of pleasure or success could ever produce.

Peter (in 1 Peter) enumerates some of the values God conjures from our suffering:

This may be a good news-bad news message for you.  The good news is that God has holy purposes in your suffering, no matter the shape and cause and depth and duration of that suffering.  The bad news is, as much as you want God to save you out of the suffering, he might have other ideas.  God is more intent in helping you to work out your salvation in and through the suffering than he is whisking you out of it.

He is out to perfect you.