Sometimes it is amazing the stories people can tell from church. One lady, I spoke with shared that she had visited a church, she had come in early unsure of how things worked, but finally she found her way to the sanctuary, took a seat in the pew. She was nervously reading the bulletin, watching the overhead projector, when she felt a shadow looming over her. Looking up she saw a middle age man standing above her with an awkward half-smile, “Excuse me miss, you must be new here, so you don’t know, but you are sitting in my pew!” She moved alright, for the EXIT!
My step dad often tells the story from about 25 years ago; he was in the leadership of a church in Nevada. “They had three young women visit our church several weeks in a row, and it came to the attention of several of the ladies in the congregation that the women were all employed as prostitutes in a legal brothel just over the county line. One fine day, a delegation of church ladies burst into an elders meeting to demand that they banish these women from attending; they were led by none other than the preacher’s mother, who usually got her way, if you follow my meaning…
The preacher, to his everlasting credit said, “OK Mom, I’ll throw them out if you can first tell me where they should be on Sunday morning, instead of in church hearing the Gospel.” That was the end of the uprising.” (Lifereference.wordpress.com) Both the band of mutinous women and the middle age man, had you sat down with them and asked, would have both echoed the position that they are disciples of Jesus Christ.
That is why it is so important that we figure out the characteristics and qualities that make up a biblical follower of Jesus Christ. Over the course of the last 3 weeks, we have been looking at the Building Blocks of Discipleship, revealing just how powerful God’s plan for transformation and restoration truly are. We started with what we BELIEVE, God revealed truth through nature and through his nature seen through Jesus Christ, we saw what we are able to BECOME through the power of the Holy Spirit, we were challenged to then BUILD up our conversion, family, and the church as a refuge for those in the world, but it is with a NEW MIND, NEW HEART, and NEW HOME—that we have to decide what we want to actual give the world. Do we want to give them more sad stories of the church or as we reach out to “love our neighbor as ourselves” are we going to give them something that actually allows them to experience the Church? Our cornerstone, the final building block, allows our transformation to start changing the story, focusing on BLESSING the World.
So we need to ask a really simple question this morning, if we want to bless the world, we need to figure out what we can give them that will bless them. What does the church have uniquely that people aren’t going to find at an Optimist Club, Bar, Lion’s Club, Basketball Game. What makes the church unique, relevant, even critical to the future of the world? Does community or being entertaining alone set us apart? NO. You can have community at a rock concert—matching tattoos. To bless the world, we have to go to what has changed the world, beginning with the…
WORD of God- (2 Timothy 3:15-16) The Apostle Paul was writing to his protégée Timothy who was probably in Ephesus to remind him of what he had at his disposal, as he felt overrun by the majority of people worshiping everything but God, turning themselves over to illicit sexual practices and foolish philosophies, (Does that sound anything like the world you live in currently?) 15 (Timothy) from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
Paul doesn’t take Timothy to spiritual gifts, to fire from heaven, or philosophy-“Timothy, just believe in yourself more-What the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve!” NOPE, instead he takes him to the special revelation of God’s Word! What you’ve known all along is the key to blessing others. He starts to lay out the how—the words in your Bible were written to change the lives of those in the world. Most of us like that idea—we might even quote the list of purposes: teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. Understand the implication; each of those requires time and attention.
- You went to at least 12 years of formal, full-time education classes, in order to have the basics for a functioning life.
- Your parents for 18 years disciplined and corrected you, in order that you would have the basic social skills and manners to function in a reasonable manner (so you put on pants when you walked outside or stop peeing in the yard).
- If you’ve ever had a job that required certification and special training, guess what it never ends—each year healthcare workers needs new CEU’s, continuing education units, each year computer learning labs, etc.
God’s word in the same way was meant for you to consume over the long-haul rather than just connect with over the short-term. Why? Scripture has the power to change lives! From infancy through the awkward years of adolescence to new life as a spouse and parent, through loss and greater purpose, the Bible is there to reveal God to us!
Don’t believe me? Let me share with you the story of Robert Valdez, 29, who you would have most likely only met if you were buying drugs. He spent most of his life selling drugs in the streets of New York. Today, for the first time ever, he earns honest wages working as a land surveyor–thanks to House of Hope of Alachua County, an after-care prison ministry in Gainesville, Fla., that houses converted inmates immediately upon release. “I would have gone right back to the things I was doing before if it wasn’t for this place,” Valdez said. “The most important thing I have learned is that without my relationship with Jesus, I am lost.” According to a recidivism report released by the Florida Department of Corrections in July 2003, approximately 40.5 percent of male inmates re-offend after three years of release from prison. This is in stark contrast to House of Hope’s recidivism rates–only 17 percent of their total numbers of graduates have ever re-offended.
This shouldn’t be a surprise. Jesus said it like this in John 8:31-32, “If you abide in my Word, then you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” There is where we have been heading this whole time, towards discipleship. God’s word which challenges the mind, changes the heart, rallies the spirit, brings life to the family, resurgence to the church, and blesses the world.
A telephone company ran an ad in the Yellow Pages which could be applied to the Bible: Born to be battered…the loving phone call book. Underline it, circle things, write in the margins, turn down page corners, the more you use it, the more valuable it gets to be. (Ad in South Central Bell Telephone Company Yellow Pages.) This is the most logical development in the path of discipleship—God is holistic giving us His Word which can challenge the mind, rally the Spirit, bring life to the family, bring refreshment to the church, and ultimately be a tool to bless the world.
How does God’s Word change lives? Imagine yourself as a device that runs on batteries, a remote or game controller. What do batteries eventually do? They run out of power! We by ourselves, like a device run on batteries, eventually runs out of power on our own, but this device can also be plugged into an outlet that it was perfectly designed for and then we would be connected to a constant source of power! God is that source that we need to be plugged into. It is a source of power that have led some to be clean, others sober, some find sanity. How insane would it be to go out and have to buy a cell phone or device each time that the battery ran out? Yet, millions of people run out for another drink, sexual encounter, cupcake, whatever it is, hoping that the next one will be enough, and it never is enough.
What you’ve needed and what the world needs has been right in front of you all along! God’s Word awaits! Don’t let a source of power sit stagnant, buy some real coasters, find another paper weight and dig into the Word of God—You’ll hear Crazy Stories—and Find a Sane God—stories you can probably relate to—in Acts—a young man falls asleep in church before the story gets interesting, in Philemon Paul writes overcoming a culture of slavery and class, in the Gospels you see Jesus in action, maybe you hit NUMBERS and the name scared you—you aren’t much for math, don’t worry this is actually a story of a fugitive people on the run in the desert, Judges you get to see people doing whatever they want, battles, and boneheaded decisions. In Exodus you can root for the underdog, on and on it goes, Poetry for the poet, wisdom for the thinker, adventure for the brave at heart, etc, but it doesn’t stop there through all the smaller stories, you get to see a story of God’s love to crazy people, even you.