God, use me! | Dr. Chip Bennett

2 months ago

Many years ago, when I was in the business world, I made a change from one organization to another organization. Same industry. I thought that was the best move for me, personally and professionally, at the time. When I moved to the new organization, I was surprised, because it was the same industry, that they did it so differently. I had a hard time acclimating because I had come from an organization that was successful, I’d been successful, and I’d done very well and distinguished myself in that career. In moving to another, I didn’t realize there could be other ways to do things. So, I had a hard time relearning some things, but I can tell you that, over the years I was there, I realized there were a lot of areas that I could grow, and a lot of areas that I could get better.

I don’t know if you’re like me, but I think all of us can relate. Sometimes it’s hard to teach the old dog a new trick. Right? Sometimes it’s hard, when we think the way things are, to acclimate to something else. But all of us who are followers of Jesus, we’re all called to do that. We’re all called to renew our minds. We’re called to have a different understanding of life, as followers of Jesus. Sometimes that’s just plain old hard. It’s hard, sometimes, to follow Jesus. It’s hard to listen to what He has to say because we’ve learned certain things, know certain things, and to give those things up sometimes seems so counterintuitive, but we’re called to do that.

And I say all that at the beginning, here, because I want you to think about that for just a moment because we’re going to intersect with that idea all the way through the message, and all the way to the end. I hope and pray, this weekend, that God will really do something great in all of us.

So, we’re currently in a series called “Baggage Check.” If you’ve been here long enough, you know that whenever we’re doing a thematic type of series, rather than going through a book line-by-line — which we do. But when we’re doing a series like this, more of a topical, thematic series, I try to have a big idea. The reason I try to have a big idea is because, number one, it brings us all together, every weekend, under a sort of umbrella of what we’re doing. It’s also great, maybe, for those who have missed a week or two. They can come right back in and feel like they’re a part of it. Or if you are new, one of the great things is you can just jump right in with what we’re doing.

So, when I thought about doing this series, and called it “Baggage Check” — and I’m not the first pastor to ever do a series on baggage or baggage check. I know there are plenty of those series’ out there, and plenty of books on this. But I wanted to reject the normal way that this was approached because, typically, when we talk about baggage metaphorically in our lives, it’s a negative thing.

“That person has baggage. Stay away from them.”

But I thought, man, when I go on a trip, or when you go on a trip, what’s in this bag is important to you and I. Like, we want to make sure it gets there. So, what I thought was that rather than looking at this as a negative thing that needs to be gotten out of our life. I wanted to look at baggage, what’s in our bags, and in our life as a place for God to move. So, I came up with this idea that instead of looking at this as baggage is a problem that needs to be removed, which is a lot of the ways we think about this — and maybe there are some areas in our lives that need to be removed. But I wanted us to think of it as baggage is an opportunity for God to move. In other words, metaphorically, if we would allow God into our bag, the good, the bad, the indifferent, and allow Him to get in there and work around. With the understanding, as in every series that I do, to make sure that I was accomplishing something, and we’re accomplishing something together, to make sure that we have the tools, to make sure that we have the environment, whether it’s here, Wednesday night, small group, or whatever it is, and to learn the biblical wisdom and understanding to persevere, to make sure that we’re growing deep, as a church, and not just wide.

You know, I look around the world and see so many people leaving the Church, so I’m on this kick of trying to get people deeper into understanding who Jesus is. And sometimes it’s hard, and sometimes it’s work because we would just rather, just being honest, be told, “Alright. Let’s go.”

And everybody says, “Alright. Let’s go.”

Sometimes, when we have to deal with some of these really deep issues, it can sort of cut, hurt, and it’s stuff that we have to chew on. But it’s good because what I want to do is make sure that when I stand before God, God goes, “Hey, you did the best you could to build a church, in Sarasota, that was more deep than it was wide.”

So, we’re dealing with some challenging things during this series, but I think they’ve been good. Many of you all have commented that this has been a really good series, dealing with these issues. So, you’re clapping now. People online are going, “I don’t know. I’m not clapping yet. I’m going to wait to see where he goes with this.”

But I’m going to tackle something, this weekend, that is going to be a challenge to move and to think. Some of you are going to have some real things to think through. Many of you all are going to get free right away, but some of us are going to have a struggle because you’ve got to learn new things.

So, let’s get to work here. I think everybody would agree with this. All of us want a place to belong and feel our contributions matter. I think all of us feel that way. In fact, if you’re old enough, you’ll remember this. There was a sitcom, several years back, a really popular sitcom during the time that it ran, called Cheers. The theme song of Cheers had this lyric in it: “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. They’re always glad you came. You want to be where you can see our troubles are all the same. You want to be where everybody knows your name.”

There’s something about our wiring that really does want to be a part of something. And I think that’s the way God created you and I. God, in His essence, is a Trinity. He’s communal. He doesn’t need anything. He’s got all the social, relational, and everything. He doesn’t need anything. He’s got it all within Himself. But because He’s a relational God, and because there’s a Father, Son, and Spirit that are in this one God in three persons — and I know, sometimes, it’s so hard to understand. I get it. But because He’s relational like that, He’s created you and I relational. And we want to be a part of something.

But one of the things that we don’t do — and it’s okay that we don’t do it, but sometimes we don’t think through the fact that every single one of us, all of us, our souls, who we are, have been somewhat crafted, maybe entirely crafted, by the culture in which we have been raised. We don’t really think about that. We’re supposed to love God with our minds, but sometimes we don’t think about the fact that, “Yeah. You know, you’re right. I grew up at a certain place, in a certain time, and that influences me.”

Like, my whole life has been an experience of interacting with people and everything. So, when it comes to this idea of a sense of belonging, we carry, all of us, from different places, different geographical regions, and maybe different countries, a sense in which this has been shaped — not exhaustively, because there are many more things that would’ve shaped us, but things have been shaped. Our sense of what we perceive to be good, a sense of belonging, what it means to be valued and all of that come from things like family dynamics.

There was probably an uncle that you loved, and an uncle that, well, you just didn’t want to be around that much. Or maybe there was an aunt that you felt that way. Or maybe it was a mom or dad. Or maybe it was a brother and sister that you didn’t like. But for some reason, there was somebody in your family, or somebody that wasn’t in your family, or maybe it was a neighbor that you felt that they cared about you. For whatever reason, you carry that. Or maybe you played on a team, and maybe your sense of belonging and what it means to be a part of something comes from that. Or maybe you were a cheerleader, or in a program, or maybe you were in a membership or an organization, or a gang or school. Whatever it may have been, all of us have been shaped by the experiences that we’ve had, and all of us have a different understanding of what it means to be valued, and what it means to have a sense of belonging. All of us. What we sometimes don’t think about, though, is that with all of those things that we just talked about, we get to pick our group. Like, “Well, I didn’t like that group, and I didn’t like that person. I didn’t want to go to that family dinner, but I did want to go to that family dinner.”

Like, we already sort of had a way in which we learned our sense of belonging. We’ve got to pick our part. Like, “You know, I don’t want to be this. I want to be that.” Satisfaction is based on how we feel. Like, if it made me feel that I belong, then it was good. And if it didn’t make me feel like I belong, then it wasn’t good. And, of course, we left if it didn’t fulfill us. So, what happened is we all — you can’t escape it. All of us were there, all of us, experimentally, had this idea of what it meant to have a sense of belonging. At some point, if you are a follower of Jesus, somewhere in your life, whether it was listening to a tape in a car, whether it was a church service, whether it was a night of worship or a concert, or a friend, at night, in a room, you said, “I need Jesus. I’m going to follow Jesus.”

And you made that decision. When you made that decision, all of what you had thought, all of what you had experienced up to that point was still there, and what happened is — and you didn’t know this. None of us knew this when we made the decision. The night we said, “I’m going to follow Jesus,” or the day we said, “I’m going to follow Jesus,” we didn’t realize the second that we said, “Jesus, I want to follow you,” you were immediately put into a group. The body of Christ. Nobody probably told you that when you were accepting Jesus. They didn’t say, “Oh, by the way, as soon as you’ve done this, did you know that you signed up for this?”

For most of us, we call it the Church. You didn’t know that. You’re like, “Oh, yeah. Okay. That’s right. I did. You’re right.”

Whether we wanted to or not. We didn’t pick it; we didn’t choose it. It chose us. You’re part of the Church. And what happens is when all of us come in and we’re all part of the church, we bring all of those things that made us feel valuable, feel desired, and feel wanted. We bring them in, and there’s this immediate, “What’s going on?” because our old ways are supposed to be giving way to conformity to Christ. And it creates, in the church, generally, some tension because there are people that go, “No. I like this better. I want this better. I want this. I like this. This is what makes me feel important. If I don’t feel important, I’m going to go to another place. I’m going to choose something else.”

Because that’s what we knew. What’s interesting is — and, probably, you haven’t put a whole lot of thought to this, and that’s okay because, when we’re reading, we’re typically not thinking this way. Did you know that every single one of the New Testament letters, at some level, is dealing with this issue? How do you put a bunch of people in a room and do the Church? How does that work? How does it work to do what we do? What does it look like to be the church? And because, maybe, we don’t have a very good understanding of what it looks like to be the Church, maybe the reason people are leaving is because they think the Church is supposed to be one way when, in fact, it’s not. They might actually be leaving based on old ways of thinking, and what makes them feel important, rather than what makes the Church the Church.

So, when you read the New Testament letters, there’s always a problem. Always. You go, “Oh, really? The early Church had problems?”

Filled with them. In fact, all of them are certain levels, but the apex church, the one that got it — I’m from Kentucky — the wrongest — okay? They got it the wrongest. If they were like, “Do you know what? We’re going to actually have a competition to make sure that our church looks less like the Church. We want to win that award.”

That church won in spades, and that church was the church at Corinth. The church at Corinth — it’s the best analogy that I could come up with — was basically Las Vegas, New York, and Miami in a blender. What goes on in Vegas stays in Vegas. Don’t tell me. I don’t want to know. I’m your pastor. You were sharing Jesus — at the slot machine.

Anyway, in the first century, it was called to be “Corinthianized.” You could go there and do whatever you wanted to do. You could find anything you wanted to get into. It was a potpourri of excess and immorality and all of that whipped together. Well, Paul founds a church there. So, what happens is now all these people, with all these different backgrounds, and all these ideas come together, and it is a disaster. Paul writes to them and says, “I don’t know what you’re doing. I don’t know where you’re coming from. You guys aren’t spiritual at all.”

He says, in 1 Corinthians 3:1, “I can’t even address you guys as spiritual people.”

I mean, they’re Christians, but he goes, “I can’t even address you. Y’all have no idea. It’s not how well the speaker speaks. It’s in the power of God.”

1 Corinthians 4:20. He’s like, “You guys are so corrupt that you’ve got a man who’s actually sleeping with his stepmom, and you’re applauding it as if it’s something great. I don’t even know what to think.”

1 Corinthians 7: “Y’all don’t even know how to keep a marriage together. You don’t even know what a marriage looks like because you’re bringing in all your stuff.”

And then, in 1 Corinthians 8-9, “You’ve got these meat shambles in all these temples in Corinth, and you guys don’t know how to deal with that, and who God is I the midst of all of this.”

In 1 Corinthians 10, he says, “You guys need to pay attention because you guys think you’re so together, but you’re not. Take heed, lest you fall,” in 1 Corinthians 10:12.

Then he comes to 1 Corinthians 11, and he says what is a shocking verse. Shocking. It should just come off the page at you. He says, “When you come together, it’s not for the better, but for the worse.”

Can you imagine if Paul called in and said, “Hey, Chip, it would be better that you guys didn’t even have services on the weekend than to actually do it.”

I mean, whatever I had to do to get that right, it would be done right in that moment. Paul says, “Hey, I just want to tell you guys that when you come together, when you do church, it would be better that you didn’t do church because, when you come together, it’s actually for the worse because all of y’all are bringing in all your stuff, and all your things that you think are important, and all your agendas, and all the stuff. This is not the way it works.”

In fact, he says this. This is even more shocking. He says, “Well, there’s got to be factions among you. That’s just the way it’s going to be when the people of God gather together because they show, when they’re factioning off, that they’re not the genuine article. When the go around and complain, gossip, and say all the things that they do, they actually expose the genuine ones, the ones that are really there for the right purposes.”

And then what does he do?

He says, in 1 Corinthians 11:23, “For what I received from the Lord I also delivered to you, that on the night the Lord was betrayed he took bread, and when he had blessed it, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper, he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. As often as you drink this, do this in remembrance of me.’”

Isn’t it interesting that he takes a church that’s all dysfunctional right to the Lord’s table? What he says is interesting. He says, “On the night that the Lord was betrayed — because you guys are betraying Jesus in the way you’re doing church. I want you to think through what it means to really be a follower of Jesus.”

Then he says this: “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body…” The body is the Church. He says, “What you guys are doing is you’re having Church, but it’s not Church. It’s actually for the worse than the better. I want you to remember what you’re doing at the table of the Lord. You’re coming together because of Jesus, not because of what you think is right. So, when you eat and drink, take a moment and make sure that you’re discerning the body.”

He’s writing to Christians. He’s not writing to non-Christians. People say, “Oh, you can’t let non-Christians… He’s not even thinking about non-Christians here. He’s thinking about Christians. He’s saying, “Don’t do it if you’re not going to discern the body because what happens is you’re actually eating and drinking judgment on yourself.”

Then he tells them, “That’s why many of you are weak, ill, and some have died.” Like, when we do this wrong, it affects people. And we see, it in today’s world, maybe more than we’ve ever seen it, as Christians that have lived in this time. We’re seeing how not doing Church right is really affecting everything. So, as soon as he says that, he says, “Now I’ve got to tell you how to do it right. I’ve got to tell you how to be spiritual. So, concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed.”

I don’t like doing this, as a pastor, because it makes you feel like, maybe, what you’ve got you don’t have, and makes you feel like you have to go back and study Greek, which you don’t. But there are not two words in the Greek for “spiritual gifts.” In fact, the word “gift” is not even in the Greek. It’s pulled in because “pneumatikoi” is an adjective. Translators are trying to get a noun to pull into that, so they’re trying to pull from down in 1 Corinthians 12 where Paul talks about “charismata,” which is gracings to people to be able to do ministry. They’re pulling it in.

Really, what Paul is saying here, he goes, “Now, concerning how we participate or how we properly discern the body…”“Ton pneumatikon” is the Greek word. “The spiritual ones.” The spiritual things. In other words, this is how you should be spiritual. This is how you should approach the body. And, of course, we put gifts in there, and then everybody thinks it’s gifts. They think it’s a gift that He gave to you, it’s our gift now, and everything else. It messes everything up. That’s not what he’s really saying. And just so that you know, if you would read three or four different translations of the Bible when you study, you would realize that almost every one of them translates this differently. Which should then make you go, “Oh, there must be a problem.”

The NASB puts “gifts” in italics, which means it’s not in the Greek. Other ones say “spiritual persons” or “spiritual things” because that’s really what he’s saying. He’s saying, “I want to show you how to be spiritual. I want to show you how to participate in the body. I want to show you how you properly discern the body because what I don’t want you to be is uninformed. I want you to know how to do this.”

The word here is, actually, a joiner of the alpha privative “a-“ and “gnosis.” Without knowledge. That’s what he’s saying here.

“I don’t want you to be without knowledge. I don’t want you to be ignorant,” one translation says. “I want you to know how to do these things.”

Here’s what he says. In the next couple of verses, he goes, “This is how you know when you’re spiritual: When Jesus is Lord. When He’s the one that’s ruling what’s going on in the moment, that’s when you’re spiritual. When it’s about you, what you want, or what you think, it’s not spiritual.”

It’s when Jesus is Lord, in the place, when we’re submitted to Him. Because he says, “Nobody can say Jesus is cursed and it be the Spirit of God.”

You can’t act fleshly and carnally and call it spiritual. It’s not. Then he tells us, in 1 Corinthians 12:7, the most important part of 1 Corinthians 12-14, what it’s like to be the church.

He says, “To each [individual] is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” Now, this is important. Again, I’m not trying to get technical on you, but I’ve got to preach this message. I’ve got to get this message into our hearts because if we don’t get this right, we get what we do somewhat wrong. And I don’t want us to get this wrong. To each individual is given. This is a verb. Okay. The verb is a present tense verb, and it is a passive voice. What does that mean for you and I? What it means is the spirituals, the gifting, the charismata that happen are not something that you bring in as a gift, a talent, or something that you brought. No, no, no. Every time we gather, God, in the present, is giving you something, passive voice, that’s not yours. He’s using you and I. Every time we come together, we have an opportunity to be used by God, for God to manifest His Spirit through you and I, for one purpose. Not for my benefit, not to make me feel better, not to give me life, but for the common good.

David Garland, a great New Testament scholar, puts it this way: “The passive voice makes clear that the source is not the individual’s own talents.”

Unfortunately, what we’ve done is we’ve told everybody, “Here are your talents. Now, use that. That’s your spiritual gift.” Nowhere in the Bible are we told that. Nowhere in the Bible are we told, “Here’s your talent.” No. We’re told to use our talents for God’s glory, and we should. But the charismata is when we come in together. If every single person walked in here, going, “I want to be used by God today. I want to serve and love the people of God,” do you know what He would do? He would use you. And it may be that, one day, you walk in and there’s a young guy sitting there, saying, “My marriage is terrible.”

And you sit down and go, “Let me tell you what I’ve learned.”

Now, do you know what you are? You’re a teacher. Do you know what you may do? You may go, “Hey, do you know what I’m going to do? Let’s go get lunch together.”

Now you have hospitality. But it’s every time we come together, God wants to use you and I to do something, to build up this for the common good.

Now you have hospitality. But it’s every time we come together, God wants to use you and I to do something, to build up this for the common good.

Now, let’s pull away here, and let’s get some take-aways. First of all, we aren’t the first generation to struggle with being the body of Christ. Don’t be so arrogant as to think we’re the first ones to get it all messed up. We messed it up. Since it’s raining and you don’t want to get wet, can I just go a little bit longer? Can I flesh this out? Because you can’t go anywhere. I mean, if you want to get baptized again, go for it. You know what I’m saying. I want to make sure we understand this.

First of all, at the church at Corinth, it was probably 52-54 A.D. when Paul wrote this. They’re not getting it right. But if you go, “Okay, but that’s like 20 years after,” — there’s sort of this idea, “If we could go back to the early Church.”

Okay. Let’s go back to the early Church. In Acts 1, the Church is already messed up because they’re asking Jesus the wrong question. He goes, “Hey, you’re going to be filled with the Spirit, and you’re going to go into all the world, be my disciples, and share the Gospel. The power of God is going to come upon you, and you’re going to be my witnesses into Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the world.”

And they go, “So, is this the time that you’re going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He’s like, “What? I’m not talking about that.” If you want to know, in Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira lie. And do you know what happens? They die. Can you imagine if, at church service, somebody comes up and says, “Hey, I did this here,” and, boom, they died? I love what Luke says. No small stir arose among the believers. You betcha. Right? You go, “Okay. Well…”

In Acts 6, do you know what’s happening in Acts 6? A whole group of people were forgotten in the daily food distribution. Can you imagine if that happened today? They’d be like, “Oh, that church is terrible. That church is no good.”

It’s even better because the apostles saw what was going on, and do you know what they did? They said, “We don’t have time to fool with this. Go ahead and get seven people, some men, to deal with it. We’re going to go over here, pray, and read God’s Word.”

Can you imagine if a pastor told you that? If he said, “I don’t have time for that. I’m going over here and doing…” You’d say, “Man, that guy is terrible. He’s no good.” That’s why if you want to go back to the book of Acts, get ready because it’s crazy back then. Do you know what I’m saying? So, we’re not the first generation to struggle with this. Secondly — and this is important. The body of Christ isn’t about what we can get. It’s not based on being a consumer. We do this well. You hear it all the time. “Well, I like that church because I get fed. I like that church because they’ve got a great children’s program.”

And I’m not saying that those things are not somewhat important, but that’s not why we gather. Do you really think that the early Church had a great children’s program? Do you think that when you’re meeting underground, and people are coming in to kill you, that they’ve got a great worship team? No. They’re lucky to get anybody to show up. You know? So, it wasn’t based on what they could get. It’s about what we can give through being fully submitted to God by serving one another in love. That’s why he says, “You guys are coming together for what you can get. That’s not why we come together.”

In fact, he’s going to tell them two chapters later, on the same theme, “The whole thing we do here should be for building up for the common good.”

I, actually, want to ask you a question. What could the church look like if everyone truly served one another in love? What happens if every single person who walks through the doors of every single church has one thing in mind when they walk in?

“Who can I love and who can I serve today? Who can I reach out to, right now? God, use me. Show me somebody who’s sitting by themselves. Show me somebody that might need prayer.”

If we walked in that, can you imagine if — Paul says in Romans 12, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” Can you imagine if every single person in every church in America made it their mission to outdo every other person in showing honor to every person in the church? That’s Paul’s vision. That’s what he sees when we come together. That’s discerning the body. That’s being people who are being available and open to being used by God.

Third thing. This is the one where, for some of you all, it’s going to be a challenge to move. And it’s okay. You don’t have to agree with me. I never said that you have to follow everything I say. I’m just telling you that if you don’t believe that what I’m doing is coming through study, and if you don’t believe I passionately believe that I’m being faithful to the Word of God, then that’s an issue. I would tell you, at that point, if that’s what you think about me, you’d probably ought to go somewhere where you can trust that the pastor is really doing the best that they can do to teach you the Word of God.

But I can assure you I’m doing my best here, and I think this is so critical that we understand this. We’re in desperate need of relearning — and I put this in parenthesis — spiritual gifts. Because what that really means is the way that we participate in the body. Because what we’ve done is we’ve told everybody, for 20 or 30 years — and this is a new thing — to find your spiritual gift, as if it’s yours. Discover your spiritual gift, as if it’s yours. Nowhere in the Bible are we ever told to find or discover spiritual gifts. We’re not told that, at all,anywhere in the Bible. We’re never told they’re natural talents. We’re never told. They’re not at all. None of that is correct.

What we’re told is that concerning how to be spiritual, we don’t need to be uninformed. We need to know what that looks like, and what that looks like is that each is given. Every time we meet, you have an opportunity to be used by God. Every time we meet, I have an opportunity to be used by God, to pour into someone else for the common good. Which means that spiritual gifts are not ours, and they’re not for our fulfillment. They’re not that at all.

It’s just led to all kinds of problems in the Church because what’s happened is we’ve wed who we are, natural talents, with spiritual gifts. Which means that if, for some reason, the church doesn’t elevate my spiritual gift, then they’re hurting me personally. And that’s not what Paul ever had envisioned. In fact, it’s so bad that we’ve not got the enneagram thing. I don’t know if you’re familiar with enneagram. People walk around, like, “I’m a 2. I’m a 4. I’m an 8.”

No, you’re not. You’re a follower of Jesus. That’s who you are. You’re not a 2, an 8, or a 3. And people are like, “Well, you just don’t understand me. I’m a 3.” No, you’re just being a jerk, and you’re not actually following what Jesus asked us to do. Here’s the fruit of the Spirit. Go get on your knees, and let’s talk about the fruit of the Spirit. Go get a towel, rather than a title, and wash somebody’s feet. This is who we’re supposed to be. You know, lean in here because this is so important. When we make spiritual gifts about our talents, our abilities, or wishes and dreams, then when the body doesn’t respond to them in the way that we want them to, or the way that we think, we’re crushed. People leave churches all the time.

“They just never let me…”

Because you’ve wed it with you. See, when we allow spiritual gifts to be wed to us — because we can’t allow them to be wed to us — when they aren’t used, it isn’t time, there isn’t a place yet, or we need to grow, then we take it personally, and we get hurt. Spiritual gifts are not yours. They’re not mine. They’re not. The charismata is the manifestation of the Spirit. Every time we come together, God wants to use you and I for the common good. This is so important that we get because if we don’t get this, we don’t get the fact that God wants to use every single one of us, every time we come together. You might be the only person at the coffee bar who can speak into that person’s life, in that particular moment, and if you’re saying, “Whatever I’ve got to do, I want to be used.”

See, what we see is that spiritual gifts, they’re graces given to believers who are serving and loving the body every time we come together. So, the way we think about it is serve and love and God will use you. And I don’t know how people are bound up and jammed up. You’ve taken 19 tests and you still don’t even know what your spiritual gifts are. Put that away and just come in, serve and love, and God will use you. It’s not that complicated. It’s not that hard. We make everything so difficult in the Church, and then we wonder why everybody’s so mad. I’d be mad too. Like, “What am I supposed to do?”

Serve and love, and God will use you. This was a quote that I read online. It’s a subsidiary of Focus on the Family. When I read it, I was like, “This is just fantastic.” If love is our aim, hospitality is not about our cooking or entertaining skills. It’s about making the stranger feel welcome. See, we’ve made it about our cooking and entertaining skill.

“Oh, I’ve got the gift of hospitality.”

No. You don’t have the gift of anything. God is presently, with a passive voice, using you with a grace as you serve and love someone else. If love is our aim, then healing is not about attracting attention to your ministry, but to pray for the relief from one of Jesus’ beloved people. If love is your aim, you don’t require your name to be on display when you give, but you give generously to see various ministries flourish.

The whole idea here is to just serve in love. I cannot tell you what would happen in this body — and I know this isn’t going to happen for everybody. The Church is always going to be a rodeo. There are always going to be people who go, “I don’t like this. I don’t want this.”

There’s no way any church is ever not going to be that way. It’s going to be. But that’s not the vision that Paul has for the Church. It’s not the vision that Jesus has for the Church, that He gave to Paul. So, this is where I want to end because this is where I want to get to. Being available for God’s use moves us from being a spectator to participant. I want you to hear this pastor, and I want you to hear me well. There are far too many people in churches that come, sit and leave, never involved, never in a ministry. That is not what God wanted for your life at all. That’s not what Church is about. It’s not an entertainment. I’m not here to entertain you. I’m not here to just give you some great sermon. We’re not here to play music for you so that you can go, “Oh, that was great. Kennedy sang well.”

These people come and practice. They get on their knees, practice and pray. They pray for seats because they’re not here to put on a performance. They’re here to lead us into the throne room of God so that we can get ahold of God in the midst of a crooked, twisted world. So, we have to move.

People ask me, all the time, “Why is Grace Community Church not seeing, like a lot of churches in America, people leave?”

I can tell you why. Fifty-eight percent of our church is actively involved in some sort of ministry. Fifty-eight percent. And that was my heart. That was my heart, years ago. I don’t care how big we are. I don’t care what the budget is. I mean, I care about those things, but that’s not what I care about most. I care about if the people of God are engaged. Because if they’re not engaged, they’re spectators.

So, here’s the question: How can God use me to show mercy and love? Ask that question. How can God use me to show mercy and love? In Romans 12, Paul’s talking to the Church, and he’s talking, once again, about these grace giftings. Here’s what he says: “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”

Do you want to know how God can use me in love? Bless those who persecute you. That’s the Church. That’s not the world. He’s talking about the Church here, in 1 Corinthians 12. He’s not talking about the world. You don’t think there’s persecution in the Church? Some of y’all have felt it. Some of you know it. Some of you have experienced it.

Bless them. Don’t curse them. Do you want to show hospitality and love? Paul says, “Here’s the way you do it. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Don’t be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. And if possible, so far as it depends on you, love peaceably with all.”

I’m going to be transparent here. I’m going to be as transparent as I can be. I come in, every Saturday, and I preach to an empty room. One of the reasons I do it is because it’s my last run through, but I also try to figure out if I can do it within 30 minutes — which that didn’t happen. I’ve got to regroup for tomorrow. When I’m done, I walk around, and I pray for seats. I was coming down through there, and I said, “God, I have so failed You because when I was young and so excited about You, all I wanted to do is be a part of a church that was just so mobilized to do it the way You wanted to do it, and I feel like, in so many ways — we’re big and we’ve grown, but God, I’m not going to shrink back from telling the people, ‘God has something more for you. He’s got more for you to do.’”

You. Not the person to the left of you, or the person to the right. God wants to use you to do great things. He wants to use you to be a carrier of His Gospel, to let people know that Jesus died on the cross and rose again on the third day. He wants to use you to be a teacher, to be hospitable, to have administration. You go, “I don’t have any of those things.”

You don’t need to have them because He gives them presently, and you’re passive in the manifestation of what God does. He’ll use you in ways you could never even imagine, if you’ll just say yes.

I said, “God, I’m going to preach more, even if people get mad and they don’t like it. Even if they just want to hear a good message, and that’s all they want to hear, I’m going to push them. I’m going to stretch them to say, “There’s more in the Kingdom of God. There’s more for us to do. There are more souls to win. There are more healings to see. There are more great things.”

So, I’m going to ask you, will you allow God, right now, to get into your bag, and to deal with this word, here, that is so tough for us to do because we like to do it in our way? But God, will You get into my bag, and will You talk to me and move, in my availability, to follow You wherever you lead?

Some of you need to hear this, please. This is what Jesus said, not me. He said, “If you want to hold onto your availability, if you want to hold on to what’s yours, you’re going to lose it. But if you’ll give it to me, if you’ll lose, you win. You actually win.”

I’m going to ask you — because we’re going to sing a song, and I want you to stay. It’s raining. You shouldn’t leave. You’re going to get wet. Okay? You might get struck by lightning. It’s Florida. Sit here and say, “God, please speak to me about how I can be available to You.”

And I’m not talking to you about joining a small group. I hope you do. I’m not talking to you about coming up and singing. I hope you do. I’m talking about being available, every time we get together, to be used by God. And watch what He does because, I’m telling you, somebody in here saying yes to this is going to be the thing that sets you free more than anything else. It’s going to rock your world when you see what God can do.