The Walk Week 3: We Need Each Other
Sometimes being a Christian in today’s world feels a little bit like warfare. We try to equip ourselves to rise above and to walk forward, but the bullets still come. Sexuality, greed, distractions, prejudice, cultural expectations, politics. And it seems impossible to walk the Christian walk when we’re just trying to survive. And everybody’s watching. What if our strength could be the catalyst for others to rise? How do we shield ourselves against all the temptations? Will the enemy ever cease fire? What does it take to walk the walk?
Well, good morning to everybody and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. You know, many of us, if we take a moment, probably can look back at moments in our Christian walk — for those of us, maybe, who’ve been a Christian for several years, you look back and you can see times in your life that were massively impactful. You look back and you go, “Man, I’m so glad that happened. I’m so glad this particular thing happened,” because it sort of makes you who you are today.
One of those times for me happened at the very end of my first year in college. I went to Lee College. I was in my dorm room, and I think I was headed back home the next day. And so, some people had already left, but we were sort of all finishing up from finals and getting stuff packed up and heading back home. And I got a knock on my dorm room and it was the campus pastor. He came in. I really liked this man. He was a great man. We started talking and he says, “Chip, I know this is sort of last minute, but I got a phone call and I’ve got an opportunity if you can get some people together. I know it’s going to be tough because a lot of people have left, but we’ve got room for maybe five, six or seven people to go to Miami and do a short-terms mission project. You’ll learn to work with the homeless. You’ll learn to sleep on the streets. You’ll do ministry and all of that.”
I was like, “Yeah. That sounds like a great idea.”
I really wanted to do that. So, I was able to get a few people together and we went to Miami. And I met Allen and Linda Reesor for the first time. He’s now Dr. Allen Reesor and she’s Dr. Linda Reesor now. Allen is one of our board members, so I’ve known Allen for, literally, 30 years. I remember that summer was so impactful to me in so many ways, but there was one thing that stood out above it all. And I told Allen that, and I’ve told him that over the years. It’s remained as impactful to me today as it was when it happened back, basically, 30 years ago.
And so, what happened was is, even though we slept out in the streets and we did homeless stuff and all that, and that was a great moment for me, there was one evening that just shaped my life forever. We were in a circle, all of this group together, and Allen said, “I’m going to show you how important Christian community is.”
And I’m — I mean, honestly, at this time, you’ve got to understand something. I was the Bible reader. I mean, I would read my Bible like three or four hours a day. I could quote a lot of Scripture — most of it out of context. I thought I knew everything. I drug all these people down. I thought I was — I was like, “Man, God’s going to go great things,” and all this crazy stuff. And so, we got in the circle and Allen says, “Here’s what we’re going to do. Each person, individually, is going to go sit over in the corner with their back to the group. The group is going to talk about you as if you are not there. What you’re going to learn is that the group has things to say about you that maybe you didn’t notice or maybe things you need to work on. And I want to show you the importance of having Christian community in your life.”
And he picked me first. And I was like, “This is going to be short work. All they’re going to do is talk about how awesome I am, how well I know the Bible and that I drug them all down here. And then we can get to some real people that need some real help quickly.”
So, I got over in the corner and had my back to the group. All of this is going on and they say, “Chip’s a good guy. He brought us here. We love him a lot.” Whatever. And then he started on this stuff and I’m like, “You’ve got to be kidding me. What? Dude, come again?”
And I couldn’t respond. I mean, that was part of the exercise was I had to sit there with my back and listen to them say things about me. And then I started going, “Wow. Man, what if this is, in fact, true? What if I do have these areas of deficiencies in my life?”
And so, when I was able, then, to talk about my side of the issue or the way that I saw it, I got to do that while I washed feet. That was a moment for me, because I — I’m pretty high strung. Many of you, you just know me in passing. You don’t know me intimately. You know, I’m a pretty high-strung guy. I’m a guy that, you know, I will tackle the tree. I’ll run hard. I’ll do whatever. I mean, I’m really a driven individual. To have to sit there and listen to that, I had that struggle of I either — this is really true and I really need people in my life and I really can’t do this on my own, or it’s not true and I’m going to do it all on my own. It’s going to be me and Jesus against the world.
And in that summer, I realized how important it was to have people in my life. And as we’re in a series called “The Walk” and we’re talking about walking with God, we’re talking about walking after God, I know this is a foreign concept to many people, but I want to make sure that I say it very, very clearly. If you’re listening via the internet and the mobile app, this is for you as well. This is for everybody here. We cannot properly walk the walk with God alone. You can’t. And I know that strikes a chord to so many of us because, listen, we’re raised in a culture where it’s all about individualism. Your individual rights, your individual stuff and everything. And I’m not trying to get on anybody, it I’m just trying to say there’s nothing like that found in Scripture. That’s a cultural thing. And I’m not saying anything other than it’s just a cultural thing.
But a Jesus thing is that it’s us. We need each other. We cannot do it alone. Your culture tells you if it’s going to be, it’s up to me. Your culture says, “You’re the one that has to do it. What do you want to be in life?”
And Scripture says that’s not the way it works at all. We all need each other. And I love it, as a professor, when I get to take that moment. New kids. Maybe they’re freshmen or sophomores or they’re just being exposed to Scripture. I love being able to say, “Hey, when you read in Scripture when it talks about Christ died for you and Christ in you and Christ did this for you and forgave you or whatever, those ‘yous’ are not singular. At all. They’re plural.”
Which means that as much as I’m all for — listen, I’m all for you having a daily quiet time. I do believe you have a personal relationship with Jesus. I just want you to know that the Bible doesn’t talk about salvation and those concepts in those terms. It talks about it in terms of a corporate deal. Jesus died for the Church in the book of Ephesians. It’s about what God is doing in restoring everything back in the way that He does it. There is a corporate sense that’s very difficult for us to read because when we read “you,” we read “me.” That’s the way we read because that’s the way our cultural has taught us.
And so, what I want to say is that this idea of “I need somebody in my life” can feel sort of foreign. It can feel a little off-putting. And I just want to ask you to just put the walls down a little bit and just let me talk to you for a little bit. I really believe what I’m going to say this weekend is so important for us to get. And I think it’s important for everybody to get. And so, here’s what I get to do. I wasn’t going to do this, but since they brought the cake out here and said it was my birthday, this is what I would like for you all for my birthday. This is what I’m asking for everybody: Give me a listen and listen to what I have to say for the next 45 minutes or so. I’m just kidding. Probably for the next 10 or 15, but the reality is listen to what I have to say because I think this can change your life.
So, here’s what I want to do. When we come to a Scripture like 1 Corinthians 12:26 where Paul says this: “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”
We sort of get an idea of what that means, especially talking about the body. You know, if you break your finger, it’s like your whole body realizes that your finger’s broken. Right? Man, I know that finger’s broken. I don’t know about you all, but I have this right little toe that, for some reason, between two and four o’clock in the morning, likes to find corners and edges of things at night. Maybe you all don’t have that thing, but this little piggy, he went to market every evening. He likes to hit stuff. And let me tell you something: When that dude hits something, I haven’t thought about him all week, I haven’t talked to him, we haven’t played little piggy or anything like that. The reality is when he gets hit, the whole body — I mean, it’s like my whole body goes into — whatever.
Or have you ever stepped on a piece of Lego at night? The devil created Lego. I’m telling you right now. I mean, if you step on a piece of Lego at night, you will realize how sanctified you are because there’ll be words coming out of your mouth that you ain’t heard in 20 years. You know? But we sort of get this idea, you know, if one member suffers, we all suffer together. We sort of get that idea with the body. And we sort of get that idea, you know, maybe we’re in a small group and maybe we know somebody that went through something. And so, we’re all sort of there together. But the theological profoundness of this is far greater than the way we’re seeing it.
Paul is saying that not just here, not just with the churches down the street, not just with the churches in Sarasota, not with just the churches in Florida, not with just the churches in America, that every single person that constitutes the body of Christ, when one suffers, all suffer. You go, “Well, I don’t feel that.”
It doesn’t make a difference whether you feel it or not. It’s the theological profoundness of this of how important it is to see how valuable every single brother and sister that we have actually is. And if one member is honored, all rejoice together. This is so profound because it rips at the individualistic tendencies that we have to say that every single member of not this church, but the Church united worldwide, we’re all in this thing together. And we can’t see ourselves as one member, as one person, as one entity. We’re involved in a massive body of work and we’re all tied together.
Here’s what’s crazy: You know how Paul reasons to this? How he gets to this point where he’s talking about the body, and we all come together, and we all need each other, and some are hands, and some are feet, and some are eyes and some are this? And we all come together, and if one member then suffers, we all suffer? How does he get there? He gets there in 1 Corinthians 11. In 1 Corinthians 11, he writes to a church that has gone sort of rogue. They’ve got all these different factions. You can even see it in 1 Corinthians 1. Some of them are like, “I got baptized by Apollos.” Some people are like, “I got baptized by Cephas.” Some of them are like, “I got baptized by Paul. My baptism was better because Paul baptized me.”
“No. Mine was better because Apollos baptized me.”
They’ve sort of gone off into factions. And when they come together and meet, Paul says, “Hey, when you guys come together and have church, it’s not even good. It’s actually bad. When you come together it’s bad because. You’ve factioned off in so many different ways, and that’s not the way the Church should be. We’re in this thing together.” He goes, “Don’t you remember that the Lord gave to me a directive, and the directive was this? That He took the bread on the night that He was betrayed and He blessed it and He broke it? He says, ‘This is my body,’ and He took the cup after supper and said, ‘This is the new covenant in my blood?’ Don’t you know when you come to the table of the Lord, you are uniting with everyone that comes to that table? It doesn’t make a difference what background, what car you drive, how much money you’ve got in your account, what kind of jeans you wear. All of that gets put away. What matters is you come as a body together.”
And here’s what he says in 1 Corinthians 11. He says, “Examine yourself, then, before you eat and drink of the cup.”
Examine, because here’s just the massive profoundness of Paul’s thoughts. He says, “Anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body...” — that’s you and me.
“...without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”
Think about that for a second. What if the reason that some of us are struggling in our lives, what if the reason that some of us can’t overcome that addiction, what if the reason that some of us can’t move forward in this area of our life, what if the reason that we can’t get our marriages together is because we’re trying to do it on our own and we haven’t properly discerned the need for others in our life and properly discerned the body?
Think about that. It’s massive. That’s what Paul’s saying, which is why he goes into 1 Corinthians 12 and says, “It’s so important that we come together.”
Now, here’s the thing. Listen. I’m not saying this is going on. Don’t read into this. This is me talking because, as a pastor, sometimes you’ve got to be preventative and you’ve got to talk about things and expose ideas so that we don’t go this way. I think this church is awesome. I think we’re doing so many great things right. But what I will tell you is — and it’s easy to slide in culture this way — is it’s easy when we start talking about community, living together and doing life together, it’s real easy to think that what that looks like is different from what Scripture says it looks like.
And so, I’m going to use the analogy of the country club. So, listen. If you joined a country club and you’re in a country club, Pastor Chip is not telling you that you’re going to hell or that you’ve got a problem. None of that stuff. Don’t read into what I’m saying. I’m just using this as an analogy. Because, oftentimes, the community that we settle for in church is more of a country club than it is real, genuine, authentic Christianity.
Let me explain how that works. The country club mentality is all about us. I’ve never met anybody ever that joined a country club that shut their eyes and just rolled their iPhone and said, “Bam. That’s the one I’m going to join.”
You don’t do that. You’re going to go and say, “You know, I want to join this one. It’s close to me. This is where I live. It’s got the right golf course or the right tennis or the right swimming pool or the right restaurant.”
You’re going to join that country club because it’s really all about what you want. Now, I know nobody joins churches for those reasons. Maybe it’s the nine o’clock service did, but not you all, right? So, what I’m saying is it’s easy to fall into this country club mentality. It’s all about what I want. It’s all about the things that matter to me. I want to find the thing that fits perfect for me, the way I like it, and what I like.
This is the country club mentality. “Not only is it all about us, but it’s people like me. I want to hang around people like me that sort of live in the same area, that sort of drive the same cars, maybe the same color of skin, maybe the same economic background. I like to hang around — “
It’s called a homogeneous unit in sociology. We like homogeneous units. And here’s the deal. We’ve all seen the movie where everybody’s at the country club, and everybody’s sitting there sipping their tea and some people are with the pinky out. They’ve got the thing going on and everything. And then somebody walks in that doesn’t look like everybody in the country club, and everybody in the movie does this.
That would never happen in a church. At all. Would it? Is it possible? I’m just asking. Is it possible that we could say, “You know what? You know, this is what I think. It’s all about what I want. People like me.”
In a country club mentality, complaining gets things done. See, you pay your dues, right? You pay your dues, so you want to tell everybody what’s wrong. You want to tell everybody the things that should be done differently, the way things should be. This is what you do in a country club. I will say this, and I’m not trying to step on anybody’s toes, but I’m trying to be a pastor and just speak the truth here: In the Bible, complainers are equated with unbelievers. Let me say that again: In the Bible, complainers are equated with unbelievers. They grumble and they complain because they’re unbelievers.
Do you know what Christians are? They’re people that give thanks even in trials and difficulties. That’s a word right there. It’s more than you all are letting on. Anyway, so it’s all about us, people like me, complaining gets things done and activities are there to please the members. If they don’t please the members, everybody sort of gets into a revolt and complains so that they can get things done. Because, ultimately, it’s all about us, people like me and everything else.
What I’m saying is is this: It is easy for us, because of the society that we live in, it’s easy for us to want to get into a small group that looks like this. And what we do is we convince ourselves that we’re doing authentic community when we actually aren’t. What we’re doing is living a country club mentality. Let me give you the antithesis of country club living. It’s called community. Community is all about Jesus. It’s all about what He wants. It’s all about how He is. It’s all about what His things are because we’ve decided we’re going to follow Jesus. It’s no longer about me. It’s about Him.
Not only that, but it’s a melting pot. Not the restaurant. Don’t get excited about fondue right now. It’s a melting pot. It’s a group of people that come together from different backgrounds and cultures. I mean, that’s what heaven is. Heaven says it’s people from all different nations, tribes, colors and backgrounds. That’s what heaven looks like. That means if we’re doing true, authentic community that reflects Jesus, it should look like a melting pot of people that come from different backgrounds, cultures, tribes, nations and all that good stuff.
And let me say this to you here: If the church you go to — because you may move one day. You may go to another church. I’m saying this as a pastor. I’m being pastoral here. If the church you go to doesn’t, every once in a while, get in your grill, if somebody doesn’t come along and mess your hair up every once in a while, if you don’t get rubbed wrong every once in a while, you’re just in the wrong place. You need some of that. God did not organize the Church so that it could just make everybody happy. He organized the Church so that through having to deal with people who see things differently, that have different views, that have different takes, what we do is we get stretched and we get pulled because God uses the body to conform us to the image of Christ.
It’s not about entertaining us. It’s about conforming us to the image of Christ. And so, there’s going to be a melting pot. And I’m going to tell you something: I am thankful to God that Grace Community Church, when I look around, we are melting pot church. There is so much diversity in this church, and I am thankful to God that we are like that. And we need to be and continue to be like that. Not only that, but service and love are what gets things done in true community. We serve one another.
See, faith is different than me doing it on my own. See, when I want something done, if I just complain and get it done, it doesn’t require any faith. I’d just go get it done. Faith says, “I’ve got to trust God to love this person that maybe did me wrong, and trust that God is going to do something great out of this.”
Yes. Can I tell you something? Heaven is eternity with all the brothers and sisters. Some people are going to have a hard time in heaven because they’ve got some real issues with their brothers and sisters. Do you hear me? I’m serious. I mean, this is so important that we get service and love. And then the reality is rather than things to please ourselves, it’s outreach to the unchurched. What happens is as we get talking about Jesus and we’re a melting pot and we’re serving and loving one another, we realize that, hey, this cannot just be an inward focused thing. It also has to go and reach out to others.
And so, let’s not settle ever, ever for a church that can become more like a country club. Let’s make sure that we really foster and support and model, in this church, genuine, true, authentic community because we really need each other.
Now, here’s what I’m going to do. I’ve got four quick things that I want to tell you about why we need each other. And so, if you take notes, this is a good time to take notes. If you don’t take notes, this is a good time to maybe learn to take notes. If you don’t have anything to write on, just take your neighbors arm, get a pen and write on their arm. Okay? And then take your phone and take a picture of the notes that you wrote so that you have them with you when you leave. Amen? So, let’s take some note here and let’s think about this.
This first one here that I want to talk about, the need for each other, is huge, this is mind-blowing, this is theological bombshell material. This is huge. Listen to this first point. We need each other or eternity will be imperfect. You go, “What? What do you mean by that?”
I’ll tell you what I mean by that. In Hebrews 11 — if you’ve been around church long enough, you’ve probably heard it called “The Hall of Faith.” It is a chapter that is devoted to great men and women who had faith in God that they saw things that didn’t look like what God had promised and they kept going. They trusted God when they couldn’t see. They trusted God when it didn’t make any sense. They trusted God even though they didn’t even receive everything that God had said on this particular time and journey in their life. It was something they had to trust God for in the afterlife. These are the heroes and heroines of faith. They’re the people that love God. Some of them, they’ve killed bears and took out kings and other people were killed and stoned and cut in two. The bottom line is these are people of faith.
And here’s the way the writer to the Hebrews, the preacher that’s preaching this message to these people — this is the way this person, whoever wrote it, ends Hebrews 11.
God’s calling. He says, “Listen, right now, to this guy. He’s telling you the truth.”
Okay? Listen. We need each other or eternity will be imperfect. Listen here to what he says:
“All these,” — all the people we just talked about in Hebrews 11 — “though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”
Listen to this. This is huge. Every single person that Jesus died for, that constitutes His church, is needed in eternity, or the body will not be perfect. Do you understand the value and the dignity that that gives to every person that is a Christian? Eternity is not perfect without you there. Think about the ramifications of that. Think about how that would change the way we viewed our brothers and sisters when they did us wrong or they said something that we didn’t like. We’d go, “Well, you know what? I’m going to be imperfect in eternity if they’re not there, so I’d better go figure out — whatever I’ve got to do to get that right, I’m going to go do it. Because it’s more important that that’s right than I’m right.”
More important that that relationship is right than I’m right. That’s why Jesus says in Matthew 5, He goes, “If you’re bringing your gift to the altar and you realize somebody has something against you — not you have something against them, but they’ve got something against you — go make that right and then come give your gift.”
See, because the value and dignity of people — and maybe you’re here today and you’re going, “Yeah, you know, I’m a Christian, but I really don’t feel like I’ve got a lot of value and dignity,” can I just tell you as your pastor that eternity is imperfect without you? That’s the value and the significance that you have to Jesus. That’s why it’s so important we need each other.
Second reason we need each other is because we all need someone we can call at three a.m. I was over in Winter Haven a couple of weeks ago. I got to speak at a church. Before I spoke, I went out into the congregation and started talking to some of the people that were there. I met this man and I talked to him for a minute. I said, “How long have you been here?”
He says, “Eleven years.”
I said, “That’s fantastic. Tell me about your experience here at the church.”
He said, “Well, it’s been fantastic. But two years ago, Pastor Jeff got up and started speaking on the need for friendships and the need for people in our lives. I really had never had that. So I found a guy in church that I knew I could talk to. We both liked getting out in the woods, so we went out in the woods, and we were around a campfire and I finally just went for it. I said, ‘Hey, man. I want to tell you all the things that I’ve done.’”
He said, “I just sat there for several hours and just confessed all the sins that I’d ever done and all the stuff that I was just hanging on with.”
He goes, “Let me tell you something. I have not walked in the freedom that I’ve been walking with in the last two years ever in my life. That just set me free. And I love this church for that reason.”
And I want to say that to you all that you need somebody. James, in James 5, when he says, “Confess your faults, one to another, that you may be healed,” that “you” is not singular. That “you” is plural. When we are a place where we can confess our faults and people can hear us because we’ve got a friend at three a.m. in the morning, not only do you and that person win, but the whole church wins in that situation. And I don’t want to get in anybody’s grill or get anybody mad at me, but can I say something to you? For the love of God, if somebody shares something in their life that they’ve done, and they share it with you, please, for the love of God, don’t share it with other brothers and sisters out in the hub. Seriously. There have been so many people that have been hurt that have said, “I’m going to step out in faith and I’m going to be vulnerable for a second,” and then we’ve taken that and abused that. Don’t do that.
Listen to how important it is to have somebody at three o’clock in the morning that would love you, that would care for you. James envisions that’s the way the Church is. James says this: “My brothers, if anyone among you...” — because, again, corporate idea here — “...wanders from the truth...” — it’s possible. I’ve met plenty of people that have wandered from the truth — “...and someone brings him back...” — listen to this. These are brothers among you. These are Christians that have wandered from the truth, and someone brings them back.
“Let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”
Let me paraphrase this for you. This is the Bennett version. It’s not inspired. It shouldn’t be included in the Scripture, but it gives the idea of what I think James is saying. You want someone in your life that will love your soul enough to tell you the truth. Tuesday, I drove to Ft. Lauderdale to spend a couple of days with Warren Gage, my doctoral advisor and one of my good personal friends. We showed up at a restaurant. I had my iPad and my stuff. We were going to talk about some of the recordings we’re going to do, some of the academic things that we’re going to do. We sat down. He ordered a tea. I ordered a Coke — on the rocks. I always do that. People say, “Would you like something to drink?”
I’m like, “I’ll take a Coke on the rocks.”
They’re like, “Okay.”
Anyway. So, I’m sitting there with a Coke and we haven’t said anything. Warren looks at me and he says, “Chip, how’s your soul? Chip, how are you doing with the Lord? Chip, do you still pray for all the chairs at the church?”
And do you know what I said to myself? Thank God somebody cares about my soul. Thank God somebody in my life — and I’ve got plenty of them — will ask me the tough questions and get up in my grill and ask me. We need somebody in our life that loves our soul enough to tell us the truth. Even if we don’t want to hear it in the corner, even if we don’t want to swallow it, even if we don’t want to think about it, even if it’s challenging us. If we are Christians and we love Jesus, then we want to be like Jesus. And somebody at some time in some place is going to look at you and look at me if we have people in our lives that care for our soul that’s going to say something to us that we don’t want to hear, that we don’t like, but we’re going to have to process because it’s so important that we hold each other accountable and have people in our lives that care for our souls, because you need somebody at three o’clock in the morning that you can call when life is tough.
And let me tell you something: Every one of us have it. Every single one of us. That’s why we do things like this. The reason we do supper clubs is so you can find somebody that you can call, that you can talk to, that’s a relationship that’s honest. Because we realize how important that is. Because every single one of us, myself included, are going to have days where we go, “I want to give up.” We’re going to have days that we go, “I can’t believe I did that.” We’re going to have days that we go, “I need help in this part of my life.” You need people, we all need people that we can trust and they will hold us up because they love us.
Third thing. This is huge. We need each other because the wackiest doctrines and people are formed when people leave community. This is just a truth. You get somebody off on their own: “I’m going to go find Jesus on my own.”
You can’t. You’ve got to do that within community. Scripture wasn’t birthed out of individualism. It was birthed out of community. The reason these books were included is because it blessed the people in the community. It’s all about community. You can’t do theology on your own. You’ve got to do theology with people. I’ve got a professor friend, Gerald Bray, that’s considered to be the greatest Christian historian of our generation — at least he understands Church history better than anybody else. He has a class that he teaches called “Reading with the Dead.”
What he says is, “How in the world do you think you can do theology without reading the 2,000 years that have come before you?”
You can’t do it, and you can’t do theology without having people in your life. The wackiest doctrines come when somebody decides around their kitchen table they’re going to open up the Bible and they’re going to read it and they read a passage out of context or they read one verse and they run with it. And then what they do is they find about 15 other people that agree with the same thing. They’re not in community. They’re in a country club. And they all run around doing the same thing. And when somebody walks in and goes, “Hey, guys. That’s not even close to what Scripture says,” they go, “We don’t want to hear about it.”
And most of those people, when they leave churches, they leave churches because they don’t like to hear what Scripture’s actually saying. They want to hear what they want Scripture to say. If Jesus isn’t challenging you and you’re not getting challenged in your faith and you’re not getting your toes stepped on every once in a while, then go find a church that will do that for you because it is so imperative that we are conformed to the image of Christ, and not entertained. We need community in our lives and we need people in our lives. And some of the wackiest doctrines and people that you will ever meet are people that decide they’re going to go do it on their own.
That’s way better preaching than anybody is letting on in here, because it’s the truth. And some people need to be called out every once in a while. You’re wacky! I’ve needed to be called out. I’ve had people comment, “You’re wacky,” and I was. I went off on my own, found something, read something and thought I knew what. It was wrong. It just was wrong. It was wrong as wrong as wrong as wrong as wrong could be, and I needed somebody that cared enough about me to grab me by the scruff of my neck and say, “Dude, get into the Word here and understand what it’s saying, because you’re wrong.”
And sometimes it’s important to do that. And the last thing is we need each other to persevere. This is huge. This is huge. One of the things I can tell you about walking with the Lord that’s all through Scripture is those that walk to the Lord endure to the end. That doesn’t mean you don’t have moment of doubt, moments where you mess up and seasons where you do things that you just can’t believe that you did. The point is you make it. This is something that Scripture teaches so clearly that those who endure to the end, that there’s a thing called perseverance. Perseverance is something that we need in our lives, and we can’t do it alone.
Listen to this: The writer to Hebrews, this book that I’ve been talking to you about, is writing to people that are thinking about leaving the faith. This is Thomas Long. He’s a professor. He’s a great professor. I’ve sort of taken some of his words. I changed a few of them, but this is what he says here about the book of Hebrews:
“His congregation is exhausted. They’re tired. They’re tired of serving the world, tired of worship, tired of Christian education, tired of being peculiar and whispered about in society, and tired of spiritual struggle. They’re tired of trying to keep their prayer life going and tired, even, of Jesus. Their hands droop and their knees are weak (Hebrews 12:12.) Attendance is down at church (Hebrews 10:25) and they’re losing confidence. The threat to this congregation is not that they’re charging off in the wrong direction. They don’t even have enough energy to charge off anywhere. The threat here is that, worn down and worn out, they will droop their end of the rope and drift away. Tired of walking the walk, many of them are considering taking a walk, leaving the community and falling away from the faith.”
Now, listen: The antidote that the preacher gives in Hebrews is not sing different songs, it’s not to do a community-wide thing, it’s not to have conflict resolution brought into the Church, not to change the background or the setting or the things or the groups or anything. No. The answer to falling away, to the writer of the Hebrews, is this. Listen.
“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you...” — brothers, brothers — “...an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.”
Take care. And here’s his answer; the antidote: “Exhort one another every day,”
You need people in your life. The antidote is community. The antidote is someone that cares enough about your soul to get in your grill to make sure that you keep walking the walk.
“...as long as it’s called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.”
And let me show you how this works, because he lays it out. He says, “The first thing that happens is there’s sin.”
Let me just make it really easy here. Sin is anything — anything that we move from Jesus being the most important thing in our life, the focus of our life — anything that we substitute Jesus with is sin. That’s all it is. Sin is like, “I’m going to go focus over here on this particular thing because I like this better.”
And what we have to do, if we get sin in our heart, is we have to go to deceit. We have to deceive ourselves that as Christians, even though we know that Jesus is the ultimate thing that we’re supposed to be following, the ultimate one that we’re supposed to be looking at, we have to do some sort of gymnastics inside to deceive ourselves that the way that we’re going is the right way. “Oh, well this book’s an old book. There’s cultural things. I’m going to do it this way now. I’m going to do it a little bit my way.”
And we start justifying, through deceit, the fact that our hearts have now turned from God and are not looking to Him for everything. And then what happens is we get hardened. And, as a pastor, there’s so many times I’ve gotten in somebody’s grill to say, “Dude, what you are doing is leading your soul to damnation. You’re in the wrong path.”
And they’re so hard because they’ve allowed this thing, whatever it is, to displace the glory of God in their lives. And what they’ve done is they’ve deceived themselves to the place that they are, and they become so hardened to the truth that the next thing is they start walking in unbelief. They no longer believe. And, the next thing, they’ve fallen away. And here’s the deal. I’m going to tell you right now. I care enough about your soul to get in your grill and tell you that you need people in your life. I need people in my life. If we’re going to walk the walk, we need people in our lives that will say, “Come on, Chip. You can do this. Don’t you know the things that God did when you were 18? Don’t you know the calling that He gave you? Don’t you know that you can make it? Come on. Get up. I know it was a rough week. I know it was bad, but you can do it. Come on. You can make it.”
Exhorting everyone daily that we can do this thing, that we have the ability within us. Christ lives within you and me and the power of God that lives within you and me, as a church, can get us all into glory together. That’s what we’ve got to become. We’ve got to realize we need each other. We need each other. I got a text — somebody said preach. I’m trying. I got a text. I guess Allen Reesor was in the first morning service at nine o’clock. I didn’t even know it. He texted me and he said, “You took me back a long way, telling that story.”
That story changed my life. Not the story, but the deal. I’ve had people in my life. Tom Jones, our executive pastor, has got on a plane from Atlanta and came to Orlando to knock on my door to ask how I’m doing. See, if it were up to me, I wouldn’t be your pastor. I would’ve probably gone off on another track and gone somewhere else because I’ve had enough to get discouraged and enough to quit in my life. But I didn’t. And it wasn’t because of how faithful I was. It was the faithfulness of God working through Christians that cared for my soul that got me up and back on the path again to do the things that need to be done. And we all need that. We all need people in our lives that will do that.
And so, for my birthday, what I ask for you is this: If you don’t have people that will care for your soul — I’m not talking about people that look the same way and talk the same way and believe the same way and all you do is sit around and talk about the same thing all the time and it just makes you feel good. I’m talking about people in your life that will get in your grill and say, “Hey. Listen, man. This is serious. There is a war for your soul.”
There is a war for your soul, church, and the antidote is to make sure that we’ve got good people in our lives that will tell us the truth because they love our soul.
Dear Heavenly Father, I not only pray for everyone that’s here right now, but I also pray for everyone that will be hearing this message via the internet and the mobile app. There’s people in Seattle, there’s people up north, there’s people in other countries that watch these things. Lord, I pray that what we would hear today is the importance of community. Lord, we need each other. That is the truth of Scripture. And I pray, God, that You would tear down the walls of pride, I pray that You would tear down the walls of individualism, and I pray that You would tear down the walls of bad doctrinal teaching that somehow tells us that we can do this alone or that we can just do it with You alone and we don’t need anybody else.
That is not what Your Word says. Your Word is very clear that we need other people in our lives. Lord, help us, as a church, to foster that community, to be that community that genuinely looks to You and also has people that love You in our lives to encourage us every single day to keep moving forward.
So, Lord, as we walk out of here today, I pray that You would watch over us and protect us, continue to lead and guide us, continue to help us, Lord, to be the church that You have called us to be. Don’t let us walk to the left or to the right. Help us to stay focused on the things that You’ve called us to be, to be the church that reaches the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ.
Lord, we love You, we thank You and we praise You. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.”
Give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. Have a great day.