The Walk Week 7: Ten Truths

Sermon Transcript

[Video]

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?

[End Video]

Well, good morning to everybody, and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. We are landing the plane here in this series called “The Walk.” We spent a little bit more time than we usually do in a series because I think this is a profound concept. We probably could spend even more weeks on it, but it’s time, sort of, to land the plane and move on. But what I’ve tried to say over the last many, many weeks is that there is a theme that we find in both the Old and the New Testament that refers to our relationship with the Lord. It’s referred to in terms of a walk. I think that’s important because what God is not after with you and me is just a decision. God wants to have a relationship with you and me. And the way that that’s talked about, in both the Old and the New Testament, is through this idea of a walk.

In other words, we’re active participants walking along with God. It doesn’t mean we always get it right. It doesn’t mean we don’t trip and fall at times, but we’re sort of actively involved in walking with the Lord. So, as I’ve done a lot of different ideas, concepts, we’ve looked at a lot of different passage of Scripture, we’ve looked at some theological things, practical things — one of the things you always struggle with as a pastor is how do you sum this thing up and how do you close it up when you’re coming out of a series?

So, I’m just going to do what I felt like I should do. It’s maybe a little different than what I normally do, so my sermon’s going to be a little different today than a typical Chip sermon. So, bear with me because this is really what I felt like I needed to do to close this thing up. I’m going to talk to you today about 10 truths. What I mean by that is, in my personal walk that I’ve seen and experienced, I’ve also seen it in other people’s walk with the Lord, these are just 10 truths that I think you can take home practically, and they’ll make sense to you.

I’m going to start off with the truth. It’ll be like, “Number one. Here’s the truth.” Then I’m going to give you some sort of scriptural justification for it. Then I’m going to immediately do a practical take-home of that truth, and then we’ll move on. I started off with 163, but I realized I only had 25-30 minutes, so I brought it down to 92. Then that didn’t work and it was 34. And, finally, down to 10. So, bear with me here as we go through these 10. But I think we’ll have a good time.

One of the things that I want to do too, in presenting these 10 truths, is I want to make sure that you all realize that I’m trying to share out of my life, I’m trying to be transparent, I’m trying to share out of my heart with things. So, there could be some things here that, probably, you go, “That was really cool.” There’ll be some things that you go, “Wow, Chip really shared some honest things.” Some of these things, you’re going to go, “Wow. I really didn’t want to hear that this morning,” and other things may step a little bit on your toes. But I’m hoping, by the end, you’ll still love me and want to come back next weekend and hear “Dear Colossae.”

So, let’s get to work here at the 10 truths of the walk. I think every one of these sort of stand on their own. If you’re brand new here, or you’re watching through the internet for the first time, I think today’s message will just flow right ahead whether you — you didn’t have to see the things that came before this.

So, let’s get to work here. First truth along the way here with the walk. This one’s really important because I think a lot of Christians struggle with this. They want to believe this, but sometimes they don’t believe this. But, this is really important. Number one on the walk here, the truth is: It’s okay to not always be okay. I don’t know why we Christians struggle with this all the time, but sometimes we feel like if we were to say, “Hey, this is going on in my life,” or, “This is a struggle in my life,” or, “This is something that I’m going through,” sometimes people go, “Oh, well, you must be doing something wrong. You’re not living it out right.”

Let me just go ahead and give everybody permission here. There’s nobody in here, at any given time, that doesn’t have stuff going on in their lives. Can I get an amen on that? Right? I mean, it’s just the truth. It’s okay to not always be okay. Now, I didn’t say it’s okay always to not be okay. Okay? I mean, we believe Jesus got up from the grave and can make a difference in our lives, but it’s okay to not always be okay. Let me give you a scriptural justification for this.

Paul tells the Galatian church, “Bear one another’s burdens.” (Galatians 6:2). Notice there, that’s not singular. That’s plural. That means we have stuff in our lives. And here’s the reality: Sometimes we want to be the ones that bear other people’s burdens, but the reality is there’s going to be times when we’re the ones that have the burdens. And I just want to give everybody in here permission to not always have to look like you’re doing everything perfect. I grew up in a tradition where it was tough. I mean, you were told all the time you had to be on fire, you had to be hot, and if you were just sort of meandering through your Christian life, God was going to kick you out of heaven. It was like, “Man, that’s tough.”

Because I was like, “Man, I’m in trouble.” If you didn’t come in from Sunday back to Wednesday night and you hadn’t healed three people and walked on water, people wondered if you were a Christian. It’s like, “Man, I know those people didn’t walk on water. They said they did. I know they didn’t.”

And so, you struggle sometimes. What I want to say, practically, as a take-home, since we know that it’s okay to not always be okay, is this: Let’s decide we’re always going to be a church where people can be honest and transparent. Let’s just decide that in a world where people are kicking people out for all kinds of stuff, and not serving people, and doing all kinds of stuff, let’s make sure, at Grace Community Church, that everybody is welcome, burdens and all. Right? Amen?

Because if we’re going to walk like Jesus, if we’re going to look like Jesus, then we need to be a place where it’s okay to not always be okay. Second. This is a really good one here. This is worth the price of admission today. Number two. This is a good one here. I promise. Okay?

How well our walk is going is often directly tied to the people that have the most influence in our lives. This is huge. This is very, very, very important. I could also probably change this slide to not only say “people,” but “things” that have influence in our lives. Like social media or too much watching the news or whatever it may be. These things really directly influence. People influence. I used to be a youth pastor a long time ago. I think I’m in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s worst youth pastor ever that happened in the Kingdom of God.

But I did have the greatest sermon title, though, as a youth pastor ever. It was called — and this is for my kids. It was a great sermon title. It was called “How to Purge the Urge to Merge.” That’s pretty good, right? Is there anyone else here? That was smart. So, anyway, I used to tell the kids, I was like, “Listen, you know, when you’re growing up, the people that you hang around, the people that you associate with, they’re going to dramatically influence how well you walk this thing out. And it’s true for us as adults. Solomon realized it. He says this: “Whoever walks...” — once again, here’s this idea of a walk.

“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” (Proverbs 13:20)

Oftentimes, in our lives — and I’ve seen it over and over and over again, the things that are influencing my lie have a direct association with how well things are going in my spiritual life. When I have people in my life that are pouring into my life and asking me to pray and all that stuff, and asking where I’m at, and concerned about my soul and all that stuff, I find myself to be a little bit more focused on the things that I need to be focused on. When I don’t have people in my life, and I don’t have any of that stuff, I tend to be like everybody else. We tend to sort of do our own thing.

So, the take-home here is to just have all of us say, “Hey, I need to take an inventory of the influential people in my life, and look at it, and hold it up to the Lord and say, ‘Hey, is this really where I need to be? Are people negative all the time and always saying negative stuff? Maybe that’s why I’m so negative. Maybe I need to really look at that.’”

Because I’m telling you, a lot of times in our life, how well we’re doing with our relationship with God is really directly tied to others. And that’s just such a biblical concept. That’s why I always say up here, “We need each other,” but we need each other to support, and encourage, and to love each other, not to tear each other down and to figure out ways to just separate ourselves and all that other stuff.

Number three: Doing work for the Kingdom doesn’t always correlate to spending time with the King. Can I get an amen on that one? I mean, let me share some stuff here and be honest. This is just the truth. It’s easy in ministry, it’s easy as a staff, it’s easy as a pastor to be doing things that are good — I mean, visiting people, preparing messages and all that good stuff. You look up and you go, “Wow. A whole week went by and nobody really sat down and really spiritually got ahold of God or talked to God. We’re just busy doing things.”

Believe it or not, one of the threads that you see with all the pastors that have churches that have grown and then they fail, or they got involved in something, or they messed up here or whatever, every single one of them will tell you what happened was this: I got so busy doing Kingdom work I lost out on spending time with God.

Okay? And that happens in guys like me’s lives and it can happen in your life. Jesus says it this way: “On that day, many are going to say, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, cast out demons in your name and do many mighty works in your name?’” (Matthew 7:22)

None of these people thought that they were wrong. None of these people thought that they weren’t doing the good things. None of these people thought that Jesus wasn’t their Lord. They all thought they were doing the right things. Every single one of them. There’s no question about it. I mean, they wouldn’t be saying that to Jesus, going, “Wait, we were doing all this stuff.”

What Jesus says is striking. It’s striking. He says, “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

It’s like, “Whoa. That’s tough.”

But the keyword here is “knew.” See, God’s not after a performance. What God wants is He wants you. He wants me. He wants to know you and me. That’s a relationship. So, I know that’s tough and I know that’s a little heavy, so the take-home is, “Wow, I really need to let that sink in.” Right? So, that’s it. That’s all I’ve got to say. Just let that soak in, we’ll think about it, we’ll pray about it and move on. Some of you are like, “Alright. Next one.”

So, here we go. Let’s get to the next one here. Number four: Nothing prepares us for doing ministry like actually doing ministry. This is the one thing I can tell you for a fact I have learned along the way, and I’m a professor. So, it’s not like I’m anti education. It’s not like I’m anti people learning something. It’s not that I’m anti people knowing more than they knew. I’m all in for all that stuff. But what I can tell you — and I’ve learned this just walking and seeing and walking and seeing — is nothing prepares you and me to do ministry like actually doing ministry. You can’t study group enough. You can’t go off and learn enough. You just can’t. Because every single time you think you know, you’re never, ever, ever fully prepared.

Look, I teach systematic theology. They actually pay me to teach systematic theology. And there’s times in class where I have 18-, 19-, 20-year-old kids that’ll raise their hand and go, “Hey, Dr. Bennett, what do you think about this?”

I’m like, “I don’t know.”

And they’re like, “Seriously? I paid for this class. You don’t know?”

I’m like, “No. I don’t know. Get another teacher. I’m from Kentucky.”

So, anyway, the reality is that sometimes you just don’t know. You can read and study, read and study, read and study, read and study, you can pray, pray, pray, read and study and read and study, and I’m going to tell you right now there’s going to be times where you just have to get out there and do it. I think of the guys that’s possessed by the legion of demons. Jesus comes on the boat, across the Sea of Galilee, this guy comes running out from the tombs and Jesus heals him. The guy’s like, “Hey, I want to get in the boat and go. I want to hang out with you.”

Jesus says, “No. What I want you to do is I want you to go back into your town and I want you to tell them about what’s happened in your life.”

It’s like, “Where was the training? Where was the small group?”

Jesus is like, “Man, just go out and get after it. You’ve just got to get after it.”

Sometimes you’ve just got to get after it. I mean, think about it. The disciples. He’d send them into a town. Come on. The disciples weren’t ready for prime time. They’d go into a town and they’d get mad at somebody and they’d be like, “Hey, Jesus. We were trying to call down fire from heaven just to consume that town.”

He’s like, “Guys, time out. That’s not what we’re about here. We’re not trying to burn people up with fire. We’re trying to get them saved.”

You know? So, there’s nothing that will prepare you and me for doing ministry like actually doing ministry. You know those pools where you gradually wade in? It’s like kids can be playing here. It doesn’t do this number here like the pools I grew up in. It was like this here. That’s how I learned to swim. There you go. So, you wade in like this. I’m still dealing with that right now, psychologically, from the push. Anyway, don’t tell my dad. He comes in next service.

So, you go down like this. Well, what we’re trying to do is First Fridays, handing water out, doing stuff like that which is really not that hard to do. The reason we try to do those things is to get people involved in talking with people and sharing with people because it’s the first step into taking a step into doing something. And what we hope is that it goes further than that. We’re hoping that there’s like prison ministries and all kinds of other things that come out of this thing other than just what we’re doing. But these are the steps of doing stuff in outreach and getting that into the heart. Because we know that nothing prepares us for ministry like actually doing ministry.

So, the take-home here is this: I’m not going to ever be fully prepared, so I might as well start somewhere. If you’re not involved in doing some things in the church — usher, greeter, whatever — it’s not that we just try to put somebody into those positions. That’s not the heart of this church. The heart of this church is to get people doing some things for the Kingdom of God so that they realize how God really does want to use them. You know? And listen, we’re also aware that we don’t want to just be doing something and missing out on spending time with God. We understand both those dynamics, but we really do understand that nothing prepares us for doing ministry like actually being involved in ministry.

Number five. Lean in here and listen to me because this is huge. In our walk with the Lord, words matter — big time. Our words matter. Now, I’ve got to be honest with you. I might offend some people here. I don’t know. I don’t mean to. I personally believe we live in a society that is using such bad language towards others that we’ve been desensitized to it. Oftentimes, as Christians, we support it. What happens is we’re not really seeing how important what the words that we say and the way that we say them, how they matter.

See, Solomon says this right here: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue,” (Proverbs 18:21) which means you get two choices here, and I get two choices. We’re either speaking death or we’re speaking life. I’m worried that in the Christian Church we don’t know the difference anymore between these two things, that the society is so negative that we’ve almost bought into negativity. And we’re not supposed to be those people. We’re supposed to be people that encourage one another, that strengthen one another, that build one another up, that believe in people, that call out all the gifts and talents in people, that believe in the people that nobody else believes in because words matter.

So, let me explain how this works. This is an example out of my own life that I’m not proud of, but I’m going to share it to you because I think sometimes just being honest about your own self, it’s good to — because this ain’t about me. If y’all walk out of here and go, “Man, I don’t even know about Chip,” that’s fine because the only person I’m really concerned that you’re really concerned about is Jesus. Not Chip Bennett. So, let me just go ahead and share a story here.

It was about two years ago. I had just got Tom and Nanette to come down from Atlanta. It took me two years to get them to hear God because they’re not as spiritual as I am. So, anyway — I’m just joking. They finally come down. They finally gave in. They came down. I was working a job, 60 hours a week, and then coming in and preaching. I was tired. I was probably pretty close to clinical burn-out at that time. They came down. I’d gone out to dinner with them after a Saturday service. I’ve got family. I don’t want to put that burden on my wife and kids to come to all the services because that’d be crazy. Plus, me having 35 kids in children’s service, every single one, they’re going to know what’s going on after the second or third one, and they’re going to be bored. My kids are half-pagan, so they’d be beating each other up by the third or fourth service. So, they come to one.

Anyway, I went out to dinner with Tom and Nanette, and one of the things I’ve got a problem with is I’ve got a problem with what I can eat and what I can’t eat. I’m allergic to garlic and onions. So, that puts me at a liability at a lot of places. So, I have to specify, “Hey, this is what I’m allergic to.” If you’re in my world, you realize that normally the dish comes out wrong and then it has to go back again and then it comes back right. Sometimes it comes back the second time wrong, and then it’s the third time right.

So, I really tried hard over my life to be nice and smile because, you know, I’m a pastor, and the last thing you want to do is that. Well, I was at this restaurant one night. I was tired. I thought I’d been really clear. I’d gone overboard trying to explain it. I was hungry. I was tired. I just wanted to get home. I said, “Okay. This is what I want. Please don’t put this in here.”

It comes out. It’s got garlic chunks in it and everything. I’m like, “This is not what I ordered.” I’m like, “No. I don’t even want it.”

I wasn’t terrible, but I wasn’t really nice either. So, I look at Tom and Nanette and I’m like, “I don’t even want to eat here. I love you guys. I’m out.” I went and got in my car, went home, crashed and died. On Monday or Tuesday, Tom calls me and he’s like, “Hey, man. We’re buddies, right?”

I’m like, “Yeah. We’re buddies.”

He’s like, “Yeah. You can’t be a pastor in Lakewood Ranch and do what you did at Pei Wei. You might pull that off in Kansas, but not Lakewood Ranch.”

And I’m like, “You’re right. You’re right. You’re right.”

You say why would I say that? Well, because it matters. It matters what we say. It matters what we do. I mean, everywhere I go, I’m always trying to make sure because I know that as a pastor, and we should know, even as Christians, that every word we say, people — and it’s not fair sometimes. They’re going to use what you say against you. So, make sure that you understand how big-time these words matter. So, my take-home is if I have nothing good to say, then zip it. Right? Just zip it. I mean, that’s the bottom line.

And we do. The most common Christian thing is, “Hey, I’m not trying to be negative here, but let me tell you here.”

It’s like, “Hold on. You know exactly what you’re trying to do.”

You know? It’s funny how we do that, isn’t it? We convince ourselves of that stuff. So, words matter. Number six: It’s more blessed to give than receive. This is just a truth along the walk. I can tell you for a fact it is more blessed to give than receive. But here’s the way the enemy likes to work. The enemy wants you to believe that when you give, that nobody cares, that nobody — you know, you go, “Oh, I went over to somebody’s house and visited them. I gave my time and they didn’t care.”

So, you don’t do it. Like, “Nobody cares.” What happens is we end up being robbed of so many blessings by not being people that give. And then what we do is we start playing the game of, “Well, I don’t want to do this if I don’t get this,” and what we start doing is we start doing giving with strings and attachments on them. Listen, it’s more blessed to give than it is to receive.

Listen to what the book of Acts says: “Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35)

This is just true. You know, I realize like 90% of the people say they don’t go to church because church talks about money and talks about giving and all of that stuff. I get it. Listen, if you’re here, I can tell you: Find a neighbor, find somebody who’s been coming here. That’s now what we’re about. But I’m here to tell you I’m not going to apologize about saying, “Hey, would you guys please reach into your wallet to help Becky and Juno so that they can go do the things that God’s called them to do?”

I’m not going to apologize about that because you’re going to be blessed, if you give to people like that, in ways you’ll never even know, and maybe never even see. It’s unbelievable how God does that. So, I’m just going to ask this question. I’m not going to get on anybody’s toes. This is just the question here. It’s the question for everybody. Do I really trust God with my finances? Is that really what I do, or do I not? You can take that home, you can wrestle around with it and you can do all of those things. But I think that’s just a truth. It’s a truth of Scripture.

I will tell you this: John Wesley, the great Methodist — if you’ve studied Methodism, I’m telling you John Wesley was a great, great, great person. John Wesley, his big deal was sanctification. John Wesley said this. It’s funny. It’s true, though, but it’s funny.

He says, “The last part of a human being that gets sanctified is their wallet.”

Right? Amen. Come on. Come on. You can just say amen. It’s just a truth. Okay? So, let’s move on. You’re like, “Alright. Just get to the next one here.”

Alright. Number seven: The only difference — this is a tough one — between the sheep and the goats was what they did and did not do. Let me read this to you. This is one of those things where I’m committed to the whole of Scripture. I’m not committed to cherry picking out things just to pick them out. Listen to what Jesus says.

He goes, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, [...] He’s going to say to those on His right [the sheep], ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’” (Matthew 25:31, 34)

Listen. This is big time. Listen.

“‘For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you invited Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’’’ (Matthew 25:35)

They’re going to say, “Lord, I’m seeing You right now. I don’t ever remember, ever, seeing You naked or as a stranger or needing water. I don’t remember any of that.”

He says, “Well, it’s what you did to the least of these that you did to me. Enter your reward.”

But then He’s going to look to those that are on the left, and it’s not pretty. It says, “‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into eternal fire which has been prepared for the Devil and his angels! For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger and you did not invite Me in; I was naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’” (Matthew 25:41-43)

“Lord, when did we ever do that? I mean, I’m looking at You right now. I don’t ever remember ever, ever, ever turning You away. Ever. I don’t ever remember not feeding You or clothing You. I’ve never even seen You before.”

He says, “Well, no. It’s what you did to the least of these that you did to me.”

And see, the only difference between the sheep and the goats was what they did and did not do in this walk. It’s just the truth here. So, I know. And I know so many people go, “Oh, but man, don’t do that to me. Don’t make me whatever.”

I’m not doing anything. I just read Scripture. If Scriptures making you feel a certain way, I’m sorry. I’m just telling you what Scripture says. You can get mad at me all you want, but I’m going to preach the Bible. I ain’t giving you Chip Bennett’s opinion, okay? I’m going to just tell you what Scripture says. So, I know there’s those that are like, “Oh, but I just want to feel good and I just want God to give me grace.”

So, what I did is I sat down and I, with the brain God gave me, which is challenge because I’m from Kentucky, wrote down this right here. This is what I wrote. I put this right here. I said, “The grace that saves is through faith alone and apart from works, but the salvation that comes from faith alone works.”

See, you may not know this. Paul, writing to the church at Thessaloniki, there was a group of people that believe because Jesus had been risen from the grave that they were in, now, rest period. That’s what they taught. “I’m just going to rest. It’s all done. Rest. Rest. Rest. Rest.”

So, here’s what Paul says to those people: “I command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” — I mean, that’s about as serious as it gets right here. You can’t get any more serious that that line — “that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6)

In other words, Paul thought Christians work. He didn’t think Christians rested. He thought they worked, that they were getting after it, that they were busy, that they were a part of something. That does not mean, and we do not want to confuse that working is what gets us into heaven. That is never going to get you into heaven. Only what Jesus has done on the cross gets us into heaven. But that does not mean that as a Christian who loves God and who has been filled with the Spirit of God and who has grace in their life isn’t going to want to go out there and get after it for the Lord in the world.

And if there’s a problem with that, then that’s a problem we’ve got. It’s not a problem that Scripture has because Scripture assumes that you and me will be people that do things for others and love people in a way that we need to love them.

So, here’s my take-home: Wow. I really need to let that soak in. So, there you go. I’m just going to leave that one there. Some of y’all will be like, “Man, I don’t like Chip anymore.”

That’s alright. That’s the price you pay sometimes for preaching Scripture. If people don’t like it, they don’t like it. But the reality is I believe with all of my heart that I can believe that there’s nothing I did at all that got me to be a Christian other than what Jesus did on the cross. And I am saved absolutely by grace, 100%, not of works, lest I boast. But I also believe the same grace that saved me motivates me and pushes me to want to love people and reach out to people and do great things for the Kingdom of God, and those two things don’t have to be confused.

Number eight. This is huge. This is for somebody. In your walk, it may not look like it at all at times, but God really is good, He really is in control, and you really can trust Him. So many times in your walk it’s not going to look that way. Where’s God? I mean, I can tell you right now. I’m part of a group of like 15-20 pastors. We have a text message thing. It’s called “Covenant Group.” Almost every Monday, invariably, one of those pastors: “Man, today’s terrible.”

They come out of the weekend, everything’s falling apart, whatever. Because it’s okay to not always be okay, but sometimes it doesn’t look like things are good. I always go back to the Joseph story. I mean, Joseph had a lot of junk going on in his life. Joseph looks back and he says, “Hey, what you brothers meant for evil when you sold me into slavery and did all that stuff, somehow God meant that for good.”

That’s just the truth here. No matter what’s going on in your life, no matter how bad it looks, no matter what is going on, if you are a child of God, let me tell you: Somehow, someway, God is working all things out for good. Somehow, someway. Can’t explain it. Can’t see it. Don’t know it. I can just tell you by faith that is true, which is why our take-home needs to be we need to talk by faith a little bit more and by sight a little bit less. What we need in the Church is less circumstantial Christianity. When things are good, God’s good. When things are bad, “Where’d He go?” Sometimes things can be going really good, and you’re not where you’re supposed to be with God. Don’t let circumstances dictate your Christianity.

This next one here, I’m going to meddle a little bit. I don’t normally go here, but I’ve got to because I just think it’s important. And this is huge. Number nine: Religious — that’s all kinds of religious stuff that we get caught up into — and political scruples can take the place of Jesus if we aren’t careful. Listen to your pastor here. Listen to me. I’m going to read you a verse that you may not even know exists in Scripture, but it is to a group of people that are absolutely convinced they are doing God’s work. It’s to a group of people that have a pretty good idea of what they think religion looks like, and what politics looks like because they are pro-their country, Israel, and they are nationalists and they have all their religious things done.

Here’s what Jesus says to them. It’s sobering.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” (Matthew 23:15)

See, what Jesus is saying is when you get, and I get, our religious and political scruples, what we do is we try to bring God and the Bible into that world, and what we’ve done is that’s no longer Jesus. That’s a god we’ve made in our image. Let me just make it very clear here so that everybody understands this. The leaders of our world are not going to solve the problems in our world. The one who can solve the problem is not the leaders of the world, it’s the Leader of the universe, of the cosmos, and His name is Jesus Christ. That’s why I put that stake in the ground on a regular basis, saying, “Don’t get caught up in the minutia. Stay on focus.”

I’ll put it this way: If our religious and/or political enthusiasm is greater than our evangelistic fervor for leading people to Jesus, it’s time to look in the mirror. If we’re spending more time arguing and complaining and bickering about all this other stuff, we need to look in the mirror and realize that it’s about Jesus and it’s not about all that other stuff. That’s a distraction. Don’t get distracted as a church.

Here’s my take-home: “Man, PC really does see what I post on Facebook.” I couldn’t wait to get to that slide. I was like, “Get that slide.” But, listen, I’m just trying to bring a sobering thought here because that’s a tough word that Jesus said that just lets you know that it’s easy to get God confused with all kinds of cultural things. What we need to do is say, “Who is God?” We’ve got to make sure that we preach the Gospel to people, not our scruples. Let’s just make sure that we’re there.

And the last one. And, listen, if you didn’t hear anything else I said, if you’re just like, “Man, I don’t want to hear anything. This guy’s crazy. I can’t wait for Dear Colossae.”

This is the one I want you to hear above anything else that I tell you: No matter what we have said or done, there’s always grace and mercy for us if we come to Jesus. I can’t tell you how many Christians struggle with this.

“But you don’t understand what I’ve done. You don’t understand what I’ve said. You don’t understand some of the things that I’ve done, Chip. You just don’t understand.”

No. I want you to hear me here. I want you to hear what Scripture says to you and me.

“Let us then with confidence...”

So many people go into God, “God, I don’t even know if I can come to You, God, because I’ve...”

No. Let us come with confidence — with confidence that your Heavenly Father loves you even more than you could ever possibly know. You go into your earthly dad, who may not have done you right, your earthly mom, who may not have done you right, your family, who may not have done you right — people may have hurt you.

The writer says, “...with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in a time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

With confidence that I can go and say, “I know. I know that my Heavenly Father knows everything I have done. What He wants me to do is to march in there with confidence, knowing that I’m going to get mercy and grace to help in my time of need.”

So, what’s the take-home? The take-home is real simple here. God loves me more than I could ever imagine, more than I could ever know. Could I give you a secret here as a pastor? The people that I know that are the happiest and most content in their Christian life are the people that have truly, truly, truly allowed God’s love to just pour and cascade over them, and to get past all the guilt, all the works, all the performance, all the junk, all the religion and all of that stuff and just to go, “Man, my Heavenly Father, He loves me in a way that I can’t even imagine. I can’t even articulate it. I just know that my Heavenly Father, He’s my Daddy. I know I can go in there and tell Him everything I’ve done.”

And He says, “Son, daughter, I’ve got grace and I’ve got mercy for you in your time of need.”

That is such a freeing thing, as we walk with God, to understand that truth. So, what I want to do is I want to say a prayer and I want to just say one last thing here. It is incumbent upon you and me — because the Church isn’t one person, the Church is all of us. It’s incumbent that we say we want our church, always, to be a place that’s open and welcoming, a place that really, truly wants to have relationship with God, a place where people can really be broken and they can find a place to come.

And that’s on you and me. That’s not just on me. That’s on all of us. We create the church that Grace Community Church will be. What I’m telling you is this: As we grow, the temptation to become something different will always be there. I don’t want us to lose what God is doing in our midst because I believe, with all of my heart, we are called, in a very significant way, to march into Lakewood Ranch and to make a difference for the Kingdom of God. I believe that newspapers and TV can actually be writing and talking about things that are going on in our area because we decided we’re not going to play the religion thing, we’re not going to play the church thing, we’re not going to play all that other garbage. We’re going to lift up Jesus in everything that we do, where going to love people with an extravagant love, we’re going to reach out. Broken people are welcome here. It doesn’t make a difference what you’ve done. You come in here and we’re going to love you and all that good stuff, and we’re going to keep reaching out to win those unchurched to the Kingdom of God.

I think if we decide that’s what we want to be and we want to walk that way, I think that God has not even begun to do what He’s going to do in the midst of our church. So, let’s be that. Let’s be that. Let’s don’t give in. Let’s don’t give in.

Now I want to pray. Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You so much for Your love and Your mercy. I thank You for Your goodness and Your kindness. But, Lord, I want to take a moment here because this is important. I want us to take a moment as a church and to say, “Lord, help us to be the authentic place that represents You in the way that is pleasing to You.”

Lord, I want to believe, all of us, when we step into eternity, that You not only say, “Well done,” but You also look at this church and say, “Well done.” Lord, we want to be a church that really, authentically reflects Jesus in our community. And Lord, I know that that’s always going to be a challenge and a struggle because we’re human, and the tendency to want to go to the left or the right is always going to be there.

So, I’m asking You, Lord, in Jesus’ name, to give this church a burden and a conviction that we want to remain a church that’s on the walk, looking like Jesus, acting like Jesus, talking like Jesus, loving like Jesus in all that we do. Lord, I pray that that would be a reality in all of our hearts and that we would be committed, one to another, to make sure that we run our race for You and not in vein.

So, Lord, I pray that as we leave here today that You would watch over us and protect us, I pray that You would lead and guide us, bring us back safely to when we meet again, and I pray, Lord, that You would always help us to remember that You’ve placed us here so that we could reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ.

We love You, we thank You, we praise You and we honor You. In Jesus’ name, and all of God’s people said, “Amen.”

Give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon. Blessings.

John Flowerree