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It is easy to assume that people are spiritually mature if they say the right Christian things and do the right Christian activities, but are these reliable signs of true spirituality? A continuing look at a few church-related myths exposes some false conceptions about Christian maturity and asks the question, "What about the change?
chURchBAN Myths - Lies About Spiritual Maturity, part 3
chURchBAN Myths - Lies About Spiritual Maturity, part 2
chURchBAN Myths - Lies About Spiritual Maturity, part 1
First of all, I want to apologize that we have existed as a church for 15 months, and that's the first time we've ever had a steel guitar. Second of all, what a story. I've heard that song countless times. It's the number one song in the country. It's been for a couple of weeks. Harley Allen wrote that song. I tried to get in touch with him this week. His wife had a baby on Friday. He wrote this song in 10 minutes, and it's the Christian "Stairway to Heaven."
He wrote the song in 10 minutes on an email he received. He didn't have any clue if it was true or just an urban legend. Is it a great story? Absolutely. Is it true that if God wanted to, in the person of his Son, he could appear again behind a little couch and hold a little girl, a sad little girl? Absolutely.
But if we pass that story off as true, and we communicate that this happened and it's a reason to believe, all it takes is one good reporter to scour the country, to look all around for any foster agency that has placed a little girl into a foster care situation whose mom and dad were involved in a murder-suicide, and they won't be able to turn that little girl up.
This story, which is such a great comfort that talks about truth that that man up there on the cross got off, and that man alone can give people hope and can give people renewal and can give people peace with God and peace of God. Our credibility is going to be shot. Now, we don't know for sure that story is false. Harley Allen doesn't know. It's just at best unproven.
So we talked about it and say, "Things like that could happen," but you make sure you keep it in the category that it's in. It's a powerful story. It even resonates with non-believers. No one can resist it. I have a list here of different radio personalities around the country who have said they have never seen a reaction to a song like they've seen to that song. People want to know about a God on a cross that got off and cares for them and can hold them when they're hiding behind their couch scared to death.
He can do it, but make sure that you don't confuse powerful stories with reality. Don't broker your truth in a legend that can be easily disproven or at least can't be substantiated. We have a story that's even more miraculous. That man got off that cross, and that man was resurrected from the grave.
It could be validated, and there were hundreds of witnesses in that day that saw the resurrected Lord, and the Roman authorities tried to snuff out the testimony of the guards who kept watch over that tomb, Praetorian Guards whose lives were on the line if the people who they guarded were somehow released or the thing that they were charged to keep in place was somehow changed. It cost them their life.
Yet, the tomb that Christ was in was empty, and the Roman guards weren't murdered because the Roman authorities knew something happened that these guys couldn't be responsible for. So they told them to tell everybody they just fell asleep, and while they were asleep some scared to death disciples came and moved the stone (which weighed upwards of 3,000 pounds) and broke the seal of Rome (which was punishable by death) and stole the body. "You go tell them that, and we won't kill you." It was completely contradictory to anything that would happen.
Not just one or two fringe folks, but hundreds of people saw this risen Lord and hundreds of lives have been changed by the man who got off that cross. It is the most historically verifiable fact in history. Simon Greenleaf from Simon Greenleaf School of Law, the man whom Harvard's law school is named after, looked at that event, and he said, "Again and again, I have won cases in courts with much less evidence than the evidence of the risen Lord Jesus Christ."
That's a verifiable fact, and it's worth hanging your entire faith on. It's no urban legend. But if we put forth other things just as passionately and say they're true, it's going to make that very true life-changing fact something people are going to be skeptical about as well. I love what Pascal said. He said he prefers those witnesses who are willing to have their throats cut.
Before you go pass on email or pass on a forward or say a story is true about an angel that did this or that for somebody, are you so sure it's true you're willing to have your throat cut? You know that of the followers of Christ, the 11 who walked with him and stayed with him, every single one of them were willing to have their throat cut for the reality of the resurrection and were willing to say it happened.
It's been proven again and again that men will die for a lie they believe to be true, but they will not die for a lie they know to be a lie. If those men had stolen the body, one of them would've cracked. One of them would've said, "There's really no need to lop it off. We snuck in while they were asleep, and we took the body. The game's over."
But none of them did, and Pascal said that told him something about those men and the millions who have followed after who know it to be a fact. Some of us by faith, not having seen and believed by sight. What are you brokering in? What is true? What are you communicating with a passion?
I have this little deal. At the end of some of these emails that come like this that Harley Allen got and made himself a millionaire by writing a song, other folks believe if they don't forward that email, they'll become anything but a millionaire; in fact, they'll have a lot of bad luck. Folks will tell you, "This is a great story. If it touched you, forward it to five friends. If you don't forward it to five friends, something awful will happen to you."
Indulge me for a moment. "If you send this message off to 20 people within the next 4 days, and each of them sends this letter off to 20 other people within 4 days, in 40 days, approximately 10 trillion of these messages will cross the internet. From day 40 to 44, an additional 200 trillion of these messages will cross the internet at an average of 50 trillion messages per day.
From day 44 to 48, an additional 4,000 trillion of these messages will cross the internet at an average of 1,000 trillion messages a day, 41.7 trillion messages per hour, 694 billion messages per minute, or 11.6 messages per second. Of course, the internet will have ground to a complete halt way before then.
It's a good thing too, because by day 44, assuming each man, woman, and child in the world is tied to the internet, you would have to respond to about 2 chain mail letters per second, sending off 20 responses each second, giving you 5/100 of a second to send each message, knowing that if you drop the ball, you will break about 1,800,000 chain letters per day, bringing almost 2 million times of bad luck upon yourself than if you had broken the first chain letter to begin with.
The logical conclusion? It's better to break the initial chain letter and receive one dose of bad luck than to continue the chain letter and by day 44 receive 1,800,000 doses of bad luck. I knew one poor fellow who ended up in such a circumstance. He ended up having 287,345 heart attacks, losing 5,137 wives, got fired from 100,000 jobs, and was run over from a truck. His Visa card was offer revoked, nobody liked him anymore, and he finally ended up committing suicide 459 times, but he was so unlucky, he was never successful."
I have to tell you, some of our friends who will sit in places of worship today and some of the scare tactics, some of the motivation tactics that are used in the name of our God are some of the worst stuff going. People are taking the name of God and have been very spirited in the things they propagate. All we can do is worry about ourselves, our own little heart. Let's not worry about changing the world; let's worry about changing us. Let's worry about being discerning, discriminate people. Let's worry about what we're willing to put our throats on the line for and say, "This is true. Follow me as I follow this truth."
The beautiful thing about our Scriptures, the beautiful thing about our Lord, the beautiful things about the claims of the Scriptures is if it is true, no amount of scrutiny can affect it. So we say, "Come on. Take on the legend. Take on the myth. Have the integrity to do the work, and you see if Jesus is true." Let's pray together.
Father, we want to broker in reality. We want to stake our lives on this Word. If we do the work and if we ask ourselves, why is this book, upon other books that claim to be divinely inspired, different? Why should we trust it? Why are we right? Why are you evident in this book and not other writings that claim to come from you? I thank you that those are questions that can be answered.
Why is Jesus the way, the truth, and the life? Why is he the means that no one should come to Father except through him? I thank you that with some integrity and some work and some diligence, that question can be answered. I thank you that because you are true, no amount of scrutiny can affect it. I thank you that you want us to use your minds when we love you, and not surrender to some child's faith or some story that's moving.
You want us to see and study and check to see if it is so that we might be confident, so that we might be the kind of witnesses who are willing to have our throats cut, that we might the kind of individuals who are willing to take up our cross and follow you. We pray that, as a result of our again being reminded of biblical truth as opposed to chURchBAN myths, we would today order our lives differently.
We pray for, Father, first the core members of this group right here, that our lives would reek of authenticity, that we would stake a claim on truth. We pray for our friends who are here with us, that investigate this truth, that they would be welcome to ask questions as long as they ask those questions with integrity, and to study and to look and to consider to see if it is so.
We pray that this would be a safe place, a safe place for believers to ask questions to grow deeper and for those who are far from God to ask questions and to come at their pace, that you draw them. We pray that all we would be doing is be faithful men and women who would live truth and communicate truth in such a way that others might find the life that is there with you. We pray that in Christ's name, amen.
We're using that little picture of chURchBAN myths. We covered five last week in part one. Here we go. We're going to cover seven more this week.
6._ Spiritually mature persons are always busy with spiritual activities and are full of spiritual talks._ This is an unreliable sign of spiritual maturity. Unreliable does not equal false. But the temptation is to make them reliable signs of spiritual maturity, to make them telltale calling cards of spiritual maturity.
One of the ideas that is out there is that you need to have a Pontius Palm Pilate (see last week) that is filled with religious actives that you can check off to show how devoted to Christ you are. I mentioned this before, you ask non-believers across this country to describe what they think a religious person looks like or, specifically, a Christian looks like, and they will give you two things. The first thing they will say is they go to a lot of meetings. The second thing they'll say is they're against a lot of things (according to George Barna).
There's a chURchBAN myth that is out there that spiritually mature people are very busy with spiritual activities, and you're running from one church event or one religious duty to another. That's a myth. That's an unreliable sign. Not necessarily false that you're about God's work, but it's a false sign that that's all we have to determine that this person is a devoted follower of Christ.
In fact, it says in the Scriptures, Jesus is concerned there are a lot of people who are full of spiritual talk. He says, "There are a lot of folks who honor me with their lips, who today will read creeds in unison around the world, who will sing hymns and praise choruses, while their hearts are far from me." I want to read a little psalm with you. It's Psalm 50. It's one of my favorite psalms because it's when God talks like he's in a locker room to you.
In fact, the first seven verses of Psalm 50 are really just a subpoena. It's God saying, "Meet me in the ring. We have to have a little chat." All he's doing is saying, "Come in here with me, and let's close the door. Let's get nose to nose, and I'm going to state some things to you that you need to get right. I'm going to clear up a myth, a chURchBAN myth, that has existed for too long since I've tried to reveal myself to you."
Begin with me in verse 8 of Psalm 50. He said to his people, "I do not reprove you for your sacrifices…" In other words, the problem is not with your religious activity. "…and your burnt offerings are continually before Me." Your Pontius Palm Pilate is full of religious doings. "I shall take no young bull out of your house nor male goats out of your folds. For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird of the mountains, and everything that moves in the field is Mine."
"Listen, I don't need them from you as some kind of king who needs to live off what you provide for me in some sort of kingdom tax." That's not why these sacrifices are continuing going at the rate they're going. He said, "If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is Mine, and all it contains. Shall I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of male goats?" No.
He's saying to those who are full of empty performance without a heart in verses 8 down through 15… He's addressing those who are full of spiritual activity and sometimes spiritual talk but their heart is devoid of what we see there in verse 14. "Offer to me not just some right, not just ritual, not just some act of attendance or act of duty, but…" He says, "Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving…"
A sacrifice of thanksgiving is a sacrifice you could not offer unless you could tangibly communicate how you had experienced God's work on your behalf. God says, "What I want from you is for you to come to me with a heart that is aware of my goodness and care for you, a heart that understands that I was the one [or I will be the one, if you're considering Psalm 50] that will cover your sins through a lamb that is unblemished that will take away your sins."
He'd say to you and me, "You offered to me from a heart that is full of thanksgiving, that that man on the cross one day got off and was resurrected from the grave and then he who knew no sin became sin on your behalf that you might become the righteousness of God in him." You tangibly express appreciation for how you've experienced God's care.
Those other sacrifices that are going on are really the means through which back then folks would receive God's provision for their sin because he's a teaching God. Any good teacher uses visual aids. God had a visual aid going. He was showing them that innocent blood must be shed to cover up for sin.
So that bull didn't do anything. Fluffy the lamb was largely innocent, and yet he was brought before the priest. His throat was slit. It wasn't a fun thing to watch that cute little lamb get his head loped off, and his blood spilled out. It was a very gruesome thing, in fact. A parent was to tell their child, "We don't do this as some tax. We do this because God is a holy God, and we are sinful people. God is using this as a means through which, for the time being in his forbearance, he covers our sin. Not for good. That's why we continue to offer these sacrifices.
He's promised us a day when we will have a Deliverer who will come and somehow cover up this problem that Fluffy the lamb and Butch the ox can't take away forever. For the very first time, Jesus was identified. Do you remember how John identified him? "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" The Lamb without blemish.
God doesn't want this busy calendar. He doesn't just want empty confessions of faith. He wants hearts that understand. In verses 8 down through verse 15, he says, "Empty performance without a heart offends me." But look what he starts in verse 16. Here he's going to say, "Energetic performance with hypocrisy is just as offensive."
Look what it says in verse 16. "But to the wicked God says, 'What right have you to tell of My statutes and to take My covenant in your mouth?'" In other words, "You sing my songs, you read my creeds, you tell people you believe in my truth." Verse 17: "For you hate discipline, and you cast My words behind you."
He says, "Let me gives you some illustrations of that. For instance, if you see a thief and you don't think that's a problem, you're pleased with him. You associate with adulterers." I'll cover this a little bit later. He doesn't say you'll love and reach out to adulterers. He says, "You have no problem with their life, and you don't communicate to them that they ought to consider there's a holy God they're accountable to. You just get right in there with them, and you're part of the same swinging club they're a part of."
"You let your mouth loose in evil and your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother…" The problem here is you slander, you gossip, you talk about other people, and you have no problem with that. "Yet you take my creeds. You say you're going to love others as I have loved you, and you are not willing to love your brother enough to tell him to his face something that might concern you. You'd rather build your own self-esteem up by talking bad about whoever."
It offends God. Though you are energetic in your activities, there is no authenticity with your heart. This is the part I love. This is when God finally gets to the point. I think he reaches out, and he grabs you and me right there by the scruff of our shirt. He says, "These things you have done and I kept silence; you thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes."
If you have the NIV, I love the way it says, "I will rebuke you and accuse you to your face." In other words, God's going to say, "Enough of this stuff, of taking my name in vain. Do you really think I need to feel good about myself by having you show up one hour a day or one hour a week to say some little words in homage to me? I mean, come on.
I don't need your bulls and goats, and I don't need your empty singing and your empty song. What I want are hearts that are engaged with me. Do you think I'm pleased with the spiritual tasks and the spiritual duty you do? You come here, and I will reprove you and rebuke you to your face. You thought I was just like you, some weak individual who needed some false respect. Well, you couldn't be more wrong."
That's the Lord in Psalm 50. That's not gentle Jesus, meek and mild. He's just saying, "This is a chURchBAN myth that is destroying reality." Look what he says another time in Amos 5. This is a pretty strong word.
"I hate, I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; and I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."
Micah 6:8: "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.""Then you sing your little songs, then you participate in acts of worship and devotion, but don't be energetic in the activities without a heart that understands why you do what you do."
The biblical truth is that spiritually mature persons have a heart that is aware of its need for a gracious Savior and respond to that heart with willing surrender and gratitude. Let me say it again. The chURchBAN myth is that spiritually mature persons are always busy with spiritual activities and are full of spiritual talk. They wear their little bracelets. They have their little magnets. They have their little insignia on the car.
That's what a really devoted follower will do. They're willing to step it out and let everybody know. They'll even, in summer, wear a t-shirt that has some bold message on it. That does not mean devotion. It is an unreliable sign of spiritual maturity. Biblical truth says spiritually mature persons have a heart that is aware of its need and are grateful for what God has done. They willingly surrender, and they offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving.
Can I give you a picture of that? Look at Philippians 3 with me. A guy named Paul said, "I was a guy who was full of energetic activity and worship. If anybody was going to feel good about themselves because their Pontius Palm Pilate was full, it was me." Verse 4 says, "If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless."
Paul said, "You could take all 613 commands and all their little sundry cloths that would go with them and all the derivative laws and grandchild laws. I was blameless." Verse 7: "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ." Paul said, "They don't matter. God doesn't want my activities. He wants me to be aware of my sin and my need for a Savior." He says,
"More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from [spiritual activities] , but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him…"
In other words, experience the grace of God in my life. "…and the power of His resurrection…" The power of renewal and the newness of life that brought Christ from the grave, and that brings us from the graveyard of habitual sin. "…and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death…"
Paul said there, "I participate with him, and I suffer for the cause of righteousness, and I fellowship with Christ in that way. I do it willingly and with gratitude; thinking it never earns me his love. For his love was demonstrated to me that while I was a sinner, Christ died for me. So I now willingly surrender with gratitude.
Yes, I do things, but you need to know why I do things. You need to know why I sing my little songs. Why I go to my religious festivals, why I attend church, why I'm a part of community, and why I serve others in this community. It's not to build a resume, it's not so that I might present a life of good works, for my good works, the Scripture says, are but fifthly rags, and no man can be saved according to those works, but by the grace of God that you received through faith." That's Paul, and that's a spiritually mature person.
John Wesley was an ecstatic and fervent missionary for many years before he understood this. John Wesley was a guy who, frankly, was turning the church on its head. He was engaging the church in acts of devotion like they had never been involved in for centuries. It was creating a revival of sorts, all devoid of a heart that understood Philippians 3:1-10.
In fact, he was coming back from one of his missionary journeys here to America, down in southern Georgia and working his way up the coast. He was doing some great things with Methodism here in the states as he had back in the homeland. On the way back, he was on a ship that was being rocked and being threatened by a storm. He was shaken to his core, and he cried out for mercy. He was scared to death that what he had worked for his whole life, to please and honor God, was not good enough.
There were some other people on that ship, some Moravians, who were singing praises and offering worship to God. He went in there and goes, "How can you all do this? We're about to die, and I know I've done more than any of you sorry sack of seeds. How can you feel good about yourself when you haven't done what I've done, and I'm not sure I've pleased a holy God?"
Wesley was methodical about spiritual activities and spiritual talk, thus Methodism. Moravians told him, "We're not trying to present to God a resume. We are devout in our own way, but ultimately, it's not going to be our works that we lay before the Lord. Don't you know what the Scripture says?"
"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." Wesley heard that truth, amazingly, for the first time in a way he'd never heard it. He went back to a church in England. He sat in the service, heart still racing with fears, pulse way up, and he heard somebody read the introduction to Martin Luther's Commentary on Romans.
Next time you complain about the message here, be glad I'm not just opening up Luther and reading it to you. Or maybe you ought to suggest I do. I don't know. You tell me. In that introduction to the book of Romans, Luther talks about his journey as a Catholic monk, as a priest. Luther, who was training to be an attorney, was riding in a wagon one day when a lightning bolt struck awfully near to him. He was scared to death. He had this fear of death. The lightning bolt split a tree not far from him.
So he said, "You have my attention. I'm in." So he left his little pre-law campaign, and he went to the monastery. He said, "I need to connect with you guys." Luther was the most disciplined monk in the lot. He would take care of his church first, his scribal duties, and then he continually was wrestling with how he can please this Holy God who he feared, so much so that he began to annoy the monsignors and those who were there because he was always nervous about whether he was doing enough.
He'd be longer in prayer, longer in study than anybody else in the monastery. Finally, the guys came to him and said, "Luther, you just need to relax. You're doing great. In fact, you need to know this. God doesn't have a problem with you. You have a problem with God." This Catholic priest said to him, "The righteous shall live by faith."
Luther goes, "What?" He said, "The righteous shall live by faith. It's in Romans." Luther went to Romans, and he read Romans 1:17, and he began to protest the teachings of the Catholic Church, which communicated that the righteous will be won by believing in God to be sure but by then their adherence to the seven holy sacraments and by right relationship to the church.
He said, "I am more rightly related to the church than anybody else in this monastery. I am more committed to the sacraments than any other monk here by your own testimony. Yet I know that I fall short of God. God knows those things will always make me fall short of him. Then he said, 'The righteous shall live by faith.' You yourself have opened to me the truth of the gospel. Why do we not share that out there?"
He nailed on the door his 95 problems with the church as it was known in the world today. He said, "There are some myths we need to expose," and as a protestor of the chURchBAN myths, started the Protestant faith, what was the father of what we've come to know as what the Scriptures truly teach.
The righteous shall live by faith, and to be sure, not a faith without works or a faith without works is dead, but we don't present our works, and we don't fill up our Day-Timers. We're not full of spiritual talk and spiritual activities. We are full of hearts that are full of surrender and gratitude, and we do what we ought with joy and considering it a privilege in response to our loving King. Let me give you a chURchBAN myth. It's closely connected to that last one.
7._ Spiritually mature persons are consumed with time-honored traditions, forms of worship, and religious rites, practices, and professions._ If you're really devout, you're going to make sure we do it like we've always done it. We're going to sing certain songs in certain ways with certain attire being worn by the people who lead us. We're going to protect that, by goodness. We are keepers of the truth, and we are keepers of that which is ultimately significant.
Let me give you a biblical truth. Spiritually mature persons are not so much concerned and consumed with honored traditions, forms of worship, and religious rites, experiences, and professions. Spiritually mature persons are consumed with worshiping the Father in spirit and in truth. This is what Jesus said.
"But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." In other words, not with dead religion, but with a heart that is fully engaged, not with a hope that he is some God we have invented but acknowledging him as the God he has revealed himself to be with a heart that is engaged, Spirit, with biblical orthodoxy and accuracy truth, for those are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.
The Father doesn't seek those who worship him in casual attire who sings praise choruses. The Father doesn't seek worshipers who worship him in coat and ties, who sit in pews and nice buildings. The Father seeks individuals who know him for who he is, who love him for who he is, who acknowledge their need before him, who cry out, "Mercy on me, a sinner. I need waves of mercy, waves of grace, in a response that every move I make, every step I take, everything I do, I do for you. You are my Lord Jesus." Those are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.
There are going to be many who say things and get it right. Jesus said on that day, "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name , [and in Your name didn't we do what religious people do] , and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'"
Notice the key here. These are not folks who have a right relationship with God and later got sucked into a remote ritual. He said, "These are people who never knew me, but they knew the practices, and they knew the things believers do." They did some amazing things, but they never knew him.
Our Father wants people who know him and who love him and in humility respond to his grace and mercy revealed through his Son, Jesus Christ, who was a friend of sinners. Let me give you another chURchBAN myth.
8._ Spiritually mature persons don't mingle with those who are not like them._ It is a myth that spiritually mature people separate themselves, because they're holy, from sinners, from adulterers, from homosexuals, from gossipers, from legalists. It is a myth, and it is destroying the name of our Lord who was known not for meetings he attended and not for what he was against but was known for those who he loved and how much he loved them.
Mark 2 says, "And it came about that He was reclining at the table…" These folks who thought they were spiritually mature saw that Jesus was gathering with tax gatherers and sinners. "…for there were many of them, and they were following Him. And when the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax-gatherers, they began saying to His disciples, 'Why is He eating and drinking with tax-gatherers and sinners?'"
Why is he doing that? Let me tell you why he's doing that. Let me give you biblical truth. Spiritually mature persons find it impossible to not seek those who are far from God. They find it absolutely impossible to not care for those who need care, to not reach out to those who are lost. Spiritually mature persons don't show their holiness by being so far away from darkness and light that they just get together in their own little Christian cubbies and say their little Christian sayings and talk in their little Christianese and pat themselves on their back in their own little Christian circles and educational areas that they're protected from all the perversion of the world. No. Spiritually mature people cannot help to seek those who are far from God.
This is what it says in Mark 2:17. "And hearing this, Jesus said to them, 'it is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous [as if there were any] , but sinners.'" I want to, again, very quickly run through this. I want to note Jesus did not say three things here.
The Pharisees did not say, "Why is your Master acting and talking like a gossip, acting and talking like an adulterer, acting and talking like a homosexual, acting and talking like a liar, acting and talking like a tax gatherer and sinner?" They did not say that. They said, "Why does your Master eat and drink with them?"
The answer was because he cared for them, and he was developing a relationship with them, and he was brokering his influence with them that he might declare to them truth. Jesus never became a sinner in order to have authority and relationship with a sinner. He loved the sinner, hated the sin. Right? He mingled with sinners but never mingled with sin. That's true. I don't mean to say it so tritely.
Understand he was there on a mission. There was never a time that Jesus was around tax gatherers and sinners that he wasn't having meaningful conversation. He was developing a relationship so he could be trusted, but he didn't say, "I can't talk to you guys until you get your lives straightened out, until you stop that awful, perverse activity."
He said, "I want to tell you something. What you guys are doing is a bit of a problem. Let me show there's life in a different way. I know what it is to be tempted," I think he'd say. "I know why what you're doing makes sense through a mind that starts to believe some of the lies of the world, that pushes prosperity and pleasure as the two most important things you can experience, and I think you guys are experiencing a certain measure of prosperity and pleasure in your activities. But let me tell you where real life is. Be my friend, and I'm going to be yours. I'm going to love you whether you ever believe what I do or not."
My kids are far from perfect, but my little girl so encouraged me this week. Let me just brag on Kirby for a second. She had a friend at school who she was playing with this week. Her friend said to her, "Do you want to come to believe in Britney Spears?" That was the way this little kid said it. "We're going to have a Britney Spears club."
Kirby said, "I probably don't want to join a Britney Spears club. I think Britney Spears dresses in a certain way to attract boys. I don't want to join her club." She has talked to her daddy about that. She didn't figure that out on her own. In fact, truth be known, I walked through a mall with Kirby… My older one, Ally, who is a rule-abider by nature, wants to go into the Gap and stuff like that. Kirby, she sees sparkles, she sees something flashy, and that's where she's attracted. She's just that way.
My wife and I just laugh. Kirby sees that stuff and is like, "Let's go there." We go, "Well, you know. Probably not." Ally will button it all the way up and cover her nose. So we've talked to Kirby about this. We've said, "Kirby, here's the deal with Britney Spears. She has maybe some good music, but what are her lyrics saying? Let's be discerning. Look at the way she is dressing. Do you think that's modest? Do you think that's good?"
So she made a decision that she didn't want to join the Britney Spears club. Her friend looked at her and said, "Let me tell you something. If you don't join the Britney Spears club, I'm not going to be your friend. I'm not going to give you one of these rubber bands." They had those little rubber bands that you got to wear around one of your fingers because you've received Britney Spears into your life.
Kirby looked at that friend, and she said, "If you choose to not be my friend because I don't join that Britney Spears club, that will hurt me, but I will still be your friend." There will be other illustrations from Kirby in the years ahead that won't be so glamorous, but that one warmed her daddy's heart.
I want her to love folks who maybe right now are beginning to think certain things are good, certain ways of finding pleasure and prosperity that are good that maybe won't be so good for them. I want her to say, "I'm not going to do what you're going to do, but I'm going to love you. I'm going to be your friend. I want to stay there in your life, even if you hurt me, because I want to have influence there."
It is a lie that spiritually mature persons separate themselves from those who are not like them. Jesus though did not confuse himself by his activity. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He did not come to seek and date the lost. He did not come to seek and have his best friends be the lost. Make that note. Jesus, again, was not known as a companion of sinners. He was known as a friend of sinners. I want to remind you that a friend loves at all times, a friend faithfully wounds, and a friend is there and knows you personally.
Jesus was not a master at blending into the crowd. He was a master at speaking the truth in love. He was not a companion of sinners. He was a friend of sinners. In other words, his running buddies. Some people take this verse, and it is their license to surround themselves with people who are devoid of any morality and ethic because they're a friend of them, and it's their excuse to live a life they want to live.
Jesus didn't do that. Make that note. He didn't separate himself from them. He was their friend. But a friend loves at all times. A friend rebukes in love. A friend doesn't given deceitful kisses, and a friend does not let a friend drive drunk, live in rebellion, or be confused. Let me give you a chURchBAN myth.
9._ Spiritually mature people have no life._ "In comes the Son, out goes the fun."Have you ever heard that one? This one's not so much preached outwardly as we think it often. Don't we? Aren't you tempted to believe that? I know the junior high kids are out, and the high school kids are in here. How many of us thought when we were in high school, "If this Jesus thing is really true, I hope I trust him with a fully devoted heart by the time I'm 28, but I have 10 years to make some serious sunshine.
I want to get saved after college. I've heard stories. I've seen Animal House. I've seen what can happen if you don't have any convictions. It looks awful fun. In comes the Son, that's going to be a little awkward. I want to have a life before I have a Lord, because once I have a Lord, there goes my life." It's a myth. Let me tell you where that myth originated.
"Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, 'Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?' And the woman said to the serpent, 'From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die.'' And the serpent said to the woman, 'You surely shall not die!'"
"God doesn't want to share that. In fact, you're going to die if you keep living underneath his strict moral boundaries, which, by the way, we're to live in Eden and have the land freely produce things, which was to live without guilt, which was to live without any tension between you and your mate, which was to live in harmony, which was to walk with God, which was to have the fullness of the his goodness towards you at your fingertips daily. That isn't life.
What life is is do the one thing he said you can't do because when you do that, all hell isn't going to break loose, but the party will begin. That's where life is. Life is not listening to a loving God who made you and knows exactly how you should experience the fullness of joy. Life is making that decision on your own, and life is doing what you want your way."
Others have taken this idea, and in Proverbs 1 this is what it says starting it verse 10. "My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say…" Listen, this is the way they wrote it four thousand or five thousand years ago. "Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood, let us ambush the innocent without cause; let us swallow them alive like Sheol, even whole, as those who go down to the pit; we shall find all kinds of precious wealth, we shall fill our houses with spoil; throw in your lot with us, we shall all have one purse…"
"It'll be great. Life is here. Come on. Let go of wisdom living. This is where life is. Watch this. Throw the water balloon. Good. Wasn't that fun? Good. Fire the gun. Rape the village. Pillage the city. That's where life is." It's a myth. But I have to tell you something. This is a very effective myth in my life.
There are times when I'm flipping through the channel, and I catch a glimpse of Spring Break on MTV. When I catch a glimpse of something happening somewhere, I go, "Oh. That looks like a whole lot of fun." When I'm hanging out and driving along, and some perverted thought comes into my mind. I go, "Yeah, he did that? Well, that would be good." Oh, no, no. It wouldn't be good. It's a myth I'm enticed by.
What's the truth? This is the truth. The truth is that spiritually mature people know life. In comes the Son, out goes the lie. There's a guy who is part of a group called Big Tent Revival which is a group that has music that really relates and connects with kids who are 22 and under. It's their genre of music. Some of us might like it as well.
This guy, when he's on stage, will say, "If you're here tonight, and you don't know Jesus, and you're committed to not knowing Jesus, I want to tell you something. You smoke all the hooch you can. You'd better get drunk. You'd better have all the fun. Take advantage of your girlfriend. You dive deep into sin. Because this is as good for you as it's ever going to get." He said, "To those of you who know Christ, like me, and your heart has been changed by Jesus, hang in there. Hang in there, because it's not going to always be this way."
I say often that some of the temporal pleasure that folks experience… Let's not kid ourselves. One of the things that annoys the heck out of me is that sometimes we try and keep our kids from sin by telling them it's not really fun. It sometimes is fun to let a little anger out and assert your authority and have people bow down and make way for you. That's fun. Sometimes it's fun to indulge your lust. It feels good for a moment, doesn't it?
You'd better tell your kids, "That candy is sweet on the lips, but it will rot in your gut. I'm not going to tell you it doesn't taste sweet. I'm not going to tell you it doesn't feel good sometimes. It feels stinkin' good. The bait looks attractive. That's why all of us fish bite, but you need to know something. Every single one of these fishes that bite on this hook are mounted somewhere, and there's a cost to it. That's not life. It's a lie."
A guy who I was friends with in the 80s is a guy named Rick Cua. He used to play bass for Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath. I love Rick and his honesty with kids. I saw Rick in the pouring down rain up in Branson, Missouri, one time on a cold day. It was 45 or 50 degrees. He was playing his bass guitar to a soundtrack to some songs he wrote to 20 kids, just going after it with his energy.
He stood up there when he was done, and he communicated to them. He said, "Can I tell you guys something?" There were kids all around the park, but there were a group of kids who were sitting there. A lot of them had left in busses because it was raining so hard and so cold. The ones who were there were attracted to Rick Cua and that one little session he was doing because of who he used to be.
He said, "I could tell you stories about what it was like when I was with those different groups. I've played before 30,000 people. I could sit there and tell you about things I did, but I don't even want to waste your time. Compared to what I experience now, as a person who has been forgiven by God and found life in Jesus Christ, let me spend my time there telling you where life is."
Do you know what I learned from this testimony? Most of us think in our testimony we have to spend a lot of time talking about how bad we were so people so much appreciate God's redemptive grace. But, frankly, by the time some of us get done talking about all the women we've been through and all the fun we used to have before we trusted Jesus, and by the time we go, "Oh, well now I've trusted Christ, and I'm forgiven," we're so shell-shocked and drawn to your story that we're going, "Tell me some more about back then. That sounds like where you really had fun."
Your testimony is really about how you got your 10 years in, but now you're going to behave. Rick Cua was saying, "Let me not make that mistake. Let me tell you in specific, detailed ways that Jesus has impacted my life and changed me. Can you do that with clarity and integrity and power and first-person credibility?
The song we sang, "You alone are Father. You alone are good. You alone are Savior. You alone are God," and then we sang, "I'm alive. I'm alive. I'm alive. I'm alive," that's not just some words up there. Can we say that we tangibly experience that? Are we an alive people? Is there energy here? Is there a joy in our midst? Is there something attractive about the quality of life we're experiencing?
Do we have a story to tell? Maybe not like Rick does about our life before Christ, but can we first-person, present-tense testify that to know the Son is to know life? If not, the chURchBAN myth is going to go out there because that's being preached boldly every day. The question is, is there an integrity, an authenticity in our life that we can say, "To know Jesus is to know life"?
When was the last time you laughed until you cried? When was the last time you shared with somebody about how God's Word protected you from sin and the joy that was associated with that? You can look somebody in the eye and tell them, "I know where you're going. I know I'm attracted to the lie like you are sometimes, but let me just tell you the truth."
We have to be a people who get back the joy of following Christ. Ours is a singing faith. The reason we spend so much time singing and do it with the joy that we do it is because we have something to sing about. You have put a new heart in my song to sing. There is joy in the way we worship. I hate that some of these songs have become familiar to us, and we start to sing like this.
"Every move I make, I make in you. You are my Lord, Jesus. Every move I make, I make in you. Waves of mercy…" I hate your festivals and your empty words and songs. Do you have something to sing about? I'm telling Kyle all the time, "Would you quit singing? Get them started, and then back off. Let them hear themselves proclaiming with joy the truth that knowing God is something that makes them alive." Do you know people want to know that's true? They want to know that's true.
We have three more myths, and we're going to do them next week. So we're going to start that series we talked about a week from Sunday. I want to tell you something. There are some myths that are being preached every day, and you people are heralds of righteousness, you are keepers of the truth, and you are the one who, with me, needs to go out there and has the privilege of saying, "I know what it's like to think there's life there. Yes, it looks attractive to me too. But, 'Even in laughter,' the proverb says, 'the heart might be sick.'"
There are a lot of folks who are experiencing the temporal pleasure of sin. When they close the door, and they're honest with themselves, they know they do not know life. They want to know that you do know Life, and his name is Jesus. Will you be faithful in that call this week? Let's pray.
Father, there are some chURchBAN myths that are out there that are destroying the message. I pray our lives would not be about empty rituals and rights and empty professions and creeds. I pray that in our lives, we wouldn't show our spiritual maturity by a t-shirt or by letters on a bracelet or a necklace or a keychain or a by a little Proverb magnet or by some welcome mat with a cross on it or some bumper sticker on our car or some fish tattooed to our car.
I pray we would show there is life in Jesus Christ by the change in our hearts and by the peace we have with you and the peace we have in the way we manage the world which sometimes is very alluring and sometimes is very discouraging. I pray we would remember that it's not going to always be this way for those of us who know you, who do die to our flesh and by faith at times agree with you that certain prosperities and pleasures are lies and not life.
It feels painful. We can be honest about that. We should also be honest about the joy we have that we live without guilt and without the fear of being exposed and the shame that's associated with so many lifestyles and broken relationships.
I pray we would be a people who would gladly talk about how our lives have changed now that we know Christ, and we would be able to articulate that in specific first-person, present-tense ways, and others would see us, and they wouldn't just see our attendance and our clothes and our bumper stickers, but they would see that we are people who have been changed and that change would violent in our lives, and your joy would be present, and the myths would be shattered.
We hear urban myths all the time. Thanks to the internet, they've become almost impossible to ignore. But how often do we stop to consider the myths regarding faith, the Christian life, the Bible and God that may have crept into today's thinking? Myths that are plainly exposed in God's Word. In this 3-part series, Todd Wagner examines twelve aspects of unbiblical thinking that impact everything from the way we worship to the way we interact with others, believers and unbelievers alike. We challenge you to consider the "chURchBAN myths" you may have bought into without even realizing it!