Come and See

Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael (John 1:43-51)

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Sermon audio

Today in America, we have virtually unlimited resources in which to educate ourselves, yet sadly ignorance, bigotry, sexism, racism, hypocrisy, and contempt still plague our society. Have you ever wondered why that is?

The genre of the passage we are about to read is gospel. It combines three literary ingredients: what Jesus did, what Jesus said (discourse and dialogue), and people’s responses to Jesus. This particular passage is a calling and encountering story of Nathanael with Jesus Christ.

Passage:

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to Him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And He said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” – John 1:43-51 (ESV)

Skepticism:

Pride

Nathanael is at the very least an intellectual snob, a geographical elitist, and maybe even a bigot.

The more pride we have, the more other people’s pride irritates us.

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Contempt

There is a contempt for people from Nazareth. Nathanael asks, “He’s from Nazareth? Really?! From THERE?! Are you serious right now?” In Nathanael’s eyes (and many others), Nazareth was a pathetic, backwater, primitive, ghetto of ghettos region of Galilee. This was that group of “those people.”

Again, the more pride we have, the more other people’s pride irritates us.

During the first basketball game I ever attended in Allen Fieldhouse, in Lawrence Kansas, they played (among many things) a clip from an old Clint Eastwood movie, The Outlaw Josey Wales.

I grew up in Kansas when I was younger and there is still a lingering distaste there for anything from Missouri. Back in the 1800’s, parts of cities were burned to the ground, people murdered in public, and even livestock slaughtered over the differences between these two states. The man who led the raid that served to spark the Civil War at Harper’s Ferry was none other than a Jayhawker from Kansas, John Brown.

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This movie clip was used because the Kansas Jayhawks were playing their hated border rivals, the Missouri Tigers. In this clip their is an older woman talking to a shop-keep about how they wouldn’t be purchasing anything from Missouri, they would never touch any muck from that state; they were Jayhawkers, and proud of it. At this point, the gym erupted; at times during the game it reached the decibel level that closely resembles that of a jet engine at takeoff. Needless to say, there is still a contempt in the state of Kansas for those dirty black and yellow slave-owning, secessionists from Missouri.

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Now while the story of Kansas and Missouri seems pretty obvious why there is contempt and bitterness there, we still see pride and contempt in shallow, sometimes petty ways in our lives today. Think about where you work, where you went to school, where you grew up… there is always “those people.” Sometimes it’s even a distaste for those who we think we’re spoiled or over-privileged.

Random examples:

• Costco – Walmart
• Texas A&M – University of Texas
• Pepsi – Coke
• Papa John’s – Pizza Hut

Belief:

Acknowledgment

You are the “Son of God” and the “King of Israel” are the two terms Nathanael uses to declare his belief that Jesus is who Philip said He was.

Quick shift (maybe too quick)

Just one sentence and Nathanael is all in. He’s pushing all his chips into the game because of one, single phrase by Jesus.

Think

Jesus never discourages thinking or the search for truth. Reason and logic is never to be feared. Doubt and questioning is not to be ignored or looked down upon. Doubt is healthy inquiry. Disbelief is a willful choice.

Have you ever witnessed large numbers of grade school students have moving experiences at some kind of church summer camp, be fired up and passionate about their faith for a season, but fail to grow in that faith over the next few years, only to have it seemingly snuffed out by skeptical professor in college who has a couple sarcastic quips for why Christianity is such a farce? Am I the only one who has seen this happen a concerning amount of times?

A faith without some doubts is like a human body with no anti-bodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask the hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. If you never take the time to better understand what it is you claim to believe, how do you know your faith wasn’t just an emotional experience? A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if they have failed over the years to listen patiently to their own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection.

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Closing:

John wrote this Gospel with evangelistic intent. However, the depth of teaching in his writing shows that he wanted readers not only to come to initial saving faith in Jesus, but also to grow into a rich, well-informed faith.

So, I’d like to plead with you all today, come and see… this man from Nazareth, this Son of Man named Jesus… He is the awaited Messiah, He is God become man, Word become flesh, He dwelt among us, turned the world on its head, is shining light into the darkness, and has even defeated death. In Christ, you will see greater things than you could ever imagine. Faith is the beginning; and once you have seen, now you are called to follow. Don’t settle for just some emotional response today, but join me in a life-long journey to better understand and know Jesus for who He is: our Messiah.

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Compassion

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Henri Nouwen explained it well that “Compassion is not a bending toward the underprivileged from a privileged position; it is not reaching out from on high to those who are less fortunate below; it is not a gesture of sympathy or pity for those who fail to make it in the upward pull. On the contrary, compassion means going directly to those people and places where suffering is most acute and building a home there.”

Our God has displayed ultimate compassion in His Son, Jesus Christ. By putting on flesh, stepping down into darkness, walking this earth, feeling pain, temptation, loss, weakness, abandonment, betrayal, hatred from others, unjust persecution, and wrongful sentencing from the government… witnessing the death of friends, and even experiencing death Himself on the cross and disconnection with the Father, the triune God has shown us He is not immune to pain. Rather, God takes our misery and suffering so seriously that He was willing to take it upon Himself. In Jesus Christ’s birth, life, and death He suffered in love, identifying with the abandoned, persecuted, and godforsaken. The Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard, eloquently observed, “For love is exultant when it unites equals, but it is triumphant when it makes that which was unequal equal in love.” Might we be moved by His grace and reflect this great love to the world instead of trying to merely subdue it with suffocating law. Because everything that isn’t gospel, is law.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, He may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” – John 15:1-17 (ESV)

“For it was fitting that He, for whom and by Whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the Founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why He is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” And again, “I will put my trust in Him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.” Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but He helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore He had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because He Himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.” – Hebrews 2:10-18 (ESV)

God is the Gospel

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Sometimes, I wonder whether some of us who claim to know about this guy named Jesus, really understand the message of His Gospel… Even people who don’t have backgrounds in church have usually heard the 23rd Psalm. In Psalm 23 David writes, “The Lord is my shepherd…” and ends it with, “He restores my soul and He leads me into paths of righteousness for the sake of His name.” And just from this passage (along with well an overwhelming number of other passages in Scripture that all clearly teach this) we read that God loves you, God is for you, and God will provide for you, but the motivation behind all that is not your awesomeness, but rather God. God is ultimately for God. God is about God. What God wants is the praise of His name in the universe. It’s the reason that everything exists. You, I, animals, plants, the nations, the planets, and the entire universe exist so that we might display that infinite perfections of God Almighty.

Now that rubs against the air we breathe, because the air we breathe is that we’re the point, we’re what it’s all about and everything should be about and revolve around us. We breathe that air. Every commercial is pointed in that direction. “You earned it. . . you deserve it. . . why wouldn’t you have this?” Almost all marketing schemes are built around how worthy you are of [insert product here]. So the Bible teaches that in reality you are not the center of God’s affections. You are most definitely not the center of the universe. Ultimately God is the center of the universe. But that rubs most of us so raw that in our pride we refuse to even question how and why this is good news. How can everything not being about me, be good news?! As big of a deal that I may think I am sometimes, God being about God is infinitely better than God being about me, you, or any of us.

Three reasons why it’s the best news in the universe that God is ultimately for God: If God is after the praise of His glorious grace, then He is not at odds with my desire to be filled with joy. If God is for God, He is not after my begrudging submission. He’s not after me just doing what He says so He won’t destroy me. If His goal is to be praised, to be worshiped, to be enjoyed and in that enjoyment to show Himself to be glorious to the world and to the universe itself, then He is for my joy. Which means all the commands of God in Scripture are not about taking anything from us, but rather leading us into deeper joy than we can imagine.

Now I know many people immediately upon reading this want to sit down and have a drink so they can tell me how that’s not true for them. “You don’t understand my situation. You don’t get my relationship. You don’t understand the part of life that I’m in right now or how I’m wired.” Many of us would love to sit down and explain why that’s not true for us and how the commands of God shouldn’t apply to us because, if we were to do what God commanded, that would easily lead to our misery all the days of our life until we died. However, the fact is, that is really an unbelievably arrogant and closed-minded position. No one has been a greater threat and caused greater violence to your joy than you have. Now have people jacked with you? Absolutely. Do we live in a broken world? Yes. But how you have handled that, how you have responded to that is completely on you, not them. You’re the greatest enemy of your joy, not God. God is beckoning towards life, and you’re pulling toward death.

C.S. Lewis describes the state of so many of our hearts well, in his book The Weight of Glory. “It would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak.” Now he’s talking about pleasure here. So Lewis is saying that he thinks God thinks that our desire for joy is not too strong, but it’s too weak. “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” I love this quote. Because it’s us! We don’t yearn for Him, long for Him. Why? Because Bravo and TLC have some cool shows about cakes and dresses. Because it’s March Madness time and teenage boys are trying to get an orange ball through a hoop. (Or insert the NBA Finals, Baseball in October, the Super Bowl, Olympics, World Cup, etc. etc.) Because if we can just meet this deadline at work then we’ll get to the next level and we’ll somehow obtain a greater identity. That’s why we don’t yearn more for God. Because after a long day’s work, there is nothing you would rather do except sit on your behind and watch television. Don’t fool and delude yourself with the worn out excuse “I don’t have time.” You have all the time there is. You have just as much time as the rest of us. We don’t because we don’t want to. There are not other issues. We sin because we want to sin, and we don’t pursue Jesus because we don’t want to pursue Jesus. There are other things to us that are more valuable than Him, and that is why we don’t pursue.

You may go on to say “Well, I don’t know how to read my Bible.” You read it. One word at a time. And there are an unbelievable amount of resources put out there for us. Everything from how you read it on a day-to-day basis to how you study it in depth is available for free on more than one website. But here’s the thing… Some of you didn’t know how to fly fish, garden, paint, sew, play an instrument, etc… but you do now, don’t you? Do you know how you did that? Well you bought some equipment, you got a book, and got all geeked up about it and spent time practicing. Why? Because we all love mud pies in the slums. You never see a grown man playing actively in the kiddie pool, do you? Not without his kids. Because if he’s without his kids, don’t we call the police? Why? Because grown men were meant for the deep end. They weren’t meant for the kiddie pool. So it’s a provoking thing to me that so many of us like to sit in that shallow warm water when the deep end is right over there.

So in Lewis’ great illustration, the prideful, closed-minded skeptical person hears that God is offering a holiday at the sea, but they want to stay in the slums playing with mud. They think that the invitation to the sea is robbing them of the joy they have making mud pies. In buying into the lies of this world, we miss out on the reality that God’s being about God is tied to our ever-expanding, ever-increasing joy. And that’s how God is praised and gloried in, in our ever-increasing joy in Him and in His perfections. What do I mean by His perfections? I’m talking about Him lining us up with how He designed life and the universe to work.

So, if you’re not the center of the universe, that frees you up in a thousand different ways. Because if I’m the point, then I have a whole list of things my spouse or significant other had better be doing. If I’m the point, I have a whole list of things that my kids had better do. They had better not represent me like I really am. And if I’m the point, then I view my money a certain way. If I’m the point, how dare you go 45 mph in the left lane. If I’m the point, if you cut me off, I’m going to have to follow you home and maybe punch you in the throat. If I’m the point, I’m easily offended. Because, “It’s my universe. How dare you intrude on my universe? I have a set plan for my day. How dare you get in the way of my day. Because I’m the point. My plans are flawless and anyone who would interfere with them is obviously of the devil. Because I’m the sun. This universe revolves around me. It’s all about me.” But if I’m not the point, I’m a free man. If I’m not the point, I’m hard to offend. If I’m not the point, I have been set free to love my spouse and not have a list of things they had better do. If I’m not the point, then I’m set free to love and shape my children with grace and not fear. If I’m not the point, then that frees up my finances and I’m not constantly worried about what I have and don’t have. If I’m not the point, then I don’t get as offended when life just happens.

You might be type-A and plan out your day to the millisecond, but it doesn’t always work that way, does it? And when things don’t go as planned we freak out and get angry, don’t we? All frustration is birthed out of unmet expectation. So if it’s not about us, that’s all a lot easier to handle. If it is about us, that stuff is very difficult.

But I believe, as the Bible teaches, God is ultimately for God and that’s good because, if God is infinite and He has always been and will always be, then that joy, regardless of time, is ever-increasing. There is a great book in the Old Testament called Ecclesiastes. Solomon, who was a king with more money, more power, more fame than we will all have even if we combine all our clout, writes a whole book on how everything in life is meaningless. It’s really quite a chipper little read. So he has all this money, and he says it’s vanity, it’s meaningless and it doesn’t matter. He literally says, “Even if you have money, you’re going to die. And your kid is probably an idiot because you’re rich and have spoiled him. It’s vanity. It doesn’t matter.” And then he builds. He plants forests and vineyards. That puts your little garden in your backyard with the Crepe Myrtles to shame. And he says, “It’s vanity. It’s meaningless.” He builds houses for his wives and concubines, he builds the temple of the Lord and says it’s meaningless. “Vanity, vanity. All is vanity. There is nothing new under the sun.” And the reality of God being infinite and for our joy means that our experience of that joy is ever-increasing to the point where we don’t hit that ceiling or finally get to the bottom. It’s ever-growing and ever-expanding.

Keep this in mind though when contemplating the great truth of the gospel: only the Holy Spirit can open a person’s eyes to the beauty and splendor of Christ. We can and should do our best to try to provide all the answers we can, and pray constantly for others on their behalf, but only God can soften hearts and enlighten minds. 1st Corinthians 1:18-19, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” (cf Ephesians 2:1-10)

Salt & Light

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“… About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.” When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s companions in travel…” – Acts 19:23-29

The message of the Gospel has the power to transform the world for the glory of God and for the good of all people. We see in history, especially from the record we have in the book of Acts, that because of people who believed in Jesus subversively, over a period of time, the very moral fiber and business practices of a continent were transformed, not by getting the government to legislate it, but rather by the people who believed in the good news of the Gospel being the salt and light of Christ in the world.

One of the things I’ve seen in this weird Christian subculture that is so disturbing and prevalent in the United States today, is the odd characteristic that so few who claim faith in Christ want to share the gospel to everyone, or with anyone, rather they want to gripe about the government’s failure to uphold our values instead. Give me a break, please, give us all a break from that ignorant ideology. It has never worked that way. It never will work that way. It’s as if we as Christians have never studied Roman history… or any history for that matter.

When the Roman Emperor Constantine declared, “We’re a Christian nation now,” he wasn’t legislating faith, but announcing and acknowledging something that had already taken roots in the Roman Empire. His declaration takes place after Christianity has already spread throughout the Roman Empire and become the dominate faith among the people. Christianity wasn’t legislated or forced upon the nation. (Besides, wasn’t it like 100 years later that Rome ceased to exist?) It doesn’t work that way. You cannot legislate Christianity. Nor can you legislate morality. That’s all a pipe dream. We think we can get people behaving better with laws and strict rules that govern a country? Really?! So then we’ll get better behaving people outside the kingdom of God? People following strict rules and obeying rigid legislation, yet not having any relationship with or love for our God? But some argue this would at least create a safer place for our children… No, it’s a rough place out there no matter what the law says. So, what if instead of saying, “When is our government going to do this, do that, pass this law, abolish this law, blah, blah, blah…” What if we just did what the Bible asks us to do and be salt and light, and grace-filled people in a lost and dying world? What if we tried it that way?

“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” – Jeremiah 29:7

What if we thought through the implications of grace and let that beautiful truth motivate us to engage the world and seek their good? What if we stopped boycotting stuff constantly, and criticizing everyone who lives contrary to how we believe we should live and showed them love and grace instead? What if instead of drawing up signs to stand outside movies like “The DaVinci Code?” What if instead, we actually saw them? What if we actually paid $14.50 or whatever it costs to go to a movie now; went and saw it, but saw it through the lenses of Scripture so we could better discuss things with our neighbors? Why? Because they’re going to see it. Heck, go with them! What if we stopped making Christianity about beer and rated-R movies? What if we did that? What if we didn’t make our measure of faith and devotion about where we get our chicken sandwiches? What if we let the peripherals be the peripherals and concentrated on the gospel? What if we quit being ignorant moralists trying to police everybody and started trusting the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ to be enough? What if we said, “Hey, we are missionaries in our own neighborhoods, we don’t have to go on a special trip overseas to tell people the good news of Christ Jesus.” What if we did that?

What if we created an environment where you’re welcome to come as you are? What if we didn’t expect people to perfectly live a certain way before we’d have them at our house for dinner? What if we didn’t go, “Oh, you believe in Jesus, well then, here’s some soup.” But rather are posture was, “We believe in Christ Jesus and the work He has accomplished for us, so here is some soup, and how else may we serve you?” What if we wouldn’t beat people up with the gospel and just shared the love of Christ? You can’t save anybody. That’s God’s business, but you can be salt and light. What if we did it that way? What if we tried to do it differently, or maybe originally? What if we went underground, one heart at a time, one neighborhood? And I’m not talking about proselytizing, I’m talking about living the gospel of Christ, having people to your house and praying.

I’m not saying we apologize for who we are, or for what we believe, but rather display it like we mean it. What if we prayed for our dinner no matter who was at the table? We’re not trying to convert a guest by our prayer at dinner, like, “Father, we thank You for this pagan. And we thank You that You could save him if he would but listen. In Romans 8, You say…” No, instead: “Thank You for this food, thank You for Your Son, all the beautiful common grace You have given us, and the grace upon grace You show us daily,” because we thank Him for the food and we thank Him for friendships and we eat. What if that’s how we viewed this thing? What if instead of spending all our money on bigger and nicer church buildings… what if our churches didn’t do the “Oh, once we’re at 75% capacity for one service, let’s build a building that gets us into horrific debt so that we can no longer concentrate on doing what’s good and right in the world?”

“Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before Me. So I removed them, when I saw it.” – Ezekiel 16:49-50 [also reference Isaiah 1:10-31]

What if churches that were growing exponentially just bit the bullet and kept adding services before finally breaking down and using funds that have been saved (and/or pledged) to build a new building that could accommodate the growth. What if churches didn’t go into crazy debt to build an enormous building that sits empty 6 days a week? What if they built a building that didn’t have seat warmers, a rock wall, or a coffee shop in it, have a separate school so our kids didn’t have to rub elbows with a bunch of little heathen hoodlums in public school, along with a series of basketball courts, bookstores, and the nicest amenities money can buy?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with having those things in a church building, there’s nothing inherently wrong with atractional-based ministry, but what if there happens to be a Lifetime Fitness, 24-hour Fitness, L.A. Fitness, YMCA, Gold’s Gym, etc. all nearby and they already have accessible basketball courts? Maybe we could go play ball in the public gyms rub elbows with people who don’t know the gospel? What if the public school systems would benefit more from having your kids in them, and you rolling up your sleeves to join in the mess in an effort to help and serve the community?

Maybe instead of going to church to get your six shots of espresso or your triple latte, maybe you should just pick a Starbucks. Seriously, there’s probably at least 20 of them in your immediate area. Maybe you could learn your barrista’s name and begin to pray for them. What if we did that instead of spending fifty grand to have a coffee shop in the church building? Why don’t we go to the same restaurants every week and ask for the same waitresses and waiters? (And tip them well, and quit being cheap!) Why don’t we throw block parties? When did we as Christians become the anti-partiers?! In Leviticus 23, God says, “If you don’t party, I will kill you.” Read it. Why don’t we put up some stuff in the yard, gather some good friends together, set out a bunch of food and drinks, and throw a party for the neighborhood? Why don’t we be those people? And I’m not talking about getting out of control, and throwing wild parties that lead to debauchery. But why aren’t we celebrating life and all the common grace to be enjoyed with some BBQ and a game of corn-hole?

I’m simply talking about instead of going, “This is who we are, and if you want to know more about us, you should come to Sunday School with me at 7:00am on your one day off from work.” What if instead of doing that, we just started to engaged people where they were? What if we did it that way? Well, if you did that, you wouldn’t need so many church programs, would you? What if you went more bare bones with meeting space for the church? This would mean you could save a ton of money and put it towards something else, maybe something a little more constructive. What could one do with a million dollars they saved from not having twenty separate Bible study programs going on every single day of the week and an enormous building with a coffee shop, book store, restaurant, post office, school, and basketball gyms? Maybe start a hospital, or school, or sponsor children over seas through a trusted program, or feed more people that would otherwise go hungry, or supply medicine and medical treatment to those in need, or something like that? What if we tried it that way? And what if it overflowed out of the little area you live in, to the farthest parts of the Earth?

What if we didn’t apologize for what the Bible says or for what we believe, but we were more quick to acknowledge and grieve the church’s historical failure to always operate and serve in Christ-like love and humility? What if we admitted that we’re human too, and we will likely continue to make mistakes? But our hope is in Christ, and His grace is the motivating force that leads us to repentance. What if we yearned more to be salt and light in a decaying world of darkness, to love God and love people because He first loved us? What if we stopped seeing things as “us versus them”? We all come from dust, and to dust we will return. [reference Isaiah 58:1-14]

Okay, so I don’t have all the universal problem-solving answers for these questions, or fail-proof logistics on how to practically accomplish it all. Shouldn’t we, as believers in the greatest news in the world, be striving to operate a little more like this though? Shouldn’t we be engaging the world to push back the darkness? Love is not static, love moves. I mean, hasn’t this kind of thing worked in the past for numerous churches? Some people who have studied history would say yeah. I live in the “Bible Belt” though, which means we have to wade through a whole slew of people who are going to churches on Sunday just to punch their attendance clock, because for some reason down here you just go to church on Sunday. (It seems like a pretty lame hobby if that’s all it is. If it’s just a hobby you’re after, I’d rather get a boat and go out to the lake.) But we’re not after attendance, we’re after transformation. It’s not working if people aren’t being transformed. If you think this post is interesting or funny, but it doesn’t engage your heart and mind at all in any degree of a transforming nature… that’s a lose for me, that’s a loss for all of us.

Because really, what kingdom are we seeking? Are we seeking to enjoy and be a part of the extension of God’s kingdom, or trying to build our own little kingdom in fruitless vanity? Are we seeking the Father with reckless abandon; because we know that Christ doesn’t promise to make our life better, but He promises that He is better than life. Do we love God and want to know Him more? Do we want to play in His grace and work with grace-driven effort to build His great kingdom, not our own finite kingdom? Or are we constantly forgetting that all the Father has given us is not meant to terminate on ourselves? Are we still living with this amnesiac-type faith, forgetting that the Gospel is for our joy, even when we can’t see how in the moment; and our joy is not the purpose of the Gospel, but an inevitable outcome of it. Since the chief end of man is to enjoy God, and enjoy Him forever. Because we are far worse than we ever dared to believe, yet in Christ, we are far more loved than we ever imagined we could be.

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:13-16