Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The World is Looking for the Real Deal, Is it You?

For as long as I can remember there has always been a competition between the companies of Coke and Pepsi. In fact, I can remember there being a blindfolded taste test to see which cola drink, consumers preferred as a way of deciding who was the better cola product. At one point, Coke ran an ad, that it was the real thing. Did that mean that Pepsi wasn't? The battle is still ongoing, but it seems the public really doesn't care as much as they did, back in the day.

Now I think the world is looking at Christians with that same microscope. When you hear the label "Christian" it opens up a can of proverbial worms on what it really means to be a Christian. I believe the world isn't looking so much as to cast doubt on our self worth, but it sincerely is looking for the real deal. Can that be found in you?

We need to make sure that were are representing Jesus well in our life and not just as a recreational user. If we live our lives, empowered by the strength of the Holy Spirit, we will attract a world, that is hurting and looking for the way out of the mess that is running rampant all over the globe. I'm sure you have seen the recent new articles that show that the number of people claiming to be Christian are down as compared to other religious groups. I believe that it is a whole lot less than what their survey shows, if you are looking for true believers and followers of Christ.

Some people just slap the label on because it looks good. It makes them feel good. Like that they are a morally righteous person, makes them a Christian. The person who does good things, lives a great life for others, but truly doesn't know the Jesus of the Bible. That doesn't make them a Christian, any more than sitting in a garage makes you a car. Just because you attend church doesn't make you a Christian either.

I'm sure you have been to a movie studio at some point in your life. You know that the sets are fake no matter how real they appear to be. Whether it is a western or a historical look back at a New York city based in the 50's. The outer shell is all there is. The facade is merely just the front of the building made up and propped up by pieces of wood.

Keep this in mind, the when people refer to church, it's not the building, it's the people in the building that make up a church. God isn't living in a building, but in the hearts of the people who are true followers of Christ. Are you a living church, a diseased church or are you a dead church?

Just how does a church die?

A church can look like it is doing well, but on the inside it has grown cold. What used to be a fire, is now just ashes. They can look like they are doing really well. In fact, most people flock to these kinds of churches. But all they are is smoke and mirrors, the true fire has gone out quite awhile ago.

In the Book of Revelation, the church of Sardis was exactly like this. It looked grand on the outside. It was a church people wanted to be involved with. They spent tons of money making it big and grand. They hired all the right bands to play there, invited world renown celebrities to come visit, but inside it was spiritually dead. They had the name and reputation, it was one of the richest churches, no shortage of financial funds, it was the happening place to be. If people asked what church you went to, you definitely wanted to say you belonged to Sardis. It looked like it was a growing church.

You got to love Jesus, because He sees things no one else does. He cuts down to the core what the issue was at Sardis. It is a reminder to us that what we can see as successful, it's how Jesus does. Our measure of a successful church might be how big it is, how many people attend, the quality of the pastor or the worship band, does it have a coffee shop on site? And those are great things to have in a church.

The church in Sardis wasn't measuring up to the standards Jesus desired and that is what matters most. What Jesus sees in us, not in what we see or what the world sees when it looks at us. Only Jesus standards matter.

He says to the Church of Sardis in Revelation 3:2 ~ "I have not found your works perfect before God." 

Now He isn't saying it like perfect as He is perfect but more like complete or fulfilled. In other words, He might be saying, "You have not fulfilled your purpose before God."

So what is the purpose of the church you might be asking, isn't it to grow in size, in numbers of people coming to the church? It has to be more than that. The church is to fulfill three purposes, upward, inward and outward. The churches purpose is to exalt God, edify the saints, and evangelize the world.

So what was happening in Sardis? I'm sure that they were a praying church, but like the Pharisees, they were very eloquent in their prayers. It was more for show than about God. They were concerned that this prayer was heard by God, but by those attending the church. Did they listen to the sermons? I'm sure they did, but more about how well the pastor was teaching, than the message itself. Did they have worship services, definitely yes! It was the best money could buy, but they were more concerned with how it sounded, over directing it to God.

We need to take a hard look at the reason we attend a church. Do you attend it because you love the building or because you walked away experiencing God in that place. Do you attend because you love the worship band, or because you love worshiping God? Do you leave thinking what a great message or what a wonderful God we have?

A dead church worships its past. God doesn't want us to live in a glorious past, but a living church lives in the present and plans for the future.

A dead church is inflexible and resistant to change. We need to be inflexible in preaching the Word of God and stick to what the Bible has to say over what the church wants to hear. The church must always be a place where God's Word is taught and the gospel proclaimed. It must be a place where the Lord is glorified through prayer and worship. Those are non negotiables. We need to be flexible on music and worship styles or even technology, such as big screens in the church or websites or social media.

A dead church has lazy leadership. When complacency and lethargy sets in when a church doesn't want to do anything new or rethink the way things are done. Sometimes the way it has always been done needs to be re-evaluated. They need to keep in mind the big picture of what they were called into their communities to do

A dead church neglects the youth. This is such an issue where churches are missing reaching the next generation. Aging congregations can so please themselves they forget about the youth in their communities. We are seeing this growing trend in the churches as most of those leaving the church are 35 years of age and younger. Maybe the older people need to be a bit more flexible in how the younger generation view the church, perhaps that worship music needs to be updated a bit to appeal to a younger generation.

A dead church lacks evangelistic zeal. If new members are coming into the church, it is only a matter of time before that church will die. New believers are the life blood of the church. We should want them, pray for them, embrace them, encourage them and minister to them in every way we can.

The only way we can make sure people are seeing a change in our lives is through the power of the Holy Spirit in our life. Without it, we are doing things in our own strength and our own power. We are living our lives for what we think God wants for us, and not what He truly wants for us.

Ephesians 5:18-19 ~ "Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." 

It means being filled every single day with a fresh supply of life from God. We need to make sure when people see us, we get out of the way, so they can see God working at us in our lives. They shouldn't see the old us, but a profound change in how we live our lives. It should be all about Him and nothing to do with us.

Some people are so concerned with the mission field, but in all honesty your mission field is right where you are. In your home, in your job, in your neighborhood. The mission field is everwhere. We don't need to go anywhere to find it.

Did you know that Biblical literacy is at an all time low while spiritual ignorance is at an all time high? We spend more time as Christians arguing among ourselves over minor issues instead of sharing our personal testimony to the world. People can't argue over your personal testimony. They can't say, "Oh that isn't true!" because it is our own story. We need to be building more bridges to the world, than winning arguments. We need to be winning souls to our heavenly kingdom. Very few people who are "Christians" actually get out there and do it.

Luke 10:2 ~ "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." (NIV).

Let's change how the world sees Christians! Let's start being the real thing in a broken and dark world so people will be drawn to us, because of the God we serve is more powerful than the god of this world.

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