Is Our Message Relevant Today?

Is Our Message Relevant Today?

We’ve been talking about how the Church got started and how the message of Jesus survived the first century? So much happened in that period of history from persecution to destruction of ancient Judaism that it’s actually pretty amazing that it did survive. However, we know Jesus said not even the gates of hell or death can stop His Church, and that’s why it’s still here over 2,000 years later.

It’s important to remember that the Church didn’t launch as an institution or even with a building. The Church launched as a movement of people who flooded the streets of Jerusalem to say Jesus who was crucified right outside those walls, rose from the dead, and we are eyewitnesses of it.

And as these people flooded the streets of Jerusalem with this incredible and very difficult to believe message—not a hundred years after the fact, just 2 months, and not hundreds of miles away— thousands of Jewish people in Jerusalem embraced this simple idea that Jesus was in fact the Christ, the Son of the living God. And suddenly, Jerusalem was flooded with even more people from the surrounding communities who also came to believe God was doing something unique and unusual right there among them.

As word began to spread, persecution broke out because suddenly this new movement, that was called the Way, later called Christianity, disrupted the delicate balance of power between Rome and the Jewish authorities. But instead of stopping, the Jesus followers were pushed out into the surrounding areas where they were as bold as ever and continued to tell everyone they could about the Good News. This happened just as Jesus said it would.

Even the number one instigator, the primary persecutor of Christians, Saul of Tarsus, who we know as the apostle Paul, was converted. In fact, he became the number one advocate for this movement. He traveled all around the Mediterranean rim and planted churches everywhere he went. Roman citizens and Greek speaking people, with a completely different background and culture than his own, began to embrace this idea that Jesus is the Christ, and the Good News spread like wildfire.

Two thousand years later, long after the Roman empire and ancient Judaism ceased to be, here we are worshipping this Risen Savior. It’s absolutely incredible.

Now the thought I want to discuss today is does the Church really matter today? Is the message relevant today? If the Church were to simply disappear would it matter? Does the Church make a difference? The answer is absolutely yes! The Church would be missed and has always made an impact, probably more today than in a very long time. So you better believe the Church matters. You see, we’re not only stewards of the message of eternal life, we also are stewards of the message of a better life.

Think about how Christianity has affected our country. The United States of America was built on Christianity, the Christian values and morals. Your thinking and understanding of right and wrong has been impacted by Christianity just because of where you live, even if you’re not a Christian. Yet for the last 40+ years, we’ve allowed ourselves to be so busy that we’ve pushed church out of the way, and look at the results, our nation is turning from God.

But even so, if we were to live in almost any other country, I think we’d quickly see the Christian influence our country has been given. When you look at other countries, you see how terrible people are treated and how they are destroying their own land. Which is why we are struggling to watch is happening to our own country. We know it can better because we have better thanks to Christian influence.

But we have allowed our human nature to get in the way. Did you know that as lions eat their kill, other animals will gather around and wait their turn for what’s left? They know their place. They all sit quietly and patiently at a safe distance waiting for the lion to finish. That’s because in nature the biggest and the baddest are first. It’s all about might. It’s all about I’m bigger than you so I’m in charge, and I get to go first.

Now listen, this may be hard for you to hear, but human nature is really no different. Because we’re Americans and because we’ve been so extraordinarily impacted by Christianity, it can be hard for us to see, but human nature is it’s all about me. You’re different than me, and I’m better than you. I’ve got more money than you, so I’m in charge. You’ve seen it, and you’ve experienced it. We are born selfish and want our own ways. I’ll prove it.

Adultery—everyone’s against adultery, and yet it’s so prevalent. Why? It’s human nature.
Cheating—the only reason you don’t cheat on your income taxes is because you’re afraid of getting caught. If you really thought you could get away with it, you know you’d try it. That’s human nature. Left to your own strategies and standards, if you thought you could get away with it, that’s where nature goes. Lying, stealing, first come, first serve, an eye for an eye.

Right now, the Church matters more than we can even imagine because the teachings of the Church say we can overcome that and be something better. We can create a greater standard of living than what nature, left to its own, would dictate.

Now, the apostle Paul, the guy who spread Christianity throughout the Mediterranean rim, he talked about this specifically. So today, we’re going to step out of the book of Acts and look at a letter Paul wrote to the church he planted in Galatia, which is known as the book of Galatians.

In these verses, Paul shows the difference of what people look like when left to their own standards, to what people look like when they allow the Holy Spirit to shape their behavior. He’s basically saying, “Church, this is what you’re supposed to look like.” And we’ll see how these new churches began to allow their behaviors to be shaped and changed by this teaching, and how it impacted not only their culture, but ultimately the world.

Galatians 5:16
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify (fulfill) the desires of the sinful nature.

In other words, he says whether you want to admit it or not, if you let your natural appetites and your natural desires rule your behavior, it’s not pretty. In fact, he says it’s sinful. Then he goes on with what sinful nature is…

Galatians 5:19
19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious:

Meaning that when he shows us the list, none of us are going to say, What? People actually do that kind of thing? Obvious means you’re going to see the list and think, I know someone like that. I see her every morning in the mirror. And even if you haven’t done some of these things yourself, you know you’ve faced the temptation, and if you thought you could get by with it, you might have done it. Here’s the list:

Galatians 5:19
19 sexual immorality, impurity (impure thoughts), and debauchery,

Now you can define sexual immorality any way you want and your mind probably goes where my mind does because it’s shoved in our faces every day just from TV commercials let alone everything else. But I ask to you take a step back because while every single person in this room knows something that is sexually immoral, and while we would chastise or point our finger at someone else for being involved in that behavior, you know at some point in your life you have been tempted or have given into a similar temptation because immorality is human nature.

Now on the word debauchery, your mind can go where you’d like. Debauchery is a word we don’t really use anymore, but it basically means whatever, whenever, and with whomever. Debauchery in the Merriam-Webster dictionary says that it is extreme indulgence in bodily pleasures and especially sexual pleasures: behavior involving sex, drugs, alcohol, etc. that is often considered immoral.

The very first example sentence they give is… he was glad when others joined them, men and women; and they had more drink and spent the night in wild rioting and debauchery. That’s pretty fitting for our nation right now.
There’s a reason why Paul is listing these things. It was a problem in the places where he was planting churches, but man, our world today really needs to hear this right now. He continues the list…

Galatians 5:20-21
20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, wild parties, and the like.

Idolatry is putting stuff at a greater value than people or even God, like a car, sports collections, or my clean house. Witchcraft is simply trying to harness the supernatural for your own selfish means, and therefore worshiping Satan.

Hatred, jealousy, envy—Some ladies don’t like skinny women. In fact, they even hate them. You would never say that out loud, and you hate the fact you feel that way, but it’s true. Some men don’t like rich men. You see a man with a super awesome car that you’re never going to be able to afford and you just decide you don’t like him. Do you even know his name? No. But you don’t like him.

Fits of rage – anger, revenge, losing your cool way too easily
Selfish ambition – doing things for our own benefit only
Discord – lack of harmony and unity; Dissensions – disagreements that lead to discord; Factions – division
“And the like” is a little Greek phrase that means “etcetera.”

Now when I went through this list, none of these things were like oh wow, was it? Because it’s natural behavior. But just because it’s our human nature does not make it a good excuse. Excuses are just that, excuses that get you nowhere. And unfortunately, it’s the way the world naturally goes. And we can all go in that direction. Do you know what we have to do in modern society with the things on this list? We have to establish laws. We have laws literally because our human nature pushes all of us in those directions, and we push to the limit to see what we can get away with.

Basically, left to our own, we will cheat, steal, we will take advantage of people, so we have to have laws. Laws are the reason some people are as good as they are. Can you imagine living in a world where you totally allowed your human nature to control your behavior? If somehow you were rich enough, powerful enough, controlled the laws enough to where you couldn’t get in trouble and there were no consequences?

Did you know in the first century there was a culture like that? It was called Roman culture. And in the centuries that followed, there have been cultures all over this world where the kings and those in power lived that way? And it destroyed many of those nations and those cultures from the inside out?
Can you imagine what your community, your world, your schools would look like if someone didn’t put the brakes on that part of human nature? Is the Church important? Does the Church matter? Does the message of the Church matter? Absolutely, because if things were left to go as human nature wants, it would be a society that none of us would want to live in.

So Paul says, there’s another way to live. It’s called the Fruits of the Spirit. The Spirit he’s talking about is the same Holy Spirt that energized the first century Jesus followers to go out into the streets and risk their lives to say that God has done something new in our midst. The Holy Spirit is what inhabits believers when they believe that Jesus is the Christ, and it’s that same Spirit that informs your conscience.

It’s the Spirit that makes you think, Oh, wait I shouldn’t do that, I don’t think I should go there or take part in that. The Holy Spirit informs our conscience and moves us to live and act in ways that on our own, we would have never done. The Spirit is what moves you to live a life that—are you ready for this—that even if there weren’t any laws, you would do the right thing.

Galatians 5:22
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,

Love is: You first. I was here first, but you can have my seat. Love is: I am going to sacrifice for you, even though there’s nothing coming back my way. You do not find that in nature. Just look at babies. We have to be taught to love, to share, to care for others. Those behaviors then lead to joy and peace.

22 patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

Paul wrote this when Rome ruled the world and kindness was not in their dictionary. It was might makes right. The emperor’s word is it.

Faithfulness is: If I said I will, I will. I said I would stick by you when things were good and things were bad, so I’m going to stick by you. Faithfulness is: It doesn’t matter whether the law makes me do it or not, I’m going to be faithful. And the last two are…

23 gentleness and self-control.

Self-control runs contrary to everything nature urges us to do. That’s why it’s the hardest one on this list. You know what I think we need? What if we had self-control month? (we have months designated for everything else, so why not?) Imagine just for a month, everyone in America would exercise perfect self-control. Wouldn’t that be a great month?! We’d be skinnier, healthier, we’d get along, husbands would be unbelievable, wives would be unbelievable, things on the Internet that we wish would go away would go out of business, for at least a month.

Listen, if our culture simply embraced self-control, just this one value, what a difference it would make. Does the message of the Church matter? You bet, because we’re not just stewards of the message of eternal life, we’re also stewards of the message of a better life. A life that runs contrary to what’s natural and normal in our world today.

Paul ends with a little, brilliant insight. If you’ve read this Scripture before, my hunch is you read over this and didn’t realize how significant this is. Listen to how Paul finishes the list of what we look like when we’re filled with the Spirit.

Galatians 5:23
23 Against such things there is no law.

He says when it comes to the natural deeds of the flesh, we have to have laws to control people’s behavior, but when we, as an individual, a family, a community, a culture, a nation, embrace the deeds and the behaviors fueled by the Spirit of God, there’s no need for law.

You never hear someone say, “That’s enough kindness and patience! Knock it off.” Or, “We need a law against love, a law against self-control.”

Paul says when Christians embrace and allow the Spirit of God to transform their behavior, the need for law diminishes to nothing because suddenly I’m not the center of my world. Suddenly, it’s not all about me. It’s all about God and the others around us. Do you know how powerful that change of attitude is?

The Church matters! We are stewards of the message of a better life. The way our country was built, and who we are and the things that we understand as right or wrong, they are not natural. We have been taught by previous generations of people who understood and thought like the Church and Jesus Christ.

So to the first century Roman culture, the Church said we don’t think a system that keeps people down economically and financially is good. We don’t think a culture where just the king’s word makes law is good. We believe women are more than property. We’re not better because God made us better, but because of God we have a better way of life.

It’s God’s Word that says everyone was made in the image of God and has value. It’s God’s Word that says, Husbands, love your wives like Christ loves the Church. Maybe we should have a “love your spouse like Christ loves the Church” month. That would be a good build up to the “self-control” month. Imagine the difference in our culture if for a month Christians and non-Christians decided, “I’m going to value and treat my spouse like Jesus values and treats those He loves.” That would change things.
It’s the Church (God’s Word) that says forgive. It’s not an eye for an eye; it’s forgive because you’ve been forgiven. It’s accept because you’ve been accepted. It’s serve because you’ve been served. It’s the Church that says value those who society says has little value. It’s the Church that says give, even when nothing is coming back to you. Show mercy, even to those that haven’t shown you mercy. Love your enemies. Who else is going to say it that if the Church doesn’t?

It goes deeper than that too. It’s the church that says sex is for married people. It’s the church that says you’re more than a physical body. You have a soul, and God gave this intimacy and this sense of oneness for a very specific purpose. Every married person knows there’s more to sex than something physical.

And it’s the Church that’s been on the forefront to say to women that abortion is not a solution, and the reason it’s not a solution is you and your baby are not just physical bodies. You and your baby matter more than that.

This is why our message matters, because we have the message not only of eternal life, but of a better life right now. We have no idea how the things we do from day to day, the way we live our lives affects the people around us. But if the church disappears, that message disappears.

We can still be a part of shaping and reshaping our culture. It’s never too late because the gates of Hell will not stop Christ’s Church. There are crosses all throughout the city of Rome. The very nation that tried to put Christianity away forever is now the place where there are more crosses and more places to celebrate Christianity than any other place in the world. Why? Because this message is powerful. It shapes people, communities, countries, and it has the potential to shape the world.

If ever there was a time in our lifetime when the Church needs to ramp up our message, be engaged in our communities, and to live out these values, it’s now! We have been given the stewardship and responsibility of a message about eternal life and a better life in the here and now.