Thursday, July 31, 2014

Is Church Really Necessary?

This Sunday at Westbury Baptist will be one of my favorite Sundays of the year.  On that day, we gather with the five mission churches that worship on our church campus.  At 9:45, we'll eat breakfast together.  We'll have a chance to enjoy breakfast tacos, spring rolls, hummus, and other delicacies from all over our world (as well as standard American breakfast food).  At 11:00, we'll worship together.  Each congregation (Hispanic, Filipino, Iranian, Cambodian, Korean) will have a part in the service.  It will be a foretaste of Heaven.  I hope you'll come.

But what about the future of the Church?  I mean the capital "C" Church, not just WBC.  While the Gospel spreads like wildfire in Africa, South America, and especially China (which, if trends hold, will soon become the largest Christian nation in the world), here in America, many people claim to be "spiritual but not religious."  Most believe in God, many are intrigued by Jesus, but few seem to be interested in organized Christianity.  Is it possible to follow Jesus Christ but have nothing to do with His Church.  Is the Church really necessary?

As I study the scriptures, I come up with two main reasons why church is important.  One is because it is important to God.  It is the institution He has chosen to accomplish the work of His Kingdom on earth.  But more than that, He just loves the church.  One of the names He calls the church is “The Bride of Christ.”  Imagine going to your boss and saying, “You know, I love the way you and I get along.  I think you’re a great guy, and I really enjoy working for you.  I just can’t stand your wife.”  Would that fly?  The Bible is crystal clear on this: God’s church is important to Him, so it must be important to us, or we don’t truly love Him.  You can’t be right with God without being a fully functioning part of the Body.   

The other reason church is important is what I will be talking about this Sunday.  The Church is important because it is the institution the Spirit uses to do His work in our lives.  That’s what Ephesians 4 is all about.  This Sunday, we'll take a look at Ephesians 4 and find out why you need the Church. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Your Superpower

Mark Batterson tells a great story in his book The Grave Robber.  In 1939, a young man named George Dantzig was enrolled in a statistics course taught by an eminent professor.  One day, young George was late to class.  When he slid into his desk, he saw two problems written on the chalkboard.  He wrote them down in his notebook, believing them to be the day’s assignment.  He went home and went to work on those two problems. They were much harder than the usual assignments, but eventually, he solved them, and turned them in.  Soon after, he heard a knock on his door.  He opened it to find his statistics professor, looking very excited.  He soon found out that he had not completed the day’s homework; he had solved two famous unsolvable problems.  The professor had written them on the board that day to show his students, not thinking anyone would solve them.  George Dantzig later earned a doctorate, worked in high levels for the US Air Force and the Defense Department, and served on the faculty of Stanford University.  He won numerous awards, including the National Medal of Science.  His work has shaped the way airlines schedule their fleets, shipping companies deploy their trucks, oil companies run their refineries, and businesses manage their revenue projections.  But it was that day in statistics class that first convinced him he had the talent to do great things.  He later said, “If someone had told me those were two famous unsolvable problems, I probably wouldn’t have even tried.” 
We see unsolvable problems all around us.  We see generational poverty, institutional injustice, dysfunctional families, and people who are just plain messed-up.  Some of us shrug our shoulders and say, “That’s just the way it is.”  Others pray and wait for God to do something.  But what if the power to change the world is actually already inside you and me? 
            If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit of God lives in you, and that means you have access to unimaginable power. The Spirit’s power is not given to us so that we can do anything we want to do.   His power is not for us to show off or benefit ourselves or even to change our circumstances into what WE think they should be.  But as Jesus said in Acts 1:8, His power equips us to be His witnesses.  His power enables us to do the life-saving, world-changing work of Jesus.  Do you want to know the power you have?  This Sunday, as we continue our study of the Holy Spirit's activity in our lives, we'll talk about what you and I are empowered to do. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Real Change

Don't you wish change was easy?

I saw a story on the news a while back about a doctor who had developed a radical new treatment for people with dwarfism.  These are people who will never even approach a normal adult height, who are tired of being stared at, of being called “midgets” or worse.  The idea of a medical procedure that can make them taller is something many are very excited about.  Here’s the way it works:  A doctor breaks your legs in several places.  He then screws pins into the bones and uses them to stretch those broken bones apart and hold them apart.  Then, as the bone tries to fuse itself back together, as God designed it to do, the body is forced to produce new bone to fill in that gap.  Therefore, the leg bone is longer when it heals than it was before it was broken.  It takes months for this very painful procedure to be completed, including several visits to the doctor in which the bones are broken and stretched.  During the treatment, the patient is bound to a wheelchair with rods in his legs.  There is significant pain involved, and since the procedure is elective, insurance doesn’t cover it. But the doctor had real hope that patients could expect to be two or three inches taller when it was all over.  

Truth is, change is hard.  And that’s just superficial change; a change of appearance.  What about the change that really counts?  There are a lot of people in the world today who have terrible, destructive habits that they would love to get rid of.  They want to change, they’ve tried to change…is there hope for them?  Then there are people who have damaged their lives in some way.  Maybe it was one wrong choice, or maybe a series of bad decisions, but one way or another, there is some sin in their past that they just can’t forgive themselves for.  What these people wouldn’t give to start all over, to have a re-do on life.  But that simply doesn’t exist, does it?  And then there are people who are simply ready to give up on life.  They’ve tried everything they know of to find happiness, but nothing works.  They’re convinced that whatever life is all about, they just aren’t destined to find it.  Maybe if they could trade places with someone, start a new life…but that only happens in movies.
Plenty of doctors promise to change your outward appearance.  But only the Holy Spirit of God has the power to produce real change in a human life.  The fact that you have read this far tells me that you are at least willing to entertain the possibility that God might have the answers.  Does He ever.  If you want change, this Sunday at Westbury Baptist, we will talk about what the Holy Spirit can do in your life. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Mind of Christ

Just before a big test, a student may wish he could have a brain transplant.  Old-school science fiction films, Looney Tunes cartoons, and one Steve Martin movie all speculate on what it would be like to transfer one person's brain to another person's body.  But it's not really it?  1 Corinthians 2:16 says it is.  In fact, according to that Scriptural promise, we have access to the greatest mind in human history: The mind of Christ.  This doesn't mean that Jesus wants to wipe out all of our personality, thoughts, and memories.  It does mean we can learn to see the world as He does.  That's one of the wonderful, life-giving ways the Holy Spirit makes Himself known to us.  

The God we believe in is a God who has all knowledge.  Everything that’s worth knowing, everything you will ever need to know for every question, every mystery, every situation of life, He knows.  And because He loves you, He wants you to have the knowledge you need, too.  He wants you to understand the answers to the most important spiritual questions of life, so you can live righteously and be assured of eternal life in heaven.  He wants you to know right from wrong, so that in every situation, every moral decision, you have a fool-proof standard by which to make your choice.  He wants you to see the world as He does.  And He is trying to communicate these things to you.  So let me ask you: Are you interested in knowing what God wants you to know?  If your honest answer is no, then my sermon this Sunday isn’t the sermon for you.  But if it’s yes, that’s where the Holy Spirit comes in, as our text today (2 Corinthians 2:10-16) shows.  The Holy Spirit of God is our teacher.  How do we learn the lessons He is trying to teach us?