Matthew 28:19 – State of the Church

State of the Union…State of the Church…FLC is beginning its 24th year, and it is important for us to assess what we are doing as a church and celebrate the areas where there is strength and note the areas of weakness and do something to improve.

I have stated in several occasions that true spirituality is not a one time or one moment event, but it is a journey…it is a process…you can even call it a spiritual pilgrimage. It is the will and desire of God to continually transform our hearts and lives to reflect the beauty, love, and holiness of Jesus.

It is my desire to lead you in part of this journey. I want you to really grasp how greatly loved you are and how God wants you to live that out. It is not in some kind of effort to earn God’s favor, but to say “thank you” for what He has already done.

In this journey, we are going to speak about (1) surrender to God; (2) separation from the values of the world; (3) godly self-assessment; (4) serving others in love.

I want to be our partner in this journey. I am profoundly grateful for the numerical and statistical growth of the church, but we also need to look to the transforming power of the Gospel in our individual life and in our church.

Mat. 28:19 – What is a disciple? I do not need a definition, but I am looking for what does an authentic follower of Jesus really look like. As I have been thinking about this over the past several weeks, I have come to the place in the Bible that I believe can help us…Rom. 12:1-2.

Now, if you think this is easy, then you have a great surprise in store. Paul is beginning a short lecture on spiritual maturity and he is telling us how to become apprentices of Jesus.

There are a lot of things I want to preach about, but we are going to spend some time in the next few weeks walking through this passage together. I am very convinced that God will give you a clear picture of what He has created you to be and then how to cooperate with Him in His supernatural work of transformation.

Romans 12 is like an executive summary of what a fully mature follower of Jesus looks like.

I want to take a few moments to share with you some of my life and spiritual journey because I know this now that God is at work in the various stages of our life.

I did not grow up as a Christian…I thought I was because I went to church. I did have an intellectual belief in God, I had a good family, lived a moral life, but I did not have a personal relationship with God.

It wasn’t that I was opposed to God. When I was fairly young, I remember my parents attending a series of revival meetings at the Humboldt Methodist Church…one night…strangely and powerfully impacted my life. I call this a “God moment.” Looking back now, I believe this was actually the HS in His effort to “woo” me to Him and I felt Him and it was such at a level I could understand.

Unfortunately, that experience was short lived. We were a lot like many people still today and that we would go to church and thus fulfill our church obligation for the week and then went home.

I did what others did and still do and that was to compartmentalize that segment of my life. I had church here and then the rest of my life and the two did not necessarily connect to each other. That is what I saw in my home and that is also what I saw in other adults’ lives.

In fact, by the time I was in high school, I would be able to go through the entire church service by memory and still review in my mind what I did on Saturday night and what I thought I might do tonight.

The church I attended was not irreverent, but we were simply a group of religious people who really did not understand the God of this Bible, even though Bible passages were used. Worse yet, there was absolutely no expectation of what we did on Sunday as having any impact or connection with how we lived the rest of the week.

The older I got, the less interested I became in going through the religious motions and pretending to believe that what I knew had any impact on how I lived. I actually saw it as sort of a spiritual camouflage to “keep us in line.” When I went off to college, I completely disengaged from the church.

I had another one of those “God moments” when I was a senior at ISU and I was questioning many things about life and purpose of life. I also became curious that if God really existed (and I believed He did) then what was it that He wanted from me?

Now, it was my assumption (and this was based on my childhood experience) that He wanted me to keep a bunch of rules, He wanted me to attend boring church services where the people did not believe what they were saying, and certainly did not live what they said they believed.

I was extremely skeptical…but I was also taking some very small steps on my own personal spiritual journey. At this time, also, I began to read the NT…I figured that it must have some answers…it would be another three years before I would come to understand about Jesus Christ and would actually know Him as the Lord and Savior of my life.

Let me teach you something…I believe there are a lot of persons who have come to Christ personally and they are basically good people, but they have also stalled out and have moved very little down this so-called spiritual journey road.

My text again speaks of two things…making a disciple says we need to be born again, and we also need to be developing an ever increasing walk with God. Listen, God’s plan for our lives is not about keeping a bunch of rules or some religious activity…but to make us more and more like His Son Jesus so we can enjoy Him.

He wants us to understand we are precious sons and daughters who live in a deep union with Him.

Back to my life’s journey for a moment, my life was changed, in fact, radically changed and God planted a new set of desires in my life. Nobody had to tell me to read the Bible; I could not put it down.

No body had to lecture me about sin, but I can tell you the things I once did, God changed my desires, and the sin I thought I once enjoyed became repulsive to me.

I had a great peace in my heart, I felt motivated…I was also very fortunate to have some mature Christians become a part of my life and help me take those first wobbly steps with God.

Here is what I want for you…I want you to be able to step into a very exciting stream where your life is in sync with God and you feel alive and live with purpose for God.

If this is something that appeals to you, then I recommend you fasten your seatbelt because this ride is filled with passion, risk and reward. I want us to learn what it really looks like to follow Christ.

I can tell you this, that at every turn and mile marker of our journey, God is going to be there to guide us and to give us great grace for the present and even the future.