The Sick Church

Posted by | June 20, 2018 | Ministry | No Comments

I know that you’re clicking through today to hear what I have to say about the book of Romans. But you will not receive that today. Instead, I am here to talk to you about a dreaded illness sweeping this land. Many do not recognize it as a legitimate illness; they say it’s “fake news.”

Today you will know the truth and as Jesus once said, “The truth will set you free”.

I am here to expose the truth about…THE MAN-FLU.

Some have said it’s nothing more than a myth — a bunch of whiney man babies groaning about a little cold. But it’s just not the case. I went to the most reliable source I could find — Urban Dictionary — to find an appropriate definition. Here’s what my investigation unearthed:

1. Man-Flu is more painful than childbirth. This is an irrefutable scientific fact*.
*(Survey of over 100,000 men)

2. Man-Flu is not ‘just a cold’. It is a condition so severe that the germs from a single Man-Flu sneeze could wipe out entire tribes of people living in the rainforest.

3. Men do not ‘moan’ when they have Man-Flu. They emit involuntary groans of agony that are entirely in proportion to the unbearable pain they are in.

4. Men suffering from Man-Flu want nothing more than to get out of bed and come to work, but they are too selfless to risk spreading this awful condition amongst their friends and colleagues. In this sense, they are the greatest heroes ever known.

Now while the idea of man-flu is still debated (but I promise you it’s real, according to a recent study), sickness is not. We all get sick, and we do things to try and prevent it. And while we worry about our physical bodies getting sick, most of us don’t even think about our spirit getting sick.

This is exactly what we are going to be looking at today in a letter to the church in Rome, penned by a man named Paul. Paul, if you’re not familiar, was a man that in his early life sought out and persecuted followers of Jesus. Then his life radically changed when he encountered the resurrected Jesus on a road to a town called Damascus. He started preaching about Jesus, planting churches and wrote 2/3 of the new testament.

Romans chapter 8 shares so much Good News about Jesus. He won’t leave you; He is for you. Then we jump to Romans 9, and it seems to flip the script on the previous chapter.

Taken out of context it sounds like God picks and chooses who goes to heaven and who doesn’t. But what Paul is talking about is the majority of Jews who believed because they were descendants of Abraham, they were saved. It reminds me of today: “I’m an American…of course, I’m Christian!” “I go to church…of course, I’m Christian!” Neither of those things make you a follower of Jesus. Going to church can help, but in and of itself does not make you a Christian. The sickness we’re talking about today lies in the belief that it does.

This was so serious to Paul that he says:

3 For I could almost wish to be cursed and cut off from the Messiah for the benefit of my brothers, my own flesh and blood. (Romans 9:3)

He’s saying that he would suffer the complete and total absence of God if it would save his brothers and sisters — the nation of Israel.

A lot of people have tried to make this chapter about a lot of things. They’ve built entire doctrines and theologies — which can be harmful and dangerous, in my humble opinion— on it. But Paul himself tells us what it’s about!

30 What should we say then? Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained righteousness—namely the righteousness that comes from faith. 31 But Israel, pursuing the law for righteousness, has not achieved the righteousness of the law. 32 Why is that? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were by works.

The idea that you can earn God’s acceptance by birth or by works is so dangerous and so evil that it produces a sickness within our hearts AND our spirits. It spreads like wildfire and can infect an entire community.

So what does this sickness look like? What are some of the symptoms? Here are a few ways this sickness is manifesting itself in the Church:

  • Unmerciful and Angry. These types see sin and say, “It’s your fault! You made that choice. What do you think would happen?”
  • Lives in disharmony with others. These people disagree with everything you have to say, even when it’s your opinion.
  • Stuck in their preference. They’re married to the method, not the mission.
  • Discards “sinners” as unworthy of their time. Hey…Jesus was a friend of sinners!
  • Bible Thumpers. They use Biblical quotes — often out of context — to belittle or abuse others.

I could go on…and on and on. But I think this paints the picture pretty vividly. Have you known people or churches like this? Have you been in the place yourself? I’m sure most of us have, and it’s simply miserable!

Have you guys read these so called, “open letters” to the church that are so popular these days. Man, I despise them. I’m all for calling out abuses in the church, like systemic racism or sexism within the church. What I don’t like is when writers pen these open letters for their own self-promotion. I can’t stand it when Christians try to build a platform for themselves.

So, what I’m about to say is none of that. It comes from a place of deep, personal conviction and not judgement.

I believe this sickness has invaded so much of the church in Gainesville. I can speak to this because I know it personally, from the inside out. My family and I have been here for over 5 years loving and serving this city. And we have experienced it. We wanted to reach out to the community, but weren’t allowed to do so. Our hands were tied.

This sickness is the reason we came to Shift. And now that we’re here, and we’ve seen behind the curtain, we can’t go back to following Him in the way we did before.

I can’t describe the anguish we went through when we weren’t able to serve like our hearts were yearning to do…it was soul sucking. It’s hard to put into words, so I’ll invoke a little Harry Potter. Remember the dementors? It’s a little like that.

It’s so easy for us to fall into this sickness, to forget the urgency of the gospel, to forget that you didn’t earn grace or acceptance, to forget why Jesus came.

In Luke 19:10, he said “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.” And whether we like the term lost or not, that’s all of us! We are all lost and long to be found.

So, If Paul is so desperately warning us in Romans 9 against this, how do we combat it? How do we make sure we don’t fall into this complacency?

I think it’s actually simple. How many of these questions can you say ‘yes’ to?

    Are you:

  • Reading Scripture? We are making it easy for you to read and understand scripture with our S.O.A.P. reading plan.
  • Praying for others? It’s really hard to stay mad when you’re praying for the person you’re mad at.
  • Serving Others? It can look like knocking on your neighbor’s door and inviting them over for hot dogs on a grill. Yep, it can just be hot dogs.
  • Just doing a few simple things can make huge impacts in your life and in the life of this city.

And lastly our attitudes go a long way in keeping us healthy.

We talked about it last week. Let’s look again:

Romans 8:1-2a; Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, 2 because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 What the law could not do since it was limited by the flesh, God did.

31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?

35 Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or anguish or persecutionor famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

37 No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers,39 height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!

Paul reminds us about our victory in Christ before he warns us against this sickness. Why? Because this victory is the cure to the sickness! When we remember that there is no condemnation, we won’t condemn. When we remember that we have been freed, we won’t enslave. When we remember that nothing can separate us from God’s love, we won’t put up walls.

Paul ends the chapter summing up what the sick and healthy look like:

33 As it is written: Look! I am putting a stone in Zion (nickname for God’s people or Israel) to stumble over and a rock (Jesus) to trip over, yet the one who believes on Him will not be put to shame.

The healthy Church walks and doesn’t stumble, and it’s that victory that makes it so.

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