Sermon for Sunday March 11th, 2012
A Christian? What's That?! by Thomas McCracken
1 Peter 1:22-1:25
A Christian? What’s that?!
I Peter 1:22-25
According to surveys and statistics, revealed by Christianity Today, 85 percent of the American populous is Christian. Even more amazing is a recent survey that shows Mexico to be 99 percent Christian. I have been to both countries and can understand why some folks are confused with these percentages in light of the declining morals, embraced situational ethics and overall culture of celebrated sin.
In our country alone we have been shocked with over a million abortions each year, a 50-60 percent divorce rate (some studies showing a slightly higher percentage for “Christian” marriages), 5 people for every 100,000 being murdered, over 200,000 American’s sexually assaulted every year, over 2 million burglaries every year, over 3 million children are molested every year, and the list goes on and on. Add to this the leadership in our churches, the pastors, the bishops and the priests that are being caught cheating on their wives, embezzling money and molesting children.
No wonder the non-Christian is looking at the Christian through a lens of distrust! No wonder our Southern Baptist denomination is reporting a decrease in church attendance, membership and baptisms. The world is failing to see the kind of true love and power in Christianity that would compel them to receive the Gospel. So, either these statistics are faulty or our definition of Christianity is.
So, let’s define the word “Christian”. It is someone that is:
• Forgiven: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness”-I John 1:9 One of the misunderstandings of the Christian faith is to believe that Christians are much better than everyone else. Never look at the Christian and think they are perfect, for the Bible says “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”. So it is not a matter of Christians being “better” than everyone else. We are not better, just better off. We are better off because we have been made joint heirs with Jesus. Better off because we have a Father that is all powerful, all loving, all knowing and all present that LOVES us. Better off because we have victory down here and a blessed hope up there. Better off because we are saved, secure and sure. Better off because He has reclaimed us, renamed us and released us! No, as Christians we are not better than the non-believer, we are just better off because we have been forgiven.
Isn’t it about time you were forgiven?
• Free: At 21 I could not handle all of the guilt and shame that my sin was causing. And yet I was trapped by my emotions and the power that sin had over my life. “The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast”-Prov. 5:22. So I called upon the Lord for salvation and asked Him to “direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me”-Psa. 119:133. And now I stand before you today free from the power of sin! Jesus said “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” –John 8:31-36 Christianity is NOT about a embracing a bunch of “do’s” and “don’ts” that restrict, confine and enslave. It is about being released from a life of bondage and snares that sin has kept you in for far too long. Come to Christ, be washed in His blood and experience what real freedom really is! If you are broken today, overwhelmed with the struggles of this life, do not turn to medication, alcohol, drugs, toxic sinful relationships, or even modern psychiatry. Turn to God the Father and discover what the psalmist found when he said “In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and he answered by setting me free.” –Psalm 118:5
isn’t it about time you were free?
Peculiar: Different in-
• Culture: I was talking with James Shorter about his son last week and he informed me that his son had worked at the same job since he was 16 years old. We both agreed that is in contrast to today’s culture where loyalty, dedication, hard work, integrity, morals and ethics are all foreign concepts. When things get rough and tough we move on instead of digging in. We jump from relationship to relationship, marriage to marriage, job to job and church to church. That is now the norm and the standard of our society. However, as Christians we are called “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a PECULIAR people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”-I Pet. 2:9 We, as Christians, are to be DIFFERENT than everyone else. Different in our music, TV shows, movies, attitudes, actions, lifestyle, we have the power now, since we have been called out of darkness into his light, to be a LIGHT. Stop blending in with those around you at school. Stop blending in with those around you at home. Stop blending in with those around you at work. “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”-Rom. 12:2 The most powerful, yet fragile, tool you possess to make a difference in this sinful world, is your testimony. Build it, guard it, protect…USE IT!
Isn’t it about time you were different from the culture?
• Christ: What is an “average” Christian? I mean if you were to take a church of this size and find the median the “down the middle” believer, what would he or she look like? The average Christian attends church 2-3 Sunday mornings every month. 25% give nothing in the offering plate ever. 36% give less than 2% of their income with only 27% tithing or giving 10% or more. 25% say they never pray and only 8% say they pray every day. And, only 3% of Christians witness or attempt to share their faith and 96% of Christians will NEVER lead someone to the Lord.
When we first got saved we were on fire! I mean we could not wait to share our faith, tell people about the change and felt like we were about to explode with joy! Then came life. Then came temptation. Then came troubles and trials and tribulation. And we soon learned that just because we were a new creation we were still living in the old flesh.
Oh so many folks start out well, we just need more to finish well.
What we need more of in our church culture is good old fashioned perseverance. “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed” John 8:31-32 We need more folks that are willing to “continue in the faith and must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” –Acts 14:22
I was in my office Monday night and read a quote to Katie from Charles Spurgeon about perseverance. He said “By perseverance the snail reached the ark.” To which she replied, without missing a beat, unless he caught a ride on a lion.
Let me share a true story with you about real perseverance. Every day, a fatherless boy gazed at the fence separating his family’s ramshackle cabin from the Glen Lakes Country Club golf course on the outskirts of Dallas. What chance did a poor Chicano boy with a seventh-grade education have of being welcomed into that world? Yet the boy was determined. First, he gained entrance to the grounds as a gardener. Then he began caddying and playing a few holes at dusk. He honed his putting skills by hitting balls with a soda bottle wrapped in adhesive tape and sometimes an old shovel. Today no fence keeps Lee Trevino, two-time U.S. Open winner, from being welcomed into any country club in the nation.
We need some average Christians to become dissatisfied with a current life of mediocrity and complacency and be determined to overcome, to endure to continue in the faith no matter what. To be that Christian that gives more, prays often, studies the Word, leads people to Christ and makes a difference no matter what obstacles might pop up. The kind of Christian that can claim the promise found in James 1:12 “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12. How about YOU being that boy/girl or man/woman that determines to sing when nobody else will, contribute when you are in the minority, help in the nursery when the sign-up sheet is lacking, lead children’s church when everyone else has retired or lost patience and get involved in missions when others are just too busy.
Isn’t it about time you lived differently in Christ?
• Happy: “A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance” –Prov. 16:13 Boy have I known some folks that need this verse. I look out some Sundays and it looks like some have been baptized in pickle juice and sucking on a lemon! “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine” –Prov. 17:22b. “Till he fill thy mouth with laughing, and thy lips with rejoicing.” –Job 8:21 It drives me crazy to see so many professing born-again Children of God walking around with their heads down, depressed, despondent, defeated in despair acting like they have no power or love in their lives! Either you are a Child of the King of Kings indwelled and empowered by the Holy Spirit or you are not. If you are, stop living to die and start living to LIVE! And, when it comes to church, this is one church where we have taken great effort in cultivating a culture that is joyful! We are not an uptight, stiff necked, snotty, holier than thou and stuck up congregation! We are a group of dysfunctional sinners that believe there are no big shots no little shots just a bunch of us who ought to have been shot had it not been for the grace of God. And, we are happy and excited because we have been received, reclaimed, redeemed, renamed and one day released and rewarded! If you are looking for a chapel where laughter is not echoing through the halls, folks are not enjoying their relationship with the Lord and Ben Stein brings a monotone message, GO TO THE LOCAL FUNERAL HOME! Years ago some of our members were on vacation at Myrtle Beach and bumped into another couple from Roanoke. They started talking about church and when our folks were asked where they went they proudly stated “CommUNITY Church, Tom McCracken is our Pastor!” To which the other couple replied, “We have heard of that church, that’s the happy church right?” PRAISE GOD WE HAVE A CHURCH THAT IS FULL OF JOY!
Isn’t it about time you starting to enjoy your life in Christ?
• Hopeful: I don’t know about you, but I am tired. I am tired of hospitals, tired of medications, tired of disease, tired of sickness, tired of heartache, tired of tears and tired of death. There are three things that compel me to keep on keeping on: Christ, Community and a future Celebration. It is this future celebration that the prophet Jeremiah records “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an EXPECTED END (or FUTURE HOPE) –Jer. 29:11 This future hope is spoken of in Revelation chapter 21 verse 4 where we read “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” –Rev. 21:4 There is coming a day and coming a place where there will be no more: hospitals, medications, walkers, crutches, replacement hips or knees, defective kidneys, cancer, tears, sickness, suffering, heartache, heartbreak or even death. A place of rest. That is our blessed hope. May we always be mindful and “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; -Titus 2:13
Isn’t it about time you regained focus and let go to let God?
So, what is a Christian? I will quote a friend of mine, Pastor Rodney Houston, “A Christian is someone in whom the Christ of the Bible lives in and through, manifesting himself in one's thought, affection, words and action.” And, in the words of Adrian Rogers, "Christianity is Christ"
So, isn’t it about time you became a Christian? Or isn’t it about time you started living like a Christian?