WHAT A CHURCH WANTS — JESUS TO OWN IT
by Pastor Mike Fortune
February 10, 2007
Since its almost Valentines Day, I thought I’d begin today with a heart warming love story someone sent me this week on email. In it, there is a woman who was arrested for shop lifting. When she went before the judge he asked her, ‘What did you steal?’ She replied, ‘A can of peaches.’ The judge then asked her why she had stolen the can of peaches and she replied defiantly “Because I wanted to.” The judge then asked her how many peaches were in the can. She replied 6. The judge then said, “I will then give you 6 days in jail.” But before the judge could actually pronounce the punishment, the woman’s husband spoke up and asked the judge if he could say something. The judge said, “What is it?” The husband said, “She also stole a can of peas.”
Doesn’t that just a bring a tear to your eye? Do you think that’s what God had in mind when He created husbands and wives? Not really huh. This next story is about Ordinary Outreach. You guys know I’m on the prowl for small and big things done that when done with great love can change our corner of the world so if you see something like that, please pass it along like Shawn Flack did when he sent me the following article.
This is actually a true story. It was written by Kevin O’Neal and appeared in the Indianapolis Star newspaper recently. It reads, “The most unusual Super Bowl party in the city was the one taking place in 14-degree weather on Monument Circle, where a handful of homeless people watched the game through the windows of WIBC-AM1070, the news-talk station with a ground-floor studio and large picture windows. They even had food there—Wendy's hamburgers and coffee supplied by two aid groups, including one from Mount Pleasant Christian Church where members were mourning the deaths of two church members killed when the SUV they were in was struck by a train Saturday.
Cassie Schott, a church member, said people from that church come Downtown about once a week to minister to the homeless. “These people are less fortunate, and we have to show God’s love to them,” said church member Jason Beck. Between bites of hamburers and sips of coffee, the street people intently watched every second of game action and their cheers were the only sounds that could be heard on the otherwise quiet Circle. Nearby was Andrea DeMink Kaufmann, head of a relief group called Pourhouse, which brings coffee and food to the homeless on the Circle every Sunday evening. “These guys are watching the game, and we’re hanging out with the them. This is our community time,” she said. Only a handful of homeless, no more than a half-dozen or so, were on the Circle watching the game, most likely because of the subfreezing temperatures. The extreme cold triggered a contingency plan among Downtown homeless shelters, which are housing people overnight, something they typically do not do.
Isn’ that a wonderful story? Maybe that’s what we should do next year! Take the Super Bowl party on the road. I’ve heard of polar bear camping and a whole mess of people who love ice fishing and Winter X Games right? I’m sure we could find some folks willing to layer up like the Michelin man and throw an outdoor Super Bowl bash. We’d probably have to serve hot soup though and call it a Souper Bold party right so the NFL wouldn’t sue us. But wouldn’t that be fun? I’d try that. At least once. All we’d need to do is find someone with an RV and satellite dish on top to pull in the picture and show the game on a sheet hanging off the awning of the RV. Who’s with me? Anybody?
So here you have a bunch of Christians, some of whom were already nearby for a funeral, who found some homeless people peering through the windows of a radio station nearby watching the super bowl, and caring more about ministering to them than mourning the loss of their loved ones, they ventured out into the cold dark world. That article reminded me of something Jesus said in Luke 9:60 [NIV], “60Jesus said, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’” I believe we should preach. And sometimes use words. What do you say? So thank you Shawn for that. And the rest of you keep your eyes and ears open for more ordinary outreach opportunities coming soon. Because proclaiming the kingdom of God can be tons of fun.
Well, last time we started our sermon series on What A Church Wants. And we talked about how Jesus had this strange conversation with a Samaritan woman by a well in the heat of the day. We emphasized that the reason Jesus was having that conversation in the first place is because more than anything else, He wanted to do the will of His heavenly Father. Remember he told the disciples in John 4:34 [NIV], “‘34My food,’ said Jesus, ‘is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.’” Which of course is something He did on the cross proclaiming in a loud voice in John 19:30, “It is finished.” So one aspect of the will of the Father that everybody agrees with is that the will of our Father in heaven is to save the whole world. Some of whom know they need saving. And some of whom do not.
But the good news it can be done. Why? Because God is already at work in it! As the hymn says, “This Is My Father’s world.” Long before that Samaritan woman had run home from the well and invited the entire village of Sychar back to meet Jesus, long before any seeds were sown, long before any Kindness 2 Go bags were given away, long before any invitations were made, Jesus told his confused disciples in John 4:35, “‘35Do you not say, four months more and then the harvest? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”
The church belongs to Jesus
Now, He could not have said that if He weren’t already active in the world. Right? This really is our Father’s world. And because it is our Father’s world, it is also His church. That’s my main point today. Jesus bought the church with His own blood. Acts 20:28 [NIV] says it this way. “28Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood.” This is our Father’s world because He bought it back. He owns the church! The church belongs to Jesus. But when we talk about the church, we talk about it like its ours or something. Will you come to my church? I go to Toledo First Adventist Church. I’m so jealous of the Mormons on this one. They don’t even believe the same things we do about Jesus but they put the ownership of Jesus right into the name. They call it The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I sort of like that. How can you be tempted into thinking its your responsibility to build, grow, protect, or guide the church when the very name of it reminds you that its not yours? Aren’t you glad you aren’t responsible for building or owning it?
Have you guys ever gone into those stores that have a sign on the door that says, “You break it, you buy it.” That always scares me. I usually just turn around and leave. Because shopping is bad enough. But having to be extremely careful while you’re doing it is even worse. How can you really look around and pick stuff up and look at it if you’re afraid of breaking it into pieces? We broke the church. But Jesus bought it back. And that’s why He owns it. He said in Matthew 16:18 [NIV], “I will build MY church.” He owns it!
Neil Cole in his book Organic Church tells the story of a contractor who built homes in a small town in Europe somewhere. He built most of the homes for the people who lived in the village and was a gifted carpenter. Unfortunately, he was never able to afford a home of his own. One day, the wealthiest man in town came to the contractor and asked him to build a house. He said, “I want you to build the finest house you are capable of, and I want you to spare no expense. I am going on a journey and when I return I hope that the house will be completed.
The contractor agreed to the job and was about to begin when a thought struck him: ‘This wealthy man already has a few houses. I do not have my own. I will use inferior material, do a quick and sloppy job on the house, make it look real nice, and charge him the full amount. That way I can pocket the leftover money and finally afford to buy my own house. It won’t be much of a house, but at least it will be mine.’ And that is what he did.
When the rich man returned, he went to view the house and was impressed. It looked beautiful from a distance. So he turned to the crooked contractor and said, ‘The house looks wonderful! I am so glad that you spared no expense. For I intend to give this home to a dear friend who deserves a house like this one.’ With that, he handed the keys over to the contractor and said, ‘Here is your new home, my friend.’ The contractor graciously received the keys to his new home, but his heart sank as he realized what he had done.
We are the church
What kind of effort and quality of workmanship and materials would the man have put into the home if he had known it would be the place where he and his family would be living? What kind of effort and quality and materials would we put in ourselves if we knew it would be the place where Jesus would be living? The church friends, is Jesus’ building project. It’s far from done. But the cool thing is He wants to live in it anyway! In us! He didn’t buy it as a time share. To share with whoever else happens to be rolling through. The Bible says our God is a jealous God. He wants all of us all the time. Not once a week on Saturday. We broke it. But He bought it. And He wants to live in it. Not just vacation in it.
At least four times the Scriptures come straight out and basically say the same thing. I call them my mobile home texts because the first church God designed for Himself to dwell in was a mobile home. It was an RV! If it had a satellite dish on it, they could’ve showed the Super Bowl and ministered to desert nomads on camels. But seriously, the desert sanctuary was meant to be a mobile home because God wanted to be on the move with His people. Exodus 25:8 [NIV] “8Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.” Well that worked well for a while until the warlike King David came along and wanted to build a more permanent home for God but was denied permission. Finally David’s son Solomon built the first building. At its inauguration, Solomon stood in the shadow of this massive structure and as recorded in 1 Kings 8:27 [NIV] asked, “27But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” The prophet Isaiah wondered the same thing. Isaiah 66:1 [NIV] says, “1This is what the LORD says: ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be?’” Fast forward to Acts 7. Stephen is preaching the Gospel to a group of Jewish leaders under the shadow of another wondrous temple, this one built recently by King Herod. And right before he quotes Isaiah 66:1, he proclaims in Acts 7:48 [NIV], “The Most High does not live in houses made by men.”
He lives in us!
So where does He live then? He lives in us! The church is Jesus’ building project. And people are the church. He owns it. And He always wanted it to be more like a mobile home than a timeshare at the beach. Ezekiel 37:26-28 [NIV] says, “26I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. 27 My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. 28Then the nations will know that I the LORD make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.’” 1 Corinthians 3:16 [NIV] asks, “16Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” Chapter 6 verse 19 [NIV] adds, “19Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.” Colossians 1:27 [NIV] confirms, “Christ is in you, the hope of glory.” But what if He’s not? What if that’s not the way it is right now? Is it because Jesus has done a poor job using inferior materials? Is it because He likes some homes better than others? No way! How do we know? Because God don’t make junk! Have you seen that grammatically incorrect bumper sticker? I have a good friend in Wooster who used to be an English teacher and whenever I quote stuff like that, I have to make sure everyone knows that’s not grammatically correct. Mr. And Mrs. Hall can probably appreciate that too right? But it is theologically correct. We are His mobile home. Bought with a price. Precious to the heavenly Father, Son, and Holy Spirit . Who would rather die than spend eternity without us. Even Osama Bin Laden is Jesus’ building project can you believe it? Now, that may be news to him, but it’s still true. Jesus intends to fully live in us. That’s what all those Scriptures we just read said. So the question is: if He isn’t living in us, whose fault is that? Not God’s! Why? Because He’s already at work in the world! And He owns it! He has been seeking us right where we are.
That’s why there’s really no such thing as “seeker service.” Have you heard that term in Christian circles? That some worship services are designed and geared more for those farther from God than others? I used to think such a thing actually existed. But I don’t anymore. Because God is the one who is seeking us—not the other way around. Romans 3:11–12 [NIV], “11There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. 12All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” That’s why there’s no such thing as a seeker service because no one is really seeking God. It’s not about the music or the snacks or the cartoons. It’s about a God who loves us like crazy and is seeking us! Hoping to catch up to our mobile homes that are going faster and faster and often out of control that even God Himself has a challenge hanging on to us. That’s what this clip from the movie RV with Robin Williams reminded of. Take a look.
Isn’t that hilarious? Did you hear what his family members asked when they saw that mobile home flying down the mountain with Robin Williams desperately hanging on to the front of it? Who was that maniac? The truth is that that maniac is Jesus! He bought you with a price. He loves you like crazy! You are precious in His sight. And He doesn’t want to time share! Where we only vacation with Him once a week. He wants a mobile home. Even if its speeding out of control. Because He wants to live in us. And because it’s worth the ride! He’s the one seeking and hanging onto us not the other way around. He’s the one sincerely worried about us and compassionately asking us like He asked Adam and Eve right after they screwed up, “Where are you?”
He found us
Listen friends. Tell your kids. We don’t go to church to find God. We go to church because God already found us! Amen? We are His heart’s desire! We’ve got 3 worship services to get our praise on and give Him some glory for the great things HE hath done! Isn’t that what we sing? Peter was one of the first disciples to get that. And when he did, it miraculously changed his life. Let’s close with this snapshot from Luke 5:1–11 [NIV]. It reads, “1One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, 2he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’ 5Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.’ 6When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. 8When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’ 9For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men.’ 11So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.”
They were done fishing. Peter was washing his nets. Getting ready to pack it in and call it a day. I mean night. And Jesus arrives in the morning and after he had finished speaking, asks Peter if he wouldn’t mind, to row out into the deepest part of the lake. Anybody in here tired today? Exhausted from a long week’s work? Ready to crash and enjoy some Sabbath lay activities? I had some flu like symptoms this week. So did Lydia. Been kinda tired myself. Well, I imagine Peter felt that way right about now. And I’m sure He wasn’t in the mood to row that boat out into the middle of the lake. He’s thinking: “You’re serious Jesus? We’ve just worked all night and caught nothing, but you want me to row out to the deepest part of the lake and let down my already clean nets ready to be stored away and dried just so we can get sunburned and come back empty handed? Are you crazy? Who is this maniac?”
He didn’t know what to make of Jesus. But because Jesus was a Rabbi, someone respected as a Master Teacher, he actually does what He asks. And lets down the nets. And what happens? So many fish swim into the nets that the boat begins to sink! Don’t be afraid Jesus told Peter. Don’t be afraid Jesus is telling us. I am the Lord of the Harvest. I am at work in the world. I’m the one actually seeking you not the other way around. I know all about you. But I love you anyway! I know you're tired. And frustrated. That you haven’t been as successful as you’d like in the past. I know you’re ready to pack it in and call it a bad day or night and do things on your own. But don’t be afraid of how things appear. Because this is my Father’s world. The winds and the waves obey me. I created all the fish in the sea. I will provide for all your needs. If YOU will be my mobile home.
But we broke it. We’ve taken ownership of the church away from Jesus. We’ve turned it into a timeshare. A building. Something we come to instead of something we take with. Now I’m not saying buildings are bad. It sure helps to have one big enough to gather in and praise God and encourage one another. But rightly understood, the building is here to serve people not the other way around. So yeah, we broke it. But the good news is friends that Jesus bought it back anyway. And because He did, He owns it. Jesus said, “I will build MY church.” Luke 5:11 [NIV] concludes, “So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.”
Ask Jesus to move in
Is that your desire again this week? Maybe some of you are wondering how do I do that? I don’t have any nets to drop. Here’s how you do it. In the quietness of your heart, you simply ask Jesus to move into your mobile home. Revelation 3:20 [NIV] says, “20Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” You ask Jesus to move in. Then, you start believing the truth about yourself and about Him. John 1:12 [NIV] says, “12Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” There’s no waiting list for adoption. You’re in. And then, like Peter, you confess your need of Him. 1 John 1:9 [NIV] says, “9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” That’s what leaving your nets behind looks like in the 21 st century. And all of us are weak enough to do that. The church has one foundation and that is Jesus. And He is worth following till the day you die.
Father in heaven, thank you for sending Jesus to seek after us. Forgive us for the times we’ve inappropriately time shared you. Help us to remember that you already bought us. But are still at work in us. And everybody else too. We trust you again today for all our needs. And we ask you to give us lives worth living. In Jesus name, whom we cheerfully serve, Amen.