Luke 14.26,27 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
Let me ask you something, beloved. How much does it cost you to be a part of your local church? You may ask, what kind of a question is that, Pastor Ray?
I suggest to you that it is a very biblical question. Any astute observer of the contemporary church today will see as clear as the noon
day sun that the words “sacrifice” and “cross” have nothing to do with the majority of today’s churches. As I spoke of last week
, we have been in the consumer mentality within the church now for many years. The megachurch message sounds more like a Christian version of Amway salesmanship than the words of our precious Lord Jesus in our verses here this morning.
Sacrifice and crosses aren’t big sellers these days, are they? Can you imagine a pastor standing before the people of God and saying, if you want to be a part of this congregation, you can expect to be asked to make sacrifices and deny yourself for the sake of Christ and others? Instead of being a critic of what is not happening, we expect you for the cause of Christ and for the glory of God to lead the way of being a viable part of the solution for the glory of God than a perpetuation of the problem. We expect you for the cause of Christ and the glory of God to invest your prayers, your time and your talents into making this a healthier, kingdom-minded church for others. We expect you for the cause of Christ and the glory of God to reach out to the lost and others in the body of Christ by making your home a hospital for others in need.
Whatever happened to the cross? What ever happened to deny yourself and sacrifice? It seems to me that the majority of people today want the church to be all about what it can give to them, with little or no sacrifice or involvement on their part other than attending and “tipping” God 10% for doing another spectacular job of taking care of me and my family. Oh I’ll get together with a few people for a couple of hours once a week and talk about what the pastor said on Sunday, or study some interesting topic of contemporary interest, but please do not ask me to do get involved or make any sacrifices. Picnics? Yes. Concerts? Yes. Agape dinners? Yes. Visit someone on the hospital? Give someone a ride to church who does not have a vehicle? Buy some groceries for a person in need? Serve, as well as send my children to VBS? I do not have time for that. That is what the pastor or the inner circle (whoever they are!) do.
President John F. Kennedy once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” I would say, “Ask not what your local church can do for you, ask, what can you do for your local church.” If everybody in your local church was an involved as much as you are, what would that church have to offer? What if your church took down all of it’s big screens and creature comforts and decided to gather together on floors or stuffy rooms like our brothers and sisters in third world countries? I’m outta here!
Lest you think that I think that I or the church I pastor, Koinonia Fellowship, have risen above all of this, you are wrong. I am as guilty as anyone reading this. But that doesn’t change what Jesus said is required to be a disciple. I contend that the vast majority of church members today may indeed be fitting in with their church’s programs and small discussion groups. But the real question is this: When they are living their daily lives, is their walk with Christ one that exemplifies denial of self and sacrificing for the sake of Christ and others? Are their lifestyles a pattern of self denial and picking up of crosses for the gospel’s sake and the glory of God?
“Church” is not about programs, or group therapy. “Church” is not about me, or you, or us, it is all about Jesus Christ and living for His glory and honor. It is all about having the mind of Christ and becoming a servant of all for the glory of God. So let me ask you again, dear ones, what does it cost you to belong to your local church? If it costs you nothing, that is probably all that you can expect to receive from it. You cannot make a withdrawal from a bank without making an investment in it. Start making Christ-centered, self-denying investments in your local church. Be an agent of change instead of a critic. Go the extra mile. Be a servant. Crosses and convenience are incompatible. For the glory of God, beloved, resist the me-centered mentality that is destroying and replacing the biblical message of sacrifice, self denial and the cross that Jesus lived and proclaimed so beautifully and clearly. May we seek to be followers of Christ in spirit and in truth.