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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Andy Stanley » Andy Stanley - Hang On To Baby Jesus

Andy Stanley - Hang On To Baby Jesus

Andy Stanley - Hang On To Baby Jesus
TOPICS: The Fundamental List

So today we are actually beginning a brand new series I'm super excited about, it's entitled The Fundamental List. And I love this title, I did not come up with it, but I love the title, "The Fundamental List" instead of The Fundamentalist, get it? Got it, yeah. Oh, oh good. Okay, yeah, I thought you did. "The Fundamental List, Recovering the Essentials of Our Faith". And in this series, the next few weeks, here's what we're gonna attempt to do. We're going to attempt to answer the question, what must one believe in order to be a faithful follower of Jesus? Not what must one do, we talk about the do part all the time, and if you're new to our church or you're watching online for the first time, this is a group of people who aren't just about believing we're about doing because doing is what makes a difference in the world not just believing, believing doesn't make any difference.

But at the same time, it's important to ask this question, and I'll explain why in a minute, what must a person believe in order to be a faithful follower of Jesus? What's essential? Or to the title of the series, what's fundamental? What's the bare minimum? What's the can't do without, the can't be without? And what makes this so confusing for so many people and maybe for many of you, and I think at some point in all of our lives we all kind of bump into this, what makes it so confusing is the Christian faith is like a giant house made up of large living rooms, What makes Christianity confusing just living rooms, okay? And each has a double door leading to the outside world because all of these living rooms are trying to invite people into their version of the Christian faith.

But each one comes and there's these little passageways between all the different rooms because people are constantly changing churches and changing faith traditions. And each one of these, the challenges, and this is just a, you know, one of, these are just a few of many, many, many more we could add, but each one of these faith traditions, each version of Christianity, whether it's a denomination or a sub denomination or independent churches, each one of these comes with their own terms and conditions, right? Their own traditions, their own expectations on how you behave, their expectations in terms of how you worship, their own translations of the Bible in some case, and their own interpretation of their translation of the Bible. And the main thing that all of these have in common, there's really two things they have in common, but the main thing they all have in common is each one of these is absolutely confident that they're right and everybody else is not right or half right or misinformed or confused or uninformed or maybe misled.

And the truth is, including our faith tradition, our, you know, network of churches, the truth is all of us are probably wrong about some things, but hopefully we're not wrong about the essential things, the fundamental things, the kind of bottom line things that you have to believe in order to be a faithful follower of Jesus, the essential things. So the question is, what is actually fundamental? Well, what's actually indispensable, necessary, crucial, can't be without, central, we're gonna talk about one of those today, and what's absolutely required to believe in order to be a faithful follower of Jesus. But equally as important, in fact, maybe because of what's happening in our culture, even more important is this question, what's not, what's peripheral, right? What's just cultural? That's just the way we do it in our culture, and before long we think, well, this is essential. What's comfortable?

Well, this is how I've always done it, this is how our church has always done it, but it's not necessarily fundamental or essential. What's fashionable? There's this phrase that I really don't like, the modern church movement, and we have been considered one of the leaders in the modern church movement, but the modern church movement and the way that we do church is just kind of fashionable, it's sort of trendy. But if we're not careful, we think, "No, this is the way to do church and if you do it in any other way, maybe you're not doing it right". What's traditional? This is how we've always done it and if you leave this, then maybe somehow you're leaving what's true and leaving the actual faith. And then this last one, what's harmful? And here's why this is so important, and this is why we're gonna spend a few weeks talking about it. You're familiar with this phrase, "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater"?

I actually looked this up, I wondered where this came from. This is actually a 16th century German idiom that serves as a warning. And so here's kind of a clunky definition of how this word picture is to serve as a warning. So I'll just read this to you, "In your zeal," in other words, this is what it means not to throw the baby out with the bath water, "In your zeal to rid yourself of something unwanted or harmful," and we should all rid ourselves of things that are harmful for sure, right? "In your zeal to rid yourself of something unwanted or harmful, don't inadvertently or don't accidentally rid yourself of something valuable and important". That in your zeal, in your passion, to rid your life of something unwanted or harmful, be careful that in the process you don't accidentally rid yourself of something valuable and important.

And the reason I wanted to talk about this, is currently in our culture, way too many people who grew up in church and grew up with faith and have embraced faith somewhere in the past, way too many are throwing baby Jesus out with the bathwater and we need to stop that, and I wanna help you stop that. But it's understandable as to why you do that and why we have a tendency to do that so I'm not being critical, and here's why. Because in every generation, and this is hard for us to imagine because we think it's just our generation, but in every generation going all the way back to the second century, I mean, Christianity just, you know, was having its first birthdays and suddenly, what we're gonna talk about for the next few weeks, raises its ugly head. In every generation new novel, sometimes toxic, sometimes cruel, sometimes divisive, even dangerous teaching, and dangerous teaching and opinions get woven into certain streams of Christianity.

And these new and novel ideas are often elevated to the status of doctrine and dogma, "This is what you have to do," and theology, "This is what God says". Non-essentials become essential, non fundamentals are treated as fundamentals, and if you're in a tradition where this has happened, a church tradition where this has happened, whether it's a denomination or group of churches, Protestant or non-Protestant, whatever it might be, when that begins to happen, when you reject one of these non-essentials that's being treated as an essential, when you walk away from, or when you begin to question what has become dogma that shouldn't be dogma because it's really an add-on, it's something that's been added to, when you begin to question those things, you're considered a non-believer, you're considered a fake Christian, you're considered a a unfaithful church person, you're out and you may be considered out even though what you were considered out over isn't even an essential or a fundamental to the Christian faith.

And the reasons we know sometimes that these things aren't essential, Essentials vs. Non-Essentials this is where we're going, is when you hold them up against Jesus as we find Him in the gospels, when you hold them up to the life and the teaching and what Jesus modeled, when you hold them up against the behavior of Jesus, as we're gonna see, when you hold them up against what Jesus prioritized and what Jesus did not prioritize, it becomes clear to you and clear to us, wait a minute, this is just how you do it, this is just what you expect of your people. But that's not fundamental to Christianity, that's not essential to Christianity, that's some sort of add-on. And sometimes these things, as many of us have experienced, they're not just not modeled by Jesus and not taught by Jesus, they're actually the opposite. Sometimes they're actually un-Christlike or worse, they're anti-Christ like.

And the reason they catch on, in fact, you know this, if I were to stop and say, "Why do you think these things catch on"? You know how this works or we're adults, you're smart. The reason these things catch on, the reason these little things get threaded into certain facets or certain traditions of Christianity is because these new and novel ideas appeal to some group's self-interest, they confirm and fuel some sort of cognitive bias or some sort of bias, or they support a cultural movement, so as we've seen recently, sometimes they support a political agenda. And the thing that makes it so difficult to tease these things out and you know, ferret these things out, is that 100% of the time the leader or the leaders support these new and novel ideas, these non-essentials with verses of Scripture from the Bible. And they stand up and say, "The Bible teaches and God says, and the Bible teaches and God says".

And sure enough, you know, if you look at their interpretation of certain Scriptures, they have found a way to support these new and novel ideas. And if you don't go along with these new and novel ideas, you are actually going against the Scripture. But then you actually open the gospels and once again, you follow Jesus through the gospels and you realize, wait a minute, my view may conflict with your view, but my view doesn't necessarily conflict with what I see in Jesus. Because oftentimes, and we're gonna talk about some of them, oftentimes, and again, I don't think it's necessarily anybody's fault, I don't think there's some sort of plot, I think we're just, it's just human nature, I gravitate toward the places where I'm accepted the most and I gravitate toward the ideas that serve my purposes most, and if somebody can put chapter and verse on an idea that I'm already attracted to, well, my tendency is to be in.

But what happens oftentimes, and we talk about this a lot around here, is that these new and novel ideas, these cultural ideas, these familiar ideas, even traditional ideas, they actually conflict with what the Apostle Paul called the law of Christ. And the law of Christ is this, it was His final command, His one command that superseded all the other commands. "If you're gonna follow me," he said, "You love other people the way that I love you and you love your enemy. If somebody considers you their enemy, you do not have to return the favor. In fact, if you're gonna follow me," Jesus says, "You don't return the favor". And sometimes these new and novel and trendy ideas, again held up against the teaching and what Jesus modeled, they just begin to fall short. But if we are not careful, we will treat them as essentials and fundamentals until they no longer work for us.

Sometimes these ideas justify and encourage a tone and a posture and an approach to life that is anything but Christlike. For some of you, this is your story, when this happens in a church tradition or a specific church or denomination or a network of churches, and all of a sudden you begin to feel a little bit uncomfortable, "I'm not really sure about that, I'm not really sure about that, I'm not really sure that's what Jesus would do. I'm not sure that's how Jesus would behave". Mature, and you're mature and honest people, they feel at times they have no choice but to leave the church. And then here's the catch, if the church they choose to leave, which represents a version of Christianity, if that version of Christianity is the only version they know, they feel like they have no choice but to leave Christianity entirely.

In their zeal to separate themself from something unhealthy or harmful, they separate themselves from something valuable and important. And maybe that's your story. Here's the story I've heard so many times, I can't even remember how many times I've heard the story that goes like this, "My father won't have anything to do with church and I'm not sure why. Well, what happened? Well, he won't exactly tell us, but something happened back there. He had some bad church experience, he won't have anything to do with organized religion. And we've said, 'Dad, look, hey, there's different kinds of churches.' He's like, 'Nope, not gonna, nope, never gonna step foot inside a church again.'"

Something happened and he had to distance himself from something harmful, something unwanted. But in doing so, maybe he walked away from something valuable and important. Or maybe it was your mom, 'cause your mom went to your priest or your mom went to your pastor and said that your stepfather was abusive. And the priest or the pastor said, "Well, you have to go home and you have to submit and this is what the Bible says and this is what God wants you to do". And it almost killed her and she'll never have anything to do with organized religion again and neither will you. And who could blame you? And now you wonder, is Christianity or does Christianity have anything, does Christianity offer anything valuable and important? And if that's you, I gotta tell you, I've been doing this a long time, I understand, I understand why you threw baby Jesus out with the bathwater, because your church tradition and the theology you were handed and your church experience made it impossible for you to distinguish between the two.

Now that happens all the time. Deconstructing Faith But a lot of people don't leave the faith, they just leave church, right? They deconstruct, they deconstruct their faith. And this may be you as well. And again, his isn't necessarily a bad thing. you stepped away from organized religion to rethink your faith because you still believe, you still believe in God and you still hold Jesus in high esteem. In fact, you haven't really changed what you believe about God and Jesus, it's just the whole organized religion and the church tradition, it just didn't seem to line up and now you're kind of in no man's land a little bit. You had to step away from organized religion and kind of catch your breath to figure out what is fundamental and what's not, what is essential and what's not. You had to figure out what you needed to leave behind and you're pretty confident what you want to leave behind, "Because if that's the way you have to treat people in order to be a Christian, I'm not sure I can be a Christian, or I can't be that kind of a Christian because I don't think Jesus would treat people that way. I don't think Jesus is gonna send my brother to hell, he's one of the finest people I know, I just have to step away and think about this".

You know what needs to be left behind. And if you know what needs to be left behind, look up here, good for you, mature of you, honest of you. In fact, you're honest enough to acknowledge that a faith or a faith tradition or a church, a faith that can't be questioned, a faith that can't be questioned, it can't be trusted and now you're trying to figure out, what do I hang on to? So I'm gonna tell you right now what you hang on to. You hang on to baby Jesus. Let's close in prayer. No, no, that's right In fact, I kind of wanted to put, hang on to baby Jesus, baby, I think somebody should write song about that. You hang on to baby Jesus even if you feel like you're having to let go of everything else, don't you let go of baby Jesus when you're throwing out the church and the church tradition bathwater.

Now here's what makes this really difficult, and this is something that we are really trying to do a good job of when it comes to our high school ministry and our high school seniors in particular. Traditionally, the church hasn't left space for people's faith to grow up, or the church hasn't created space for people to question their faith. In fact, church traditions, most church traditions often mitigate against allowing people's faith to grow up. "We don't allow space, we don't provide space because every church tradition has a box. This is our box and it's the God box and God's on our box and this is how God operates. And if you don't think God operates the way we think God operates, then you're not a God person, you have to go somewhere else". And everybody has their box. But at some point along the way, all of us have questions and all of us should ask those questions because a faith tradition or a faith that can't be questioned, can't be trusted.

But sometimes it's difficult within a faith tradition to create the space for people to ask those necessary questions without feeling they like they have to leave or step away in order to ask the questions for fear of how they'll be treated or fear of how they'll be chastised. So we don't provide space oftentimes for people to determine what's essential and what's traditional, what's comfortable, what's tribal, what's simply familial. Karen Armstrong, I've read about six or seven Karen Armstrong books. She had a terrible church experience when she was a young lady, young girl, and consequently sort of stepped away from organized religion forever, but wrote a lot about religion, all kind of world religions and she's brilliant. And I was reading one of her books and I ran across this quote, I've shared it with you before years ago. She says this, she says, "We all learned about God about the same time we were told about Santa Claus, right"?

We all learned about God about the same time most of us learned about Santa Claus, when we're children. Then she says this, "But while our understanding of the Santa Claus phenomenon evolved and matured, our theology remained somewhat infantile". And that is the church's fault. Because if we don't create space for people's faith to grow up, eventually as I'm gonna illustrate in a minute, people's faith gets cul-de-sac. Here's my observation. A faith that is not allowed to grow up will be deconstructed intentionally or eventually, that a faith that is not allowed to grow up and take into consideration the entire world, not just the church traditional world, will eventually be deconstructed wither intentionally a person decides to step out and begin asking those questions, or eventually, because a Sunday school faith and infantile faith cannot hold up under the rigors of adulthood in the real world. Either we do it or life does it for us. Faith that doesn't grow up can't stand up to the rigors of life in a broken world, because life is too hard on that kind of faith, life is too hard on simplistic, unquestioned, unexamined faith. Faith that goes unexamined and unquestioned, again, it gets cul-de-sac. Here's what I mean by that.

So, you know, you go to a church and it's like, "God parted of the Red Sea and all the good guys went through and then the sea closed up and killed all the bad guys". And you listen to that and you're thinking, "Wait a minute, I feel like the sea is closed up on me and all the good guys are winning. And every time I ask a question about it, people look at me like there's something wrong with my faith. I feel like I'm the one who's drowning. My life narrative doesn't fit with the biblical narrative as the biblical narrative has been explained and presented to me. Hey, I was told that I'm David in all my circumstances and all my fears and all my physical issues and my relational issues are Goliath. And if I just have enough faith and I just face down my Goliath, God is gonna give me victory like He gave David. And I'm telling you, Goliath is winning and David is losing and I don't know what to do, this isn't working for me".

And if that's you, I have some great news, follow Jesus through the gospels and He interacted and interfaced with people like you constantly. In fact, He went out of His way to talk to the people for whom the religious system and the promises they had been made weren't working out for them. So if you find yourselves at odds with, "I still believe, but the tradition I was raised in, the church culture I was raised in, I'm not sure it lines up with reality". That's okay, there's nothing wrong with you. You're mature, you're asking good questions, you may have stepped out and stepped back, but the good news is you're still in some ways leaning in.

So in this series, we're gonna do our best, I'm gonna do my best to strip Christianity back to the sticks all the way back down to the foundation and ask the question that I mentioned at the beginning of the message, what must one believe to be a faithful follower of Jesus? What’s actually fundamental to be a follower of Jesus? What is essential and what's not? Or to put it a different way, what's baby and what's bathwater? So let's get started. We're gonna jump into the first one today in our remaining few minutes.

Now you gotta use your imagination, okay? we're going back in time to the year 30, AD 30. AD 30, there's no church, there's no the Bible, there's no hymns, there's no choir, there's no Christian theology, there's no systematic theology, there's just the law and the prophets, there's Torah, there's the temple, there's the priesthood, there's Roman occupation, and there's this unusual rabbi from Nazareth who is drawing enormous crowds everywhere He goes, He tells sometimes helpful and sometimes confusing stories. He seems to be just confronting the status quo and calling out the corruption in the temple and the corruption in the entire religious system.

And some people love Him and some people hate Him and some people are just confused by him. In about two and a half years into Jesus ministry, we find Him in His 12 disciples about 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee in a region called Caesarea Philippi. It's a region with two names. It was named this way because Herod the Great named it after his son Phillip. Phillip got control, and then Phillip renamed it for Tiberius Caesar, so thus it has two names, it's the region with two first names. And maybe that's what sparked the conversation that takes place as far away from the big city of Jerusalem as they could possibly get. If you grew up in church or if you've been around here, you've heard this before, I want you to, if you could just, sort of isolate this story for a minute and sit in it with us because we're about to discover the first and maybe the most important fundamental of the Christian faith.

Here's what happens. "When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked his disciples". "So Caesarea Philippi, complicated history, you know we've sort of talked about all that maybe, but let's talk about me. Who do people say the Son of Man is"? And He gives Himself this title. This is a title you find in the Book of Daniel. In the Book of Daniel, Daniel talks about this Son of Man to whom God is gonna give the authority to judge all the nations of the earth, big responsibility. and Jesus gives Himself this title, Son of Man, either extraordinarily arrogant or perhaps true. So He says, "On the street, you know, what's the word on the street about me"? A a question you should probably not ask your friends, okay? But anyway, what's the word on the street? And getting the answer to this question right, it's a big deal.

Getting the question to this answer right is fundamental, it's an essential otherwise Jesus wouldn't have asked it. Our version of the question is this, who's Jesus or who do you think Jesus is? And they replied, here's how they replied. They said, "Well, here's what people are saying. Some say John the Baptist who had been recently beheaded". In fact that's one of the reasons they're up there. "And others say Elijah," who died a long time ago, "Jeremiah," who died a long time ago, "Or one of the other dead prophets". In other words, people think you're either reincarnated, you know, some prophet or maybe you've come in the spirit of some prophet who died a long time ago. Jesus's like, "All right". They walk along. "But what about you guys"? Remember this part, "But what about you, he said, who do you say I am? You've been with me about two and a half years, who do you think I am"?

Now this was important to Jesus or He wouldn't have asked, this is important to our faith, it's the question we have to ask. Simon Peter answered 'cause he always answered first, right? You've read the gospel. "Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.' And Jesus replied, don't get carried away, Peter. Seriously, who do you guys think that I am"? That was kind of a Bible quiz, those of you who laughed knew it's not in there, the rest of you're like, "Wow. Yeah". Okay, anyway, so which was a terrible thing for me to do to you. Anyway, so that's not what He says. So here's the point, okay, remember, we're tuning out everything else we know, we're in this moment. Peter's answer is a lot. Messiah, anointed one, every king, a priest or prophet would pour oil on a man's head to make Him king.

He's saying, "No, no, no, no priest, no prophet. I believe that you are God's final king, that God has chosen you to be the king of the entire human race, that God has anointed you as king and that's why you're His Son because it's a dynasty. And King God who is king, has made you his king and has anointed you as king. We believe you're not a messiah. I believe that you are the Messiah and in some unique way, God's son in a body standing out in the sun, in sandals walking everywhere you go".

Pause, okay, you're with me? Regardless of your faith system, regardless of you're Christian or not, I just want you to think for a minute, what if that was true? What if that's true? What if that's who Jesus is? What if Peter was right? Shouldn't the entire population stop and stare? Shouldn't people just bow and worship? Shouldn't people "Sh sh, I don't want to hear you, you talk Jesus, you just talk". Because if your are God's final king, if your God's representative to the human race on earth, then everything you say is as if God is talking through you to us. What if that's true? I mean there's only one response, you say yes. I don't know what the question is, Jesus, but the answer is yes, He's Lord, He's king, He's everything. Acknowledging who Jesus is and getting that right, acknowledging who Jesus is and what Jesus means to you, what Jesus means to us, and what Jesus means to everyone, it means Jesus is, to quote, Crawford Ritz, Jesus isn't a reference point.

"Oh I believe in Jesus". Jesus is everything, He is our king, He becomes the center of everything. Think about this, anything He said, it's as if God was speaking. Would you like to hear God speak? Would you like to know what God thinks about things? Jesus walked around Planet Earth and said, "I'm here so you can know," we're gonna talk about that in a few weeks. This is fundamental, and here's the most amazing thing, Jesus doesn't blink, Jesus doesn't dumb it down, Jesus doesn't back off, He leans in and He says, "Blessed are you Simon, son of Jonah, Peter, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood". In other words, "Peter, you're smart, you're not that smart, you're insightful, you don't have that much insight". You ready for this? I'm not saying it's true, but what if it's true? I think it's true, but we're not there yet. What if this is true?

"This was revealed to you, the fact that I'm God's final king, this was revealed to you by my Father in heaven. Peter, you are exactly right, you are in the presence of God's final king. I am God's unique son". And in that moment, I think they believed Him, but in time they would unbelieve. And do you know why they would unbelieve? Because they too had a God box, and in their God box, God always wins. God's messiah always wins. And when Jesus was crucified, the narrative no longer fit their box and they walked away with their box and they unfollowed Jesus. And yet these are the men that brought us the message. Because when Jesus rose from the dead, they realized, "Our box was too small, our box was misinformed, our box was ancient, our box was traditional. We had no idea what God is up to, but when Jesus rose from the dead, all of that changed and they refollowed and they changed the world and that's why we're here today.

Now here's a fun fact, this declaration, this is why we're talking about it first, that you're the Messiah of the Son of the living God," you ready for this? This is the only thing the church has agreed upon consistently since the beginning., the only thing. Not the way we baptize, do communion, sing, traditions, confess, on everything, it is a free for all out there in terms of everything else. This is the only thing that the church has agreed upon since the beginning. It is fundamental, it is essential. And this one statement, the identity of Jesus, organizes and prioritizes everything else. It's why every single morning I wake up and get my Bible out and I read something that Jesus said or something that people who knew Jesus said about Him. Because what a privilege, I mean, where else should I go? What else is there? What's more important than that? What's more significant than that?

To hear the voice of God from God's final king. So first on our fundamental list, because we're actually gonna make a literal list. Number one, here it is, is that Jesus is God's son and our king, that Jesus is God's son and our king. If you're gonna follow, if you're gonna be a faithful follower of Jesus, you have to start here. That Jesus, look up here, that Jesus is who He claimed He was and they believed it in the moment, they unbelieved it later because there's no way Messiah can die when He rose from the dead, they said, "Yes, we were right the first time, He's God's final king".

And if that's true, and I don't wanna jump into application because this is all about believe, not do, but I just wanna throw this out. If that's who Jesus is, then what else can we do but submit? What else can we do but worship? What else can we do but say yes? Who are we to question? Because if God sent his son into this world because He loved the world and because God loved you and because He'd sent His son into this world to pay the sin debt that you could not pay and you know that God is for you and Jesus is God's king, what else do we do?

We bow down and worship, surrender, and to use the Jesus word, to follow. So it's imperative that we submit to that because everything flows from that. In fact, if you're clear about that, you're pretty much good to go. Because as we're gonna discover, everything else flows from that. In fact, if you get this right, everything else is just detail, but it's important detail and we're gonna look at many of those details next time in part two of our series, The Fundamental List, Recovering the Essentials of our Faith. Don't miss a single episode.
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