Greg Laurie - How to Go to Church?
Let's grab our Bibles and turn to Acts chapter two, and the title of my message is How To Go To Church. This is number one, in a two part miniseries, How To Go To Church. Why don't we pray together?
Lord, we're so glad today, to be in church, your house, with your people, and we know that when we gather together, you meet us here, and you have something to say. As we often read in scripture, let him that has an ear to hear, hear what the spirit is saying to the church. Oh Lord, we're a part of your church, and we wanna hear what your spirit is saying to us, so we commit this Bible study, this message to you now, speak to us, and help us to know what our place in the church is, we ask it in Jesus name, amen.
Again the title is How To Go To Church. I heard about a little boy that was sick one Sunday, it happened to be Palm Sunday, so he stayed at home with his mom, and his dad went to church, and came back later in the afternoon, and he was holding a palm branch, and his son said, "Dad, what is that"?, and he said, "Son, it's a palm branch, it's Palm Sunday at church, and Palm Sunday is the day when we remember the fact that Jesus showed up in Jerusalem, when Jesus came to town, so they gave us all palm branches to take home", and the little boy said, "Oh, just great, the only Sunday I miss and Jesus shows up".
Well here's the good news, Jesus shows up every time we gather together in his name, as the church. We know that for sure, because Jesus said, when two or more are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them. Now when we say the church, we don't mean a building. The word church comes from a Greek word ekklesia, it means called out ones. And the reality is, the church today across the world meets in every imaginable place. Some meet in cathedrals, some meet in converted warehouses, some meet in storefronts, some meet in open fields, some meet in prison, some meet in homes, the church is everywhere, so when I say the church, and I use that word throughout this message, I'm talking about a body of believers, followers of Jesus Christ.
So today I wanna talk to you about how to go to church. It seems ridiculous, in a way kind of a no-brainer, how to go to church, I'm here aren't I? You get up in the morning, you get dressed, hopefully, we would appreciate that if you would, this is not a nudist church. So then you drive to church, maybe you have your kids with you, you drop them off in Sunday school, you make your way over to the sanctuary, you look for a seat, you take your seat, you sing a few songs, you hear a message, you go pick your kids back up, you get in your car, you drive home. You went to church. Yes, that is one way to go to church, but I suggest to you, it's not the best way, I suggest to you we need to rethink church, or even better, think biblically about it. Let's start here, Jesus started the church, and Jesus loves the church, that's important. He started the church, Christ only started one organization when he walked this planet, and it's called the church, and of the church, he said, the gates of hell will not prevail against it, and Jesus loves the church. How do we know that? Paul says in Ephesians, husbands love your wives as Christ loves the church.
So we know he loves the church. So I just had my wife up here, and if you wanna get on my bad side, insult my wife, because I love my wife. In a way, if you wanna get on the Lord's bad side so to speak, insult his bride, the church. I know it's somewhat fashionable or thought of as cool, or rebellious, or whatever to say, oh you know what I love Jesus, I just don't love Christians, they drive me insane. But really, is that a proper statement? I have a question, how can you love God who you can't see and not love his people who you can see? First John says, we know we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers, and anyone who does not love, remains in death.
Now let me make what might be to some, a controversial statement. I don't think it's controversial, I think it's very biblical, but to some, they may not like it. Here it is, listen. Not going to church is a proof that something is wrong with you spiritually. I stand by that statement. Not going to church is proof something is wrong with you spiritually. Now I'll just in a few moments extenuating circumstances, maybe you're housebound, you can't get out, I'll deal with that in a moment, but I'm just talking about able-bodied people who are able to be at church, if they're not at church, that's an indication something's not right. First John 2:19 says, these people left our churches, because they never really belonged with us, otherwise they would have stayed with us, when they left us it proved they never belonged with us.
Listen, the church is for every Christian, and every Christian should be in Church on a regular basis, not erratically, but every believer should be a vital functioning part of the church, not merely as a spectator, but as a participator. And I'll take it a step further, not only should you be a part of a church, you should be a part of a local church. Now I'm talking to all y'all right now. This is our church, if you're attending here, this should become your church. Some people like to engage in what we might describe as church-hopping. They're sort of connoisseurs, and say well I love the worship in this church, but I really like the preaching over in this other church, but I tell you what, you can't beat the children's ministry on even another church, so on a given Sunday we'll pop around, one Sunday we'll go to this church, next Sunday we'll go to another, a third Sunday we'll go to another, and then the fourth Sunday well, we'll just watch something online, and they think that's wonderful. That's not a good thing, and I'll tell you why, because church is not just a place to attend, it's a place to participate. You become a part of a family, it's in the church you find accountability. Church is a place to develop and use your gifts, and you need a pastor, and you need a consistent theology.
And by the way, other pastors would agree with me on this statement. They would say, yes, if I meet someone in our church who's a visitor, and I often do, they'll say, well I'm visiting from another church, so I'll say, oh, what church do you go to? And they'll say whatever the church is, and generally my response is, well I hope you're really involved in your church, and maybe I know their pastor, I go, your pastor is a great guy, we're friends, if we're friends, I won't say that if I don't know 'em, of course. Now occasionally there'll be someone who's going to a church that teaches false teaching, I would certainly bring that to their attention, but generally I'll say, be a vital part of your church. I will not say, oh come join our church, leave your church and come to our church, please, because that's not something I would ever wanna do. I just wanna encourage believers to get plugged in to the church, because I think when they don't do that, they miss out on so much, and they're not able to be a part of what God is doing.
My friend James McDonald, who spoke here a while ago, told the story of a person coming up to him and saying all the reasons why they thought his church was awesome, and all the reasons why they thought their old church was horrible, and as they were talking about it, James says, I just started to look at my watch, I just stared at my watch, and they said, "Excuse me Pastor, why are you staring at your watch"?, he said, "I'm just wondering how long it's gonna take until you start criticizing this church". There are people that love to go church to church, oh we're critical of this, we're critical of that, and maybe we'll post it online, and we'll just sort of vent, and I wonder, why are you doing that? I think sometimes, the problem isn't the church, the problem is you. Every church is flawed. You know why every church is flawed? 'Cause people like you are in it, people like me, we're flawed people, we're not perfect people, we fall short, we mess up, we don't always meet God's standards, but this is God's family, and we need to be an active part of this family. I know it's dysfunctional, but it's still the best family going, the church, and God wants us all in it.
People will say, well, I'm looking for a church that meets my needs, it doesn't meet my needs. Okay, at what point are you gonna grow up spiritually, and start saying, how can I be in a church where I can help to meet the needs of others? A true mark of spiritual maturity is when it stops being all about you, and it starts being more about others. Jesus said, the son of man did not come to be ministered to, but to minister and give his life as a ransom for many. And listen to this, when you begin to serve the Lord, and use the gifts that God has given you in the church, you will benefit from it. Oh sure, others will benefit too, but you will benefit as well, and I'll get into that more next time, in my second part of this two part series.
Why does the church exist? Why did God put us here on this planet? The church exists for three reasons. We're here for the exaltation of God, we're here for the edification of the saints, and we're here for the evangelization of the world. Number one, the exaltation of God, the glorification of God. Secondly, building up one another, thirdly, evangelizing the world. A simple way to remember it, upward, inward, and outward, that's why we're here, but yet there is a growing trend of people attending church less, not more. Statistics show that those who used to attend church every week, now are attending church three times a month. People who used to show up twice a month are now showing up once a month. Those who come once a month, now show up about six times a year. Now apply that same concept to joining a gym. Let's say that you wanna get in shape, so you join a gym, and you show up once a week. Is that gonna benefit you? Maybe a little bit, not a lot, but maybe a little. What if you go two times a week? Well that's better, that may start to benefit you. Three times a week, slam dunk, of course you have to go work out, don't just stand there, right? But if you're involved and active, and doing something, it is gonna benefit you for sure.
Now what if you go to the gym once a month? Will that benefit you? No it really won't. How about once a year? No, not at all. And in fact, a lot of gyms now build a business model on the idea that people will sign up to join the gym, usually right after Christmas, while we all gain weight from all those Christmas goodies, and they'll never come back again. They actually build a business model on that very thing. Now I wanna tell you, we did a little survey, and by the way, when you came in today, you were given a card, did you get this card? Excuse me, I have a cold. Cold's are so wonderful, aren't they? I was being sarcastic.
So we have this card, I'd appreciate it if you'd fill out, because this will help us to know a little bit more about you, and also will help us in ministering more effectively to you. You can also do it online, and it's just real simple questions. We ask you how long you've been coming here, what services you go to, you can see what it is, and then fill it out, but we already did a preliminary poll, we just wanna get some more details from all of our campuses. We wanna hear from Harvest Riverside, Harvest Orange County, Harvest Eastvale, Harvest Woodcrest, Harvest Dos Lagos, and Harvest on Maui, and that way we can discover how we can be more effective ministering to you, but here's one thing we found, despite the trend and a decline in church attendance that's happening across America, 81% of those that come to Harvest, come four times a month or more, so very good, very good.
Kudos to you, but don't get a big head about it, but still, that's a great thing. Why are people attending church less? I read a survey that was done. Here are reasons, maybe I'd put that in quotes, reasons that are given, well my kid's playing on a sports team and that happens on Sundays, and sometimes we have to be out of town for that, another one, well, there's more travel, people are traveling more, taking weekends out of town, thirdly, online options, in other words, they're watching church at home, instead of attending.
So let me say a word to you guys watching online. I'm looking right at you right now. First of all, God bless you, welcome to our service, and I know some of you watch from around the world, because I hear from them. We have people literally watching, every imaginable place, our services, and some of you attend Harvest, and you're on the road, and so this is a way for you to stay connected to your church. I think that's incredible. And some of you can't get out of your house for various reasons. Maybe your housebound, maybe you have some kind of disability, whatever that is, we're really glad, but for you able bodied people that are still in your PJs, and you could've come, and you didn't come. Just go tight, tight, come tighter, I wanna do that one more time. For those of you who are able bodied, and didn't come, but you could've come. That's it, okay, that's all I'll say about that.
I want you to think about something, not only is church important for you, but it's really important for your children. You're laying a foundation for them that will impact them, and your grandchildren, and potentially your great-grandchildren. A survey was done that found if mother and father attend church regularly, 72% of their children will also attend regularly when they're young adults. If only dad attends regularly, 55% will remain faithful in church attendance, if only mom attends regularly, only 15% will remain faithful in attendance, and that's not a dis on mom. I think it just says we need strong godly male leadership, guys, step up to the plate, come on. It shows the influence of a father, and I think most mothers would agree with me on that. God bless these mothers that try to do it all on their own, they're at church today with the kids, and dad's home getting ready for the Super Bowl. Yeah whatever. But here's the interesting one, if neither mother or father attend regularly, only 6% will remain faithful. See the influence of parents? So don't send your kids to church, bring your kids to church.
Well some say, come on Greg, I'm not into organized religion, okay? Oh okay, what are you into then, disorganized chaos? What is organized religion? It's a false dichotomy. I'm not into organized religion. Well, what do you mean by that? There has to be structure and order, God is a God of order, he establishes the church, he establishes absolutes we live by, he establishes leadership. In fact that Bible even says, let everything be done decently and in order, so to say I'm not into organized religion, I don't think of this as organized religion, this is a place that we can encounter God, as his people, and we follow a clear Biblical template that I'll identify for you in just a moment, but they'll say, well I can commune with God when I'm surfing, or golfing, or hiking, or doing whatever, I'll just talk to God there. Well, I hope you will. You should talk to God everywhere you go, and that's a good thing to do, but don't do that in the place of the church. Listen, you need the church, and the church needs you.
Here's what God says, Hebrews 10:24, let us consider one another, in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, so this isn't a 21st century problem only, it was even happening in the first century, but rather we should be exhorting one another, and so much more as we see the day approaching. What day? The day of the Lord. In other words, because Christ is coming back, we should be gathering together as his people. A more modern translation puts it this way, let's see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worship together as some do, but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big day approaching.
But some people treat church like it's a movie theater. And now the new trend in theaters is you can get these reclining seats. You ever been to one of those? Pretty nice actually. The problem is, I get in those seats, I fall asleep, so it becomes a very expensive nap, actually. But when my wife and I go to a movie, which is not all that often, but when we do go, we like to get popcorn and Milk Duds, that's our thing, sweet and savory, and I'll honestly admit to you, I smuggle water into the theater. I don't hide it, but it's in my back pocket, and so we walk in with my smuggled water, and so maybe we're late, and I'll say, "Cathy, we gotta get in the theater, the movie's starting", she'll say, I have to get popcorn and Milk Duds", I say, "look at the line", she goes, "I have to get it", I say, "alright, hurry", and so I'm in the seat, and here goes the trailers, the trailers are done, here's the movie, it's starting, here's the title, here's the music, they're establishing the whole foundation of the story now in the movie.
Cathy finally shows up, and then she sits down, and she's like looking at the popcorn, I'm like, stop looking at the popcorn, look at the screen, 'cause you're gonna ask me five minutes later, who's she, look, am I the only one here? Come on, look at the screen, Cathy, I paid money for this thing you're looking at. So we can be that way with church, we get there late, oh well, ya know, it's alright. We'll miss the warm up act. Is that what you think worship is, the warm up act? These folks, these very gifted and skilled musicians are here leading us in prayer, said the song, these people are helping us to glorify God. That's one of the reasons that church exists, they're worship leaders, that's why we don't call them rock stars. They are rock stars.
I know they're rock stars because Hans says that to me every time I see him. He says, "yeah, I'm a rock star". Yeah, whatever. I'm joking, he doesn't say that, he says, "I'm the greatest rock star". No, he doesn't say that either, but these folks are here to lead us in worship, why would you be late for that? And then when a message starts, we need to engage, we need to connect, we need to participate.
Think about how important the church is. The church is an oasis of hope in a desert of hopelessness. We're not perfect, but we are the best family going, for sure. When the Lord called our son Christopher home to heaven unexpectedly almost ten years ago now, it was on a Thursday that he died, and it was the worst moment of our life, and we still miss him so much, but having said that, Saturday rolled around, we were like, what do we do? Well, let's go to church. It wasn't even an option, it wasn't like, we have to go to church, it was I really wanna go to church, I really need to hear the word of God, I really need to worship God, I really need to encounter God. So we showed up here, and people said to me, oh you're such an inspiration, well I'm glad it was an inspiration, but that's not why I came, sorry. I came because I needed the church, I needed what the church provides, and we all need it.
Think of the role the church has played in your life over the years, how significant it's been, when you lose a loved one, you go to the church for help, maybe you lose a grandparent, or a parent, or a spouse, or even a child, you go to the church. Oh yeah, the hospital will help you a bit, but they wanna get that bed clear for the next person that's gonna come in. The funeral home will help you, they wanna make some sales, to be very honest with you. They don't really care that much about you. But you come to the church, we're here to minister to you, we're here to comfort you, we're here to help you. When your spouse walked out on you, where did you turn? Probably to the church, probably to fellow Christians. When you were having problems with your kids, where did you go? Maybe came to the church, I'm having problems with my kids, and by the way, when your kids get into those preteen years, and definitely those teen years, you're gonna need the church more than ever. You really are.
And we have an amazing youth ministry here for every age, every age, and boy I tell you what, when you're having a problem with a preteen, and they don't wanna listen to what you have to say, that youth pastor can make all the difference in the world, 'cause they look at that person, and they're closer in age to them, they say, wow, they're cool, and my dad's lame. But the youth pastor's telling 'em the same thing you're telling 'em, it's just a different voice speaking into their life. It can literally change the course of your kids' life. And what, you don't bring them to church, 'cause why exactly? Oh, you're too busy, oh, you have something else you wanna do? Wait 'til the chickens come home to roost, don't wait 'til then, lay the foundation for them now. Bring them to church, as I said earlier.
And what about when you need a direction in life? How many times have you sat in this church and heard the word of God? It may be me or someone else who's speaking, I don't know, it doesn't really matter, but God just spoke to your heart. He spoke to your heart, and that was the word you needed, that was the clarification you needed from him. Where did you find your mate? A good chance you found 'em in church. I found my wife in church, she was just a young girl, I was just a young boy too, and I was preaching, and I saw her. Now don't get me wrong, I wasn't scoping out chicks from the, that's 60s vernacular for looking for girls.
I was a single guy and I noticed her, she was with her two sisters, Mary and Doty, they went everywhere together, Mary, Doty, and Cathy, it was just like, just joined together, three people, so they're sitting three of them, and I noticed them, and I noticed Cathy, she had like a little light coming down from heaven, and I said, I wanna meet that girl. So I walked up, and I talked to her, and "hey, would you guys like to go out after church, and we'll get a bite to eat"? "Sure", and so all three of 'em, and we went out together, and then the next Sunday, "would you like to go out afterwards"? "Yes,", and all three of 'em came, and then the third time, I said, "Hey Cathy, would you like to go out and get something after church", Yeah, let me call my sisters", "eh, don't call the sisters". But where did I meet her? In church. What a great place to find that person. So many things happen.
Where did you find Jesus Christ? Good chance you came to faith at church, it all happens here. This is where people, a lot of times, develop musical abilities too. You watch those singing competitions like the Voice, or American Idol, and others, and when they do a little background on the person competing, so often they grew up singing in the church, didn't they? They were in the choir, they were a worship leader, and that's so typical. I actually found out in the church, I had no musical abilities. This is back during the Jesus movement, and Christian bands are forming like every day, it seemed. So I was at a little Bible study with some other Christian friends, and one of the guys there was a very talented singer/songwriter, and he said, "Lord, give me a new song", plays this amazing song, and there was another guy there, his name was Rick he was a flutist, that's what you call a flute player, flutist, so he was playing this flute, and they guy's playing his guitar, so I'm doing a little rhythm on the coffee table, and they said, "Let's start a band"!, they came up with a name for the band, and they went down to Calvary Chapel, and went up to Chuck Smith, and said, "Chuck, we're a band, can we play tonight"?, and Chuck said, "Alright then, you can go ahead and play, if you'd like to", that was an affectionate imitation, by the way.
So we get up there, we have a name, we're in a band, the guy's playing the guitar, the other guy's playing the flute, and I have a conga drum, I don't know how this happened, it's because they couldn't strap a coffee table around my neck. So I'm trying to keep rhythm on a conga drum, and I realize I can't do this, and I realize I am not called to do this ever again. We'll get into this more next time, but sometimes one of the best ways to find out what you're called to do, is first by finding out what you're not called to do. So when people come and say, I wanna be in ministry, my response is, volunteer for everything. Best place to get training for ministry, guess where it is? The seminary, ah, church, this is the best place, right here. Just volunteer, maybe you're not gifted here, you're not gifted there, not gifted in four other places, and bam, there's that connection. That's how you develop your gifts, right here. Not only is it a spiritual blessing to be in church, it's even good for you physically.
Time magazine did an interesting cover story about the physical benefits of faith and the church. Now these are a result of medical studies, here's what they came up with, number one, heart surgery patients who draw comfort from their faith have a significantly higher survival rate than those that do not. Isn't that amazing? The blood pressure of people who attend church is lower than those who don't, people with faith and attend church regularly, experience less depression than non-church attenders, finally, suicide is four times higher among non-churchgoers than churchgoers. So it's good for you spiritually, it's good for you physically, it's called the church.
Now I wanna look at Acts chapter two, by the way, that was my introduction It's a little long, I'll admit. But I wanna look at Acts chapter two with you for a few moments, and we'll deal with a little bit of it. And the reason I wanna look at this is this is the first century church. Remember, Jesus started the church, and so this is very close to what he wanted, and we're gonna see a lot of important principles, in fact these are sort of foundational scriptures for our church, that we have functioned by, ever since our beginning well over 40 years ago. Here's what the early church did, Acts 2:42, and they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers, then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.
Now all who believed were together, and they had all things in common, and they sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as everyone had need. So continuing daily, notice the word daily, with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their bread with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people, and the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Stop there. So this is the church that turned it's world upside down. No social media, Thomas did not tweet, Peter did not have a Facebook page, Paul didn't have a TV show, Matthew wasn't on the radio. No, they did this all word of mouth, they changed their world. How did they do it? I've summed it up in a simple acronym, WELL, WELL.
W - they were a Worshiping church,
E - they were an Evangelistic church,
L - number one, they were a Learning church,
L - number two, they were a Loving church
WELL, worshiping, evangelizing, learning, and loving. You wanna be a WELL Christian, be a worshiping Christian, be an evangelizing Christian, be a learning Christian, be a loving Christian. You wanna be healthy in the church, do the same thing. Here's the thing, let's start with point number one, they were a worshiping church, verse 47, Praising God, and having favor with all the people, and the Lord added to the church daily those that were being saved. Listen to this, when you come together with God's people, something wonderful happens, because we're told in Psalm 22:3, he inhabits the praises of his people. Now look, God's omnipresent, which means he's present everywhere at the same time, but he manifests his presence, he reveals himself in a special and unique way when we gather together for worship and Bible study, make no mistake about that. So when you unplug from that, you're missing out on a significant thing that God wants to do in your life. And when you worship God, you're doing what God created you to do. From Genesis to Revelation, our faith is one of worship, and in heaven, we're going to sing.
Revelation 15 says, and this as a glimpse into heaven. It says, I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and standing beside the sea, where those who had been victorious over the antichrist, and they held harps, and they sang the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the lamb, singing great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty, just and true are your ways, king of the ages. Worship, we're gonna be doing it in heaven, so get in practice now. But sometimes they say, well I don't feel like worshiping today, I'm not in the mood to worship today. Well here's a biblical response, Hebrews 13:15, by him therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name.
Two things, sacrifice of praise, fruit of your lips. Number one, sometimes praise is a sacrifice, I don't feel like worshiping the Lord, I'm not in the mood. Who cares if you're in the mood? God's still worthy of your praise, isn't he? So give him the sacrifice of praise. Number two, the fruit of your lips. What does that mean? Verbalize. Well, I don't like to really express myself with emotion, I will scream like a maniac during the Super Bowl game, but in church, I just like to stand there and do nothing, that's my form of worship. Is it? God says, offer the sacrifice of praise, it urges you to lift your hands, it urges you to lift your voice, you should verbalize it. You could say it's true of marriage. You love your wife, when's the last time you told her? Well, I told her on the day I married her. If I change my mind, I'll let her know. Are you really that stupid? Yes, I am. I think she'd appreciate it, if you'd just say, honey, I love you, you're beautiful today, that's a great outfit, which I picked out for you. No. Now wives should do the same for the husband, I appreciate you, thank you for all that you do, verbalize it. The Lord wants to hear you verbalize your praise.
Well doesn't God know I love him? Yes, but he says he wants to hear you proclaim it. So the Bible tells us also, give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good, and his mercy endures forever. It doesn't say give thanks to the Lord when you feel good. Listen to this, did you know that your worship is a witness? Your worship is a witness. Look at verse 47, they were praising God, and having favor with all the people, and the Lord added to the church daily those that were being saved. There's a definite connection there, when non-believers see believers give praise to God when things are hard, it's a powerful testimony. You're being watched everywhere you go. People know you're a Christian, and so they go, okay, let's see how the Christian treats his wife, let's see what kind of life the single Christian lives here.
Oh, well let's see how hard the Christian works, oh, let's see what kind of a student this Christian is, oh, let's see how this Christian drives, uh oh. You're being watched. And really honestly, non-believers don't probably want you to succeed, they want you to fail, so they can pull out their favorite word, oh look at that, they went one mile over the speed limit, hypocrites. But then you mess with their narrative when you give praise to God, and you live a Godly life, and when you can rejoice, even when things are bad. If all the bills are paid, and the kids are healthy, and everything's great, wonderful, but all of a sudden they find out the wife got cancer, or the husband got laid off from the job, and you're still serving God, you're still faithful to God, they go, wow, look at that, how about that?
Remember the story of when Paul and Silas were thrown into a Roman dungeon for preaching the gospel? The jailer whipped them, put them in stocks, and we read, at midnight Paul and Silas began to sing praises to God, and it's interesting, 'cause it says, and the other prisoners were listening, and that phrase, listening, can be translated, listening with pleasure. They hadn't heard many concerts in that hell-hole. And what happens? An earthquake comes, everyone could've run to their freedom, but they stayed there and the jailer who was about to kill himself was stopped by Paul, who said, don't kill yourself, we're all still here, and that man said, sir, what must I do to be saved? What set the stage? It was their worship.
When I was a non-Christian, there were Christians on my high school campus, and they had meetings out in the front lawn, in fact, all my friends warned me, Greg, stay away from the Jesus freaks, and I actually said, yeah, as if Greg Laurie would ever become a Jesus freak. Famous last words, right? One day I went to their meeting. No one invited me. I sat at a distance where I could kind of watch them, and judge them, and decide why they were all crazy, and the problem is, as I looked at their faces I saw something I didn't have. And what were they doing? They were worshiping God. So your worship is a testimony, and you can do it even if you don't feel like it. You don't think Job had problems when his family died, and his possessions were gone, and his health with it? But yet we read in Job 1:21, he fell to the ground and he worshiped, and said the Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
See, worshiping God with other Christians, helps put things in perspective. So I come to church today with a burden, some of you have burdens right now, something's really troubling you, something big is happening to you, and you don't know what to do. So what does the Bible say? Magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. It doesn't say, magnify your problems. And when you magnify the Lord and see him in all of his glory, you can see your problem in it's proper perspective. Worship can make all of the difference as we gather together with God's people, and see things accurately, biblically, and correctly. When you isolate yourself from other believers, you lose perspective, you can become fearful, and confused, and angry, and bitter.
Think of old skeptical Thomas who after Jesus rose from the dead, didn't join the other Christians for their little worship service, he was very disillusioned, and they saw him afterwards and said, hey, Tom, you shoulda been there. Yeah, what happened? Uh, Jesus showed up, pfft. That's implied in the original Greek where he actually said pfft, no he didn't. No, Jesus showed up, right. I'll believe that, says Thomas, if I can put my hand in the wound in his side, and touch the holes in his hands. The next time they gathered together, guess who was there? Thomas. And guess who showed up again? Jesus, he always does when his people gather. And Jesus said, hey Thomas, go for it. And he says, oh, my Lord and my God. But here's my point, he missed out when he was separated from other believers. He received so much more when he joined with them. Asaph was grappling with the age-old question, why do the wicked prosper? But he got perspective while he worshiped with God's people, in God's house, and he wrote in Psalms 73:16, when I tried to understand all of this, it was oppressive to me, 'til I entered the sanctuary of the Lord, and I understood their final destiny.
So the point is, I didn't understand, why things are the way they are, but when I gathered together for worship, I found perspective. There's a lot more to say, and I'll get to that next time, but I wanna just say, we should be a part of the church. Why should we be a part of the church? Because it is here we hear the word of God, it is here we worship the Lord, it is here we receive untold spiritual benefits, and sometimes even physical benefits. It's here that we encounter God.
I heard about a 100 year old man that was celebrating his birthday at church, he'd actually attended that church ever since he'd been a little boy, so they threw a big party for him, big cake, lots of cards, ice cream, and then they said, let's go into the sanctuary, and so everyone went in, and his great-grandson got up to the microphone, he turned it up really loud, so his great-grandfather could hear, and he said, "Great-Grandpa, we know you can barely hear or see, but tell us, why do you still go to church every Sunday"? and great-grandpa said, "Because I love Jesus with all my heart, and he commanded me to be here", and then he paused for a moment, and then said, "and I just wanna show everybody whose side I'm on".
I like that, that's good. Whose side are you on? Well, you're on the Lord's side, 'cause you're here today, and I applaud you for that, and I hope you'll be here all the times we gather, because you'll receive so much from it, but not everyone is on the Lord's side. People don't know the Lord at all. So this is the family of God, and here's the great thing about our family, you can join our family. You say, how? Well, you have to be born into it. Oh, you mean like raised in the church my whole life? No, you need to be born again. Jesus said unless you're born again, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Well, what do you mean by born again, you might ask. Funny thing, someone asked Jesus that 2,000 years ago. What do you mean, born again, what does that even mean? And Jesus said to that guy, whose name was Nicodemus, he said, the wind blows where it wills, you don't know where it's coming from, you don't know where it's going, so is everyone who's born of the spirit.
And so Jesus was basically saying, look, it's a work of the holy spirit. Okay, I don't even know what that means. It comes down to this, would you like your sin forgiven? Would you like to know that you'll go to heaven when you die? Would you like your guilt removed? And would you like to join the family of God? You say, yes I would. Then you say, Lord, I know I'm a sinner, and I pray for a spiritual rebirth of my life right now. That doesn't take years, it doesn't take months, it doesn't take weeks, it doesn't even take hours. It can happen in a instant for you right now. And we're gonna close in prayer, and I'm gonna extend an invitation for you to believe in Jesus, if you don't yet, and have you then join the family of God, join our family. Let's pray.
Father, we thank you for your word to us, and now I pray for any that have joined us who may not yet know you, help them Lord, to see that the words we've shared are true, they are the gospel truth, and I pray for anyone here, anyone watching, listening, wherever they might be, if they don't know you yet, Lord, help them to come to you and believe, we pray.
Now while are heads are bowed and our eyes are closed, and we're praying, if you would like Jesus Christ to forgive you of your sin, if you would like to know that you will go to heaven when you die, if you would like to join God's family, why don't you just pray this prayer that I'll lead you in right now, just pray this prayer with me. Just pray, Lord Jesus, I know I'm a sinner, but I know you're the savior, who died on the cross for my sin. I turn from that sin now, and I choose to follow you from this moment forward as my savior and my Lord. In Jesus name I pray, amen.