James Merritt - Life Beyond Busyness
I want to talk about a life beyond busyness. Now, let me tell you a little bit about me and some of you have probably figured out my staff would be happy to tell you this about me, and my wife will certainly be happy to tell you. There are type A personalities, I'm not a type A. I'm a triple A. There are some people who are ADD, I went past DD long, I'm ADDDDDD, okay. I don't like to sit still very long, I'm a person of action, I like to be on the go, I like to keep getting things done. But let me tell you what, cause this is what I hate. I hate busywork.
Now some people thrive on it, not me. I cannot stand just busywork. Okay, and this is what I want you to hear. There's some people, and lets be honest, sometimes I think people have this idea "Why did God create the church? Just so I couldn't play golf on Sunday? I mean, here's the one day I get to relax and what does God do? God puts church in my life". And I think there's some of you that think God's some kind of a kill joy up there, He doesn't want you to enjoy Sunday, He wants you to "No, you've gotta come to church". We've got this idea, "Well, God just wants to put something else on my to-do list, something else to take up my time, something else just to keep me occupied".
And I want to relieve you of that. God did not design the church primarily for His benefit, He did it for our benefit. He did it for you, and He did if for me, and we really do need the church and I want to show you today why the church is God's gift to you, its God's gift to your family, its God's gift to your kids, its God's gift to your grandkids, its God's gift to your marriage, its God's gift to you emotionally, and spiritually, and almost any way you can imagine. And by the way, one of the reasons why I'm a little bit encouraged by the message today is I rediscovered that they had the same problem in the early church that we have today. 2,000 years ago they had this problem of people just dropping out of church, and I want to show you how they dealt with it.
If you've brought a copy of God's word, whether you have an iPad or a smartphone, or whatever you use, I want you to turn to a book in the New Testament called the book of Hebrews. Now, you may not have a clue where that is, that's fine, its really almost at the maps. If you go all the way to the back of your bible, its almost at the maps, its about 20 books in, there's 27 books in the New Testament. About 20 books in you'll come to the book of Hebrews, I want you to turn to Hebrews 10. Let me tell you what's going on. Evidently, the early church was doing just exactly what we tend to do today, right. The early church had an attendance defect problem. There were people for whatever reason, listen, we're only talking about 40 or 50 years after Jesus had come back from the dead and already people are dropping out of church. They're just not going to church anymore, they're slacking off. They're dropping out, they're sleeping in.
I don't what they were doing. Some people said, "I'm not going to church anymore, I want to go to the chariot races". Some people said, "Lets go to the lamb chili cook off, we're gonna go to that". Some people said, "Hey, lets go boating on the Sea of Galilee". Some people stayed home to watch who's smarter than a Pharisee. I don't know what they were doing, but people evidently found other things they wanted to do and they had just quit coming to church. So the author of Hebrews is laying out a case, and he's trying to say, "Hey, let me tell you why that's not a good idea. Let me tell you why the church is a big deal. Let me tell you why the church is important to God and therefore why it ought to be important to you".
Here's what he does, three times in this passage, the author of Hebrews beginning in verse 19, he keeps using this two word phrase, we're gonna see it three times today. "Let us, let us, let us". He's talking to us, he's talking to the church as a whole, he's not talking just to Johnny believer. He's talking to everyone who's a follower of Jesus, and he says, "Look, I want to tell all of us what we ought to be doing and why we ought to be doing in carrying out what God has called us to do". And what really thrills me is, I was telling the staff this, this past week, is to find out that here's this passage of scripture that is actually going to be describing what we've been talking about the last three weeks. This is who we are, this is what we're going to do, this is our strategy in carrying out our mission of pointing people to Jesus and inspiring them to live the cross shaped life.
So the author of Hebrew's says there are four things we ought to do together. Number one, we should worship together. Worship together, now, the author, you'll notice this as we read this passage, he doesn't use any singular pronouns, he doesn't us I, he doesn't use me, he always uses we or uses us. Let us, its always we, this is not a me issue, this is a we issue. So in Hebrews 10 we pick up in 19 "Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the most holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body," Let me just stop right there, you say, "What in the world is he talking about"?
Back in the day, if you grew up 2,000 years ago and you went to the temple, there was a place called the most holy place. That was the most holy place, nobody could go in there except the high priest and he couldn't even go in there but once a year, cause that's where God dwelled. Now he's saying, you know what, anybody can go into the presence of God anytime they want to because Jesus made a way for us to do that. So every time you just simply say, "Father" you're immediately sitting right in the lap of the heavenly Father who loves you and created you. That's what he's saying, now since we can do that, and since we have a great high priest that is Jesus over the house of God. Alright, lets say those words together. "Let us", let's say it again. Let us. "Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water".
Now, here's what he's saying. In light of the fact that everybody who's a part of God's family can now go to God the Father directly through God the Son, now that we've got one high priest in Jesus Christ, together, we can draw near to God. Guess what? That's what we're doing right now. That's what we've been doing for the last 30 minutes. We have come together and we've been drawing near to God together. So the author of Hebrews says we ought to come to church because we want to draw near to God together. Now, let me stop once again, I'm trying to stay ahead of you and I know what some of you are saying right now. You're saying, "Wait a minute, I can draw near to God by myself. Don't sit there and try to convince me that I've got to come to church to draw near to God. I can draw near to God by myself".
Alright, let me make you feel good about me for just five seconds. You're absolutely right. You don't have to come to church to draw near to God. As a matter of fact, not only can you draw near to God by yourself, you should be drawing near to God by yourself. First thing I do every morning when I get out of my bed, you know what I do? I draw near to God by myself. I got up this morning, did the same thing I've done ever since I was a kid, I read my bible by myself, I spent time in prayer by myself, I wrote in my spiritual journal by myself, I spent time praising God and thanking God all by myself. Yes, you can draw near to God all by yourself, but let me tell you how you'll know when you've really drawn near to God by yourself. When you draw near to God by yourself and you really connect to God by yourself, there is something in you that says, "What I've just done with you, I want to do with other people and draw near to you too".
There is something wrong with somebody who's part of a family who doesn't want to be a part of the family. There is something defective about someone who says they're a Christian, but they don't want to be with other Christians. There's something wrong with that picture. There's something wrong with someone who says, "I'm a part of the true church, but I don't want to be a part of this church". There's something wrong with that, let me tell you why. For a number of reasons, I'll just give you one. Who's going to heaven, according to the word of God, who's going to heaven? Answer it, the church. Now, I don't mean everybody who's a member of the church, there are people who are members of a church they aren't going to heaven, because they aren't a part of the true church. I'm talking about people who've truly been saved, that have been born again, they've trusted Christ, Jesus is in their heart, they really do love the Lord. They are a part of the church. That is who is going to heaven, the church is going to heaven.
So, here's my simple question, so if you don't want to be a part of the church one day a week, what are you going to do for eternity? I mean you're not gonna get up there and go, "I don't want to have anything to do with this group". Where are you going? You're stuck. There's no where else to go. And listen, I mean this, if you think I'm here because I'm a pastor you don't even know me. This is my favorite time of the week, every week. Cause I just love, you know what blesses me? Some of you are gonna say, "Oh dear God, I didn't realize that. We're gonna spend eternity together". We're gonna spend eternity together, forever. And I clap, listen, I clap for you.
You say, "Well, do you like everybody"? Nobody likes everybody. You know, Will Rogers said, "I never met a man I didn't like". He didn't meet some people I met. Not everybody likes me, I don't understand that, but not everybody likes me. But you know what, in heaven we'll like each other. In heaven we'll love each other. And yes, I'm being honest with you, one of the things that just thrills me are some of the people that I've gotten to know and gotten to love and got close to, and man, we get to spend eternity together. There's something about that, because remember, church is not my idea, its not your idea. Church was God's idea, and not, if God thinks its a good idea, we ought to think its a good idea. That's why we're planning churches, that's why we're starting satellites.
In the typical neighborhood of Gwinnett County two out of three homes never go to church, ever. Two out of three people never attend church anywhere, so that's why we've planted two satellites, that's why we want to plant more in 20 mile radius of our church. We want everybody to have an opportunity to draw near to God together. To worship God together, to go to a place where Jesus is lifted up, where the word of God is being preached, where the truth of God is being heard, where the Gospel of God is being presented, and lives can be changed as we point people to Jesus and inspire them to live the cross shaped life. So, we got to worship together, alright? We're gonna go quick, number two. We gotta witness together, not just worship together, witness together. That's what he says in verse 23, "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope that we profess, for He who promises is faithful".
Now, listen to what he says, he said, "Lets hold to the hope, lets profess our faith together. Lets hold our hope together". You see that little word unswervingly? That word literally means stick to the path, don't get off on either side. What he's talking about there is, don't leave the church. Stay on the road that leads to church. Stay on the path that goes to church. Lets hold our hope, lets profess our faith together, see one of the ways that we profess our faith in Jesus, to show that our hope is in Jesus is just by gathering together in church and he says "You know what, when we come together, like we came together today, we are literally confessing and professing to the world where our hope lies. Because do you understand exactly what you're saying when you involve yourself in the church"?
When you got up this morning but you didn't have to, but you did. When you got up this morning and said, "I'm coming to church, I'm going to be a part of the church". You know what you were saying without even realizing? You said to a world out there that's full of guilt, in Jesus there's hope for forgiveness. You said to a world out there that's full of death, you know what, in Jesus, there's hope for life. You said to a world out there that is full of hurt, you know in Jesus, there's hope for healing. You said to a world out there that is full of war, you know what, in Jesus there's hope for peace. You said to a world out there that is full of hatred, in our own country we're seeing it, in Jesus, there is hope for love. And to a world that is full of brokenness, you said, you know in Jesus, there's hope for grace.
And see, here's the difference, we know that our hope will never be disappointed. Cause I got news for some of you in this room, okay so this is not a political statement I'm just letting you know, I don't really care who you vote for, I've said that before. Doesn't matter to me, I don't want to know who you vote for, it doesn't matter to me. I know who I'm going to vote for, and who I'm not going to vote for, no problem. But if you're putting your hope in who you're voting for, you're gonna be sorely disappointed. If you think a president, or a congressman, or a senator can solve our problem, you don't understand our problem. But my hope's not in them. My hope is in a God who never fails. My hope is in a God who's in control of this universe. See that's why my hope is different than the world.
Well, we hope the economy grows better next year, but it may not. We hope there won't be any terrorist attacks on our soils, but there may be. We hope that interest rates will stay down, but maybe they won't. But here's what he said, listen to this. He said, "Our hope will never be fruitless" why? "Because He who promised is faithful". You know why you ought to be faithful to the church of God? Because the God of the church is faithful to you. And if the God of the church is faithful to you, we ought to be faithful to the church of God, and every time we gather together we are confessing and professing to the world, and each other our hope is in a God who is faithful, who will never fail us, who keeps every promise, who fulfills every word, who meets every need, who works everything out for our good and for His glory. And there's a world out there needs to see there's a real hope that you can put your hope in.
So, we ought to worship together. We ought to witness together. And then, he says we ought to work together. We ought to work together. Listen to what he says in verse 24, "And", what's that phrase? "Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds". And I'm gonna move kinda quick here, we need to consider one another. We need to be thinking about one another. We need to have on our radar screen, one another. We need to be focusing on one another. We need to be occupied with one another. When God sent Jesus to planet Earth, He wasn't thinking about Himself, He was thinking about us. When Jesus left heaven to come to Earth to die for us, He surely wasn't thinking about Himself. He was thinking about us. And what he's saying here is when we become followers of Jesus, we no longer have the luxury of thinking about ourselves. We're supposed to think about each other.
So, here's what the author is saying, he's saying as a follower of Jesus, we not only have a responsibility to worship Jesus, and witness for Jesus, and work for Jesus. We've got a responsibility to do it with each other. With one another. See, Christianity is a team sport. This is not golf, this is not tennis. This is basketball, this is football, this is baseball, this is soccer, this is hockey, this is a team sport. There is no such thing as Lone Ranger Christianity, and that's where a lot of people totally misunderstand the church, and the reason, that's why they don't get involved in the church. You say, "What do you mean"?
The author of Hebrews just said something I want you to get, let me tell you something. The reason you ought to be involved in a church is not because of what you can get out of it, but what you can give to it. The reason we ought to come together is not because of what we can get from each other, but because of what we can give to each other. And here's what I want you to hear if you don't hear anything else today, I want you to hear this. The Christian life is not just a commitment to Christ, it is also a commitment to other Christians. Once you make the decision to become a disciple of Jesus, you made actually two more decisions whether you realize it or not. The moment you said, "You know what, I have decided". As the song goes, "I have decided to follow Jesus". At the very moment that you made that decision whether you realized it or not, you just made two more decisions.
You said, "Okay, now as a follower of Jesus, I've also decided I want to try to lead others who are not followers of Jesus to become followers of Jesus". That's the first commitment you made. The second commitment you made was, now that I've decided to follow Jesus, I have now also committed myself to try to lead others who are not followers of Jesus to become followers of Jesus, I've also committed myself to help other followers of Jesus become better followers of Jesus. We are to consider one another. So, he says we're to come together, why? To motivate each other and stimulate each other. To love others the way others ought to be loved, and to serve others the way ought to be served. That's why we put such and emphasis on serving. That's why we want everybody in this church that's old enough to find some place to serve.
And that's why we come together, to motivate and stimulate each other so that we can serve each other, so we can point people to Jesus, so we can live the cross shaped life by serving Jesus and serving others. So he says okay, what should we do together. Worship God together, we ought to witness together, we ought to work together. And you know what that means if we do all of those things? He said, "Then we'll walk together". We'll walk together. Now, what he does, I'm glad he does this, he says "Okay, I've told you what you ought to do together. Worship together, witness together, work together. Why do you need to do that together? Why"?
Now, he tells us, ready? Here it is, "Not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing". Evidently, as I told you, there were some people in the early church that's done what people in our churches do all the time, they just give up. They just quit, they just drop out, they just sleep in, they just find other things to do. And these people had gotten into the habit of just neglecting church, now, they were not rejecting church, they were not necessarily upset or hated the church, they were just neglecting the church. Though, in the end the two became the same. In other words, for whatever the reason it just didn't make their to-do list, it just wasn't a priority. And they just finally decided, "You know what, walking together with other believers and doing life in community with other believers is just not that important to me".
So let me just stop and say this, cause this is the real thrust of what he's telling us. This wouldn't be a big deal at all, whether you come or whether you don't, it would not be a big deal at all if coming to church was just about you. No big deal. In fact, let me be honest with you, and I know this. Yeah, there are some of you out there, and you're in a spiritual place in your life, and you're in a spiritual position in your life where you really don't, "need to be here" at least for what you're getting maybe from me. Can I let you in on a little secret that some of you have kind of figured out? If you read your bible regularly, 95% of the time I'm not going to tell you something you don't already know. I hate to give that little secret out to you, and I'm just being honest with you. Cause some of you think, when somebody comes up to me and they go, "Wow, I never heard that before".
You know what I want to say to them? No, you never read that before, its right there, I just got it out of that book. Most of the time you're not gonna hear anything, "Wow, really"? You know, I mean, and I know this, the easiest example is somebody comes up to me and they go "Wow, God created the world in seven days, I didn't know that". You hadn't read it. Its right there in the first part of the book, right? Or, "Wow, you mean there's a 'The End' in the bible"? Yep, my bible says, "The End", it says it there. No, I get that there are some of you right now, you know, you read your bible, you pray, you have a really solid walk with God, and you could sit there and you can say, "You know, in a lot of ways I don't really need the church".
Here's the problem with that thinking, you're right if it was just about you. Now this is bad grammar, but its great theology, it ain't just about you. It's about all of us. You say, "Well, I just don't need all of us". That's okay, all of us need you, we need you. Because you're a part of the body and if you're not here that part of the body goes missing. And to prove his point, the author goes on to say this, "But encouraging," Who? "One another". "But encouraging one another", how do you do that? By coming to church, being in the church. "All the more as you see the day approaching". I can give you first hand testimony. Two things encourage me every single week, no matter what happens in my week, there are two things that encourage me.
Number one, when I see you walk into our church on Sunday. You may think "That's not a big deal to you". You don't even know who I am. Now, I don't know who a lot of you are, but it doesn't matter who you are, what matters to me is that you come. Even the greatest evangelist in the world needs encouragement, let me tell you something, I'm gonna wrap this up. Its a tough world out there, its a hard, cold, world out there. And I'm telling you right now, listen, its a different world. You talk about a different world, I grew up when the dirtiest thing on TV was Andy Griffith and the Lone Ranger, its a different world out there. Totally different, and I'm gonna tell you church, if there was ever a time we needed each other, and needed to stick together, now is the time. We need to encourage one another.
And you see, when we come together, and we worship together, and we witness together, and we work together, and we walk together, corporately and we get into community groups on campus and off campus, and we find the breath of love, and we find the warmth of encouragement, and we find the depth of hope, I'm telling you its just encouraging. A great New Testament scholar wrote these words and we're done. He said, "We do not find an unchurched Christian in the New Testament". He's right. "A person was not saved for the personal enjoyment of a relationship with God. A person is saved to community". And I read this passage and I think about what we've been talking about and I said, "You know what, this is our strategy".
How are we going to make disciples who make disciples? How are we going to do this, how are we ever gonna get this job done? Four things and we're done. Corporate worship, we're gonna worship together. Gifted service, we're gonna work together. Transformational relationships, we're gonna do community, we're gonna walk together in groups. Personal evangelism, we're going to witness together because no Christian is an island, and I'm just simply telling you this. You're right, life is too short just to be busy, I get it. Life is too short just to add going to church on your to-do list and doing something just because you feel guilty if you don't. I will get that, I will tell ya, yeah stop that today. But when we worship together, and we work together, and we witness together, and we walk together, we're not in busyness. We're doing the one business that really counts.