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Levi Lusko - Who Needs Church?


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Man, we have a powerful message. It's going to be really, really special. We're going to ask the question, who needs church? That's the title of this message. And I think it's an appropriate question to ask, especially the week after Easter, because Jesus didn't just die on the cross and then rise from the dead to set us free from our sins and to secure heaven for us. He immediately ascended to heaven, after talking and speaking and showing himself to many witnesses who would be able to give the testimony that they had seen Christ after He died. And after having done that, He ascended to heaven. And then as He promised, He sent His Holy Spirit to help His followers fulfill His instructions of preaching the gospel. And immediately you have the church being born. You have these people gathering together in the name of Jesus. And so the question we're asking is, why is it so important? Who needs church? Why was it so important to God that Jesus immediately have to rise from the dead, instructed the Spirit to fill up our souls so that we might participate in the church? Who needs church?

I want to start by reading a passage of scripture from Psalms 73 that I think kind of helps set us up because we're living in a day where many people don't see the benefit of church, don't see the value of church. And so in Psalm 73 we have this man named Asaph, who wrote some of the psalms. Actually, he wrote 12 psalms. I know when you hear "psalms," you think that's my boy David. David did not write all the psalms. Even Moses wrote a psalm. So put that in your mind. You're like, what? That's doesn't make any sense. I know. It's weird. But David instructed Asaph and gave him an encouragement and gave him a position as a worship leader. So Asaph was instructed to go ahead of the Ark of the Covenant when it was led into the city of Jerusalem when David brought it back. And Asaph did write a dozen of the psalms, including Psalm 73. He was a Levite, so I like him already. That just means he was one of the priests back in the day. So here's what Asaph said. He said, "truly God is good to Israel, to those whose hearts are pure".

That's a principle. He's like, I believe that. I believe God is good to those who have good hearts. I believe God blesses those who follow Him. That's just my belief. But he goes on to tell us that his experience challenges his belief. Notice verse 2. He says, but as for me, my experience us I almost lost my footing. "My feet were slipping". So was my church attendance. And I was almost gone, not there, "for I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness. They seemed to live such painless lives. Their bodies are so healthy and strong. They don't have troubles like other people. They're not plagued with problems like everyone else. They wear pride like a jeweled necklace and clothe themselves with cruelty". Look at this verse. These fat cats have everything their hearts could ever wish for. They scoff and speak only evil. In their pride, they seek to crush others. They boast against the very heavens, and their words strut throughout the earth". This is good writing, huh? Asaph's a poet.

And verse 10 says, "and so the people are dismayed and confused, drinking in all their words. 'What does God know?' they ask. 'Does the Most High even know what's happening?' Look at these wicked people, enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply". Then Asaph says, "did I keep my heart pure for nothing? Did I keep myself innocent for no reason"? He starts off saying, look, I really believe that God is good. I believe that it's a better way to live your life, to follow Him with a pure heart. I believe that God's looking to and fro on the earth to show Himself strong in those whose hearts are upright. But what he's saying is he's saying, my experience challenges my belief. I don't know if you've ever felt that. I think especially when we talk about being a part of the church, we would love to think like, if I go to church, if I'm a part of it, if I'm doing what God says: it's so important to Jesus, that He doesn't just die and rise to save our souls. But He wants us to be a part of something. They sent His spirit to help us, equip us, to go out and preach and be a part of His family, be a part of His body. If it really is so important to Jesus, then we would think, then, that if I follow Jesus, then I'm a part of His plan, that everything would go well.

But then we look at our actual lives, and we look at what it looks like to be a part of a church, and we feel at times like Asaph, going, my feet are slipping here because I thought it was going to be this way. I thought if I followed God's plan, it was going to go well for me. But our experience is actually just the opposite. We feel like Asaph. Like, we know people in our lives. They're not a part of the church. They're Sundays are free. They're not having to serve and sacrifice. They're not having to be a part of small groups. They're not having to bust their butt to pull off 37 different Easter worship experiences and 40 different Christmas worships. They get their holidays for themselves and their family. Their lives are full of ease. These fat cats, they're strutting throughout the earth, living large. And I'm serving, and I'm sacrificing here to be a part of what Jesus died for me to be a part of. But I just don't see the benefit of it. I'm not seeing necessarily all the value in it. And so I have some points. I have some points about maybe why you don't need church. Here's number one. It's easier than ever not to be a part of church. What do you mean by that?

And also maybe you're thinking, Levi, don't preach this message. Whatever do, don't tell anyone this. But I'm just going to be honest with you. It's easier than ever not to be a part of a local church because you can get your digital discipleship on by pulling down a podcast anytime you want to. You want to hear Pastor Steven Furtick, boom, bust it out. You want to hear a little John Maxwell leadership talk? Boom, got that right there. And on Audible, I got my Max Lucado on, and I got my Elevation Worship on, and I got my Hill Song on. And I can just listen to a message. I can just worship God on my own. Listen, I'm going to just level with you. It's easier than ever not to be a part of a local church. Who needs church? I could just listen to the best Bible teachers in the world on demand on YouTube and then listen to some praise songs, and I could follow Jesus all by my lonely little self. Here's a second reason that maybe we should be with Asaph. It's messy. Man, it's messy. Let me tell you something, it's messy. This thing, Fresh Life, it's messy.

And so sometimes you think, well, the answer is I'll to go to a different church. Let me tell you, that one's messy too. You just don't see it, because you only see what you see from the outside. My daughter, Clover, we were driving. And we had been in a hurried, trips and travel and craziness and life and messages and wildness. And my daughter, Clover, we got in the car. And she looked up and saw our house, and she goes, our house looks good from the outside. But she said, it's messy on the inside. And I wrote it down because I thought that's an accurate observation of what it is to be part of a church. Let me tell you, it's messy. It's messy because you're messy. It's messy because I'm messy. It's messy because we as the church don't always make the right decision. It's messy because we're making decisions in real time that have implications. It's messy because it's difficult. It's messy because we're all sinners. It's messy because we're in need of grace. It's messy being a part of a church. Seeing people every day, dealing with dysfunction, working with people on the journey, on the process of following Christ, working through conflict, it's a mess. And you know what's a lot easier?

I'll just go listen to John Maxwell. What do I need this for? It's a mess in here. Reason number three, it costs something. If we're going to build something like this, we're going to do something like this, if we're going to see people reach, it costs something. It costs time. It costs energy. It costs resource. It's not free to reach people with the precious gospel. It's not. It's going to cost you something. If you're going to be part of the church, I could easily be Asaph, like gosh, who needs church? I'll just go be a fat cat, running the world, and I'll throw a podcast on every once in a while. Who needs church? It costs something. Quite frankly, I'm not sure if I'm willing to pay that price. Reason number four, maybe you don't need church, it's a battle. It's a battle. It's a fight. It's choosing to believe that life is not a playground. It is a battleground. And we're going to war with the enemy who wants to keep the whole world under his sway.

And that these cities that we seen as places where people understand their purpose and understand their hope and understand who they are in Christ, understand their value, that we're combating the despair of hopelessness and overdose and suicide and eating disorder. We're for fighting for people that know who they are in Christ and find victory in this world. And that's a battle. And you know what battles are? Hard. It's glamorous to watch a war movie. But being in one, being in the trenches, not having a good meal, having to fight, having the friction of other soldiers and dealing with the barracks, it's a great idea to glamorize the war until you get in one. So who needs church? Well, if we read Asaph's revelation, he doesn't end with did I keep myself innocent for no reason? For you'll notice in Verse 14 he says, "I get nothing but trouble all day long. Every morning brings me pain. If I had really spoken this way to others, I would have been a traitor to your people. So I tried to understand why the wicked prosper. But what a difficult task it is". Then notice this. He says, Verse 17, "then I went into Your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked". You see, everything Asaph was saying was because he, like you and me, are forgetful. We're forgetful, and we tend to focus on the physical.

So living in this world, he's going, I understood. I saw only the prosperity because I was only looking at it from the earthly perspective. He goes, but then when I got together with God's people in the house and I began to worship God, I began to remember, oh, my God, eternity. And then he began to feel compassion for those he was jealous of because he realized that those wicked people he was coveting, they don't know Jesus. They don't have life. They don't have heaven to look forward to. And so now he considered their end, and he began, and if we went on with the psalm, he talks about how everything he was saying was actually because he didn't want to be under authority. And that was actually part of why he was bristling. But that authority was going to bring him to freedom. And so he comes to this place of realizing, I need this because I'm forgetful. And when I come back to the house of God, I remember eternity. I remember what God's plan is. And I begin to see things as they actually are because I learned my identity.

You see, he realized I need church. And I think that you do too. And so do I. And there are a lot of reasons. And we're going to explore some of them today as we talk about this important conversation, who needs church. We can't just look at it from the physical side, though. We have to pull in the eternal because Jesus didn't just come to make your life better, He came to change your eternal future. And that, knowing that, will make you better at life. And so as we talk about this, I have some different communicators all across the church, actually 20 different voices, to help me. And so at your location, would you help me welcome those who are going to tell us about why we need church. Come on, everybody, every location. Well, hey, Fresh Life. I'm so excited to speak with you all today. My name is Jess. I'm a worship leader and songwriter with Fresh Life Worship. And I also have the honor of being the director of the Fresh Life music record label, which is so fun. And before we get started, I just need to take a moment to say thank you, Pastor Levi and Jennie. I'm so thankful for how you lead this house and your faithfulness to God's calling on your lives.

And I'm so thankful for your leadership and your investment in me as a young leader, and just thank you for this opportunity. I'm so excited to share who needs church. Well, I need church. And as Pastor said, we believe we all need church. And if you're taking notes today, I'm going to give us five reasons why we need to be in church. And point number one is church is a place where we can call out together. And we call out together in worship. Worship, as defined by Google, is the feeling or expression of adoration and reverence for a deity. God designed us to be worshippers. And we are intended to live lives of constant worship. Now, concert worship doesn't mean that every hour on the hour you're singing a new hymn for an hour. Like, that would be exhausting, and nobody has time for that. But worship, and a constant worship, is a way of living. Paul writes in Romans 12:1, he says, "and so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice, the kind that He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship "Him.

So how do we worship? We conduct ourselves at work and at home, in our marriages, in our schools, when we play sports, when we're driving and some jerk cuts you off. Are you just going to honor God with the way that you live in those moments? That's what we are called to do. We're to honor God and worship Him in reverence and adoration with how we live our lives. But I think before we talk about "how," we also need to talk about the "why". Why do we worship God? And first and foremost, God is God. God is God, the creator of the universe, the ruler of all things. And that alone makes Him worthy to be praised, right? But Paul also said in Romans 12:1, "we worship. We give our bodies to God because of", and I underlined, "all that He has done for you". God is God, and He is so good. And if you know me as a worshipper and as a worship leader, I get pretty passionate about leading worship and singing out to God.

And after church one time a woman came up to me and she said, I watched you lead worship up there, and it's so passionate. And I just had to ask you, what is your story? Why do you worship God like that? And I got to tell her about how there's countless stories that I have of God's goodness and His faithfulness to me in my life. I told him about how God saved me by grace, and that is huge. That's why I worship. But I also got to tell her about a time that God spared my life. You see, I'd graduated high school, and I was working, saving up money for college. And a man that I worked with raped me. And then when I went into college, I naively entered into a very physically abusive relationship that also came with sexual abuse. And in the midst of that, I started coping with alcohol. And one night, I had severe alcohol poisoning, and I begged God to let me die that day. I told Him, I'm worthless. My life is hell. And if I wake up, there's no way this is going to change. So please just let me die. I don't want to be awake tomorrow. And the next day, I was upset because I was still breathing. And the doctors that I've talked to literally can't explain how.

But nine years later, today, I get to tell you these things and tell you that I'm so thankful to God because He preserved me for a purpose. Because three years after I prayed that prayer, I took hold of Jesus. And He's been redeeming me and restoring all that I thought that I had lost. I worship God because He gave me a reason to breathe. Jesus is my reason that I sang. My life that was once dark and hopeless is now beautiful because of Christ. I could not have saved myself on my own. God sent me a Savior, and now I get to be a beacon of hope for you. God loves you. And He's preserving you for a purpose. God is the reason I worship. And if you have a story of God's goodness, give us a praise, come on. He's worthy. Hallelujah. What a Savior that we have. He is God, and He is good, and He is worthy to be praised. So we worship Him in how we live. But then we also come to church with God's people, and we call out and worship together. Why? Well, simply put, there's strength in numbers.

And as Pastor said, this life is a battle. And we need to be battle ready. And there's strength in worshipping with multitude of God's people. I've experienced it. It's one of my favorite things in the world to stand in a group of people who are calling out with passion and unity the goodness of God and the truth of Him in His praise. And I just want to talk for a moment to someone who maybe even today, it was hard to get out of bed this morning. And for some of us, there's days that are coming when our hearts are going to be broken and life is going to be hard, and getting to church is not going to be your first agenda item. But remember this please. That day is the day you need to get to church. Because the beautiful thing about coming to church in those moments is when you don't have the words to say and you don't even have the strength to stand, the church can sing on your behalf. We can declare truth over you. All you got to do is show up and open your heart to receive encouragement. I myself will speak truth over you. We will declare encouragement over you and victory in the name of Jesus. So we come together to call out together and worship because life is hard. But there is strength and encouragement as we worship together.

Point number two, church is the place where we can grow down. You need to get in church where you can plant yourself, bury some roots, and build a community. Now, if you take a second to look to your left and look to your right, and online if you're joining us, welcome, Fresh Life Church online. Right now there is a group chat happening. And just statistically speaking, there's at least one person that you could find friendship with here. And if you're having trouble finding friendship, get into a small group. And we're going to be opening up online small groups, which is really exciting. So even our church online can have community.

My greatest friends are those that I've met through a church. They're my encouragers. They're my movers when I'm moving. They're my prayer warriors when I call them up at 1:00 AM and I'm struggling. And they're my accountability. And living for Christ is hard because we have a sinful nature that needs to die in order for us to become more like Christ and live and love gracefully, as Christ does. And so accountability is huge, and accountability looks like this. We first confess to God that our sin is sin. And then we invite accountability in so that we have help to become more like Him. I love that this rhymes, so I'm going to say it one more time. So we confess to God that our sin is sin. That's huge. That takes humility. But then we invite accountability in, so that we have help to become more like Him. So we need to be planted in a church. We need to grow down some roots so we have friendship and accountability in this walk with God.

Point three, once we're in a church, we then pour in to the church. We give back to God through our time, our gifts, and our resources. In 1 Peter Chapter 4, Verse 10 through 11, it says, "God has given each of you a gift from His great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God Himself were speaking through you". That is boldness that you get to stand in your gifts. "Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything that you do will bring glory to God through Christ Jesus".

So we get planted in a church, and then we use our gifts that God has given us to serve others and ultimately bring glory to God. But I also said resources. God has given us the gift of our finances. My money is not my money. Everything comes from God. And we also say in this house, and it's scriptural as well, that where your heart is, your money will naturally flow. It's true. And so if our hearts are for God, then our finances will follow and be given towards things of God. And we celebrate giving in this house, number one, because it's a way of worship for all the things that God has done for us. And we have the gospel to share with other people. And God can do so much with our money that we cannot. He has a way of multiplying our resources to expand the reach of our mission of the gospel and ultimately expand His kingdom. So we give to God. We're to be good stewards of that which He has given, which means that we use that which does not belong to us but has been given to us as though it does. So we can stand and give confidently.

Point four, as Pastor said, life is a battle, so we need to armor up. We need to come to the church and dress for the war ahead. War, huh, right? What is it, anyways. Ephesians 6:12 says, "finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil". The devil hates God. And he has waged war on His kingdom. And as his people, the devil hates us. And so we're in a war, and we need to be prepared for it. And we prepare for it by armoring up with the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, foot coverings of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and a sword of the spirit. Now, if you're ready to armor up, you're not going to find these items at a department store or your local armory. These things come specifically from the Holy Spirit and God's word. So we need to be engaging with the Holy Spirit, and we need to be engaging in God's word. And Jesus led the way in this.

When Jesus was tempted Himself by the devil, Jesus pulled out the scripture that He had memorized. He used truth to combat Satan. And then Satan, seeing His tactics, actually started using the word also. But he twisted it and manipulated it, trying to get Jesus. But Jesus, knowing the truth, having it in His back pocket, was able to say, no, that doesn't look right. This is the truth. And He defeated Satan with the word. And if Jesus did it, we should do it too. But some of the Bible's confusing. There's parables that are hard to understand. There's stories that historically are kind of out of context for us and culturally apply in different ways. And so we come to church because we're going to study and learn the word together. And just has God is equipped each of you with unique spiritual gifts, God has also equipped specific people, like our Pastor Levi Lusko, with the ability to communicate God's word in ways that we can comprehend. So we come to church to be fed the word, as we're also feeding ourselves at home. But these truths that we can pick up, help us prepare for the war as we walk out these doors.

So we come to church to armor up. And lastly, we come to church so we can reach out to save the lost together. As I said in the point one, there's strength in numbers. So we have been saved. But we also know that there are so many others who have not been saved. We at Fresh Life, we have an invitation culture. And we invite anybody and everybody that we can to come to church so that they can hear the good news that we've already received. We invite our friends, our families, our neighbors, our baristas, anybody that you encounter because everybody needs Jesus. And someone needs to tell them about that. So we do that by inviting people to come hear the word with us. As a church, we also to reach out and honor God through serving people. Christ has given us His Holy Spirit because He cannot be present everywhere. But His Holy Spirit can be present in us. And we can be in so many places. So many of us can do so much more than just one of us. And so He's equipped us to be the hands and feet of Him to go love others, like He loves them.

And so we do that at Fresh Life through outreach and things like Rock This City, where we get to partner with places like homeless shelters and food banks and pregnancy centers in our communities where we live. And we get to love people through serving and giving to those things so that the gospel can go out and people can experience Christ's love through us. And so we come to church, and we get to represent Christ together as we reach out to see more who are stranded in sin find life and liberty in Him. And so to recap, we need church because it's a place where we can call out together and worship, and that gives us strength and encouragement for our time ahead. We come to church and we grow down our roots and build community. And we get friendships, and we have accountability, and we have help as we live out this life. When we're in church, we then pour out, and we serve with all the gifts that God has given us. And then we armor up with the word so we can face the war ahead. And we reach out to spread the gospel. And all of these things are a way of worshipping God who is worthy and is good. So we do this all to the glory of God. Amen?

All right, back to you, Pastor, Levi. Let's hear it for these amazing 20 people, 20 stories of why we all need church. I think the thing that came to my mind as I was listening just now was the fact that the problems with it are the same reasons there's power in it. You think about the messiness of church, and you think about the difficulty and inconvenience of church, and you think about the fact that it's way easier not to. And you could just be a consumer of a message from a different church instead of participating in yours. And you think about the fact that it's a battle, and it's a fight. Those are what puts power into it, actually. We resist it because of the difficulty. It's that, that if we were to lean into, that would bring power out of it. The mess of dealing with people's lives, that's what helps you to grow. The fact that people will confront you, it's like, I bristle at that. But if I would lean into that, I could become a better version of myself. The problems with it is the same reason and the power in it. The scripture actually says, if there was no oxen, the barn could be clean. But what are you going to do on your farm without cows? It's like, man, this farm would be amazing with no cows.

I wouldn't have anything to clean up. I wouldn't have to drag water around, wouldn't have to bring in any food. But it's the fact that there are messy creatures that makes the farm productive. Church would be fantastic with no people because there'd be no drama. It would be so easy. And yet there would be no church. So the problems with church is is what allows there to be power in it. And I think there's something else we need to realize, and it's this. Church is not what we do. It's who we are. Church is not what we do. It's who we are. So when we ask the question, who needs church, as Jesus' followers, we're running from ourselves. We are the church. Look what Paul said to the church. I think this is one of my favorite passages when we speak about church and specifically in terms of home. Paul said, "you're no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You're no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He's using us all in what He is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation.

Now he's using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Jesus as the cornerstone". So church is not what we do. It's who we are. We are all bricks in the house. So to think about a Christian who's not planted in the house, who's not participating in the community, not adding their voice, and calling out in worship, who's not being armored for the mission of reaching people, fighting the good fight, being a part of that battle, someone who's not reaching out and doing what they're called to do and pouring in and giving, and they're missing those opportunities. I got this visual and just how I think about life. I got this visual in my mind of the third Iron Man movie, where he had all those different suits that he would jump into. And then parts of his suit would get knocked off. They seemed like they were much less sticky in that one, you know? It's like in the first movie, he's never losing part of his costume. But in that third one, man, he's jumping into a suit, and then he's fighting with no hand. And then he would have no armor on his leg. And so he's trying to fight, but this leg he can't use because it's vulnerable. And this hand, his hand doesn't have a blaster on it anymore because he doesn't have part of his suit on.

And I got to thinking about how if this verse is accurate, we're all meant to be pieces of the house of God somewhere. None of us are meant to be following Jesus in isolation. We're all supposed to be doing it in cooperation. So any area where you're not using the gifts that God put inside of you to be a benefit to a local church, to the church that Jesus Christ is building is a part of the church that's weak because you're missing. It's meant to be clothed in armor that you provide. It's meant to have a piece of power that you provide. It's meant to be using the gift that you provide. But while you're just at home listening to a podcast, and I'm just going to follow Jesus by myself, there's some where a group of people that are trying to reach the lost world, and your piece of armor is missing. Your piece of the costume, your piece of the defense mechanism, it's not there because it's meant to be in cooperation. Church is not what we do. It's who we are. It's our identity. We're a part of this. And it's never meant to be a thing where we look at the church just in terms of our benefits that we get out of it.

The list you heard, it is a list of benefits, and they are numerous. We could have made this sermon 27,000 points long. But if we only look at it in terms of, well, what's the benefit to me, on the one side, it's messy and costly, and it's draining and difficulty. But, oh, on this side, if I'm going to get discipleship, and to look at it that way, it makes it all about you. And certainly there's benefits to following Jesus and being a part of a local church. But to think of it purely in terms of that would make it consumeristic, just completely like, should I go to this restaurant or should I go to that store? And that makes it all about us. And at our best, we're never focused on ourselves. At our happiest, we're never focused on ourselves. So to remember that the church is not for us. We are the church, and we're here for the world. It makes it more about the lost, than just all about the found. So the problems with it are the same reasons there's power in it. And church is not what we do. It's who we are.

There's a third thing, and I think this is so important for us to end with this note. If Jesus shed his blood to buy it, we should give our lives to build it. Like, if there's nothing else, if there was no benefit at all, we're calling ourselves followers of Jesus. He shed His blood to buy the church. He cares for church. He loves the church. Look at what Paul said in the Book of Ephesian, Chapter 5. He said, "Christ loved the church so much that He gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify, cleanse her with the washing of the water by the word, that He might present her to himself". The church is a gift to Himself that He bought with His own blood, "a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but she might be holy and without blemish".

Listen to me. Jesus loves the church. He's building the church. He wants you to be a part of the church. Yes, you'll be transformed through it. Yes, there's blessings. Yes, there's power. But at the end of the day, if we're calling ourselves Jesus' followers, we need to care about He cares about. So come on, let's together lift up our voices. Let's embrace what He cares about. Let's give our lives to build what He bought with His blood.
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