Mike Novotny - Does Your Church Tell You the Truth?
Does your church tell you the truth? This week we've been wrestling with being not just spiritual, but having some kind of organized religion around Jesus. But that begs the question: Is that religion right? Does that church tell you the truth? When I ask those questions, I think about John Vasconcellos, an American politician who lived and worked in California for many years. Unfortunately, John was raised in a church that did not tell him the truth. All it said to him was that he was a sinner who was rotten and corrupt and deserving of hell and he probably would never get better. And stifled by that, John had zero self-esteem, zero hope, zero joy. Until he ran into a person who told him something different.
This person wasn't from a church. This person said, people aren't sinners. You're not a sinner. People are amazing. And if you know the rest of the story, John Vanconcellos went on to be one of the founding, leading people to bring the self-esteem movement into our country. The country followed John's beliefs and his practices and they were all shaped out of this corrupted view of church. That all churches tell you is that you're wrong, you're sinful, you're corrupt and you're rotten. That's not a good church. That's not at all what Jesus taught. Did he say that people are sinners? That our hearts are deceitful? That we need to be saved by his blood on a cross? Absolutely. But, he said so, so much more than that.
And so, as you're thinking about finding a church, and maybe for some of you, reconnecting to a church for the first time in a long time, I want you to look for two things: the two truths your church needs to tell you. They need to avoid the lie that you're too good. And they need to avoid the lie that you're too bad. You're too good to need help. You're too good to repent. You're too good to be in spiritual danger. You're too good to confess that. You and God can probably figure that and fix that out on your own with just a prayer or two. No, you need a church that tells you that sin is serious. Your heart is troubled.
You need a community to help you. But, unlike John, you also need a church that avoids the lie that says you're too bad. You're too bad to be loved. You're too bad for God to be with you. You're too bad to be forgiven or saved. You're too bad to confess that. In a place like this, people would be disgusted. I want you to find a church that gets right in the middle. Right in that sweet spot where Jesus wants you. I think about some of Jesus's opening words in the Gospel of Mark.
It says in Mark, chapter 1, Do you hear those two things? Repent. Your sins are serious. You're not too good to repent. But believe the good news. You're not too good or too bad, rather, to have something that really good in your heart. To know that Jesus is your Savior. That he's the one who rescues and redeems you from all of your sins. So, this week I pray you live in that sweet spot. And as many of you search out for that church community for the first time, I pray that you would find it. A church that calls you to repentance. But then leaves you with the great news of Jesus Christ. Let's pray:
Jesus, thank you for telling us hard things. It's never comfortable, in the moment, to be called to repentance. But, but you say sin is like a cancer that you just want to get out of our hearts. Thank you even more, Jesus, for the good news. That when we repent, when we come to you with open hands that you forgive and you cleanse and you save. You don't just give us a second chance. Instead you say it's finished. And you promise that God will be with us forever and delight in us as his children. Help us to believe both things. And I pray for every church, God, that we would specialize in those two things. That people would not be pushed away from toxic religion but find something beautiful to pursue week after week and year after year. We pray, Jesus, in your name. Amen.