A Wonderful Mix of People

David discusses the joys and challenges of having a wonderful mix of people at Renovation Church.


Good morning.  I’m David Sorn. Lead pastor
Well, Christmas is over huh?  We are done with our Christmas series…
And for the next two weeks we are going to do “stand-alone messages.”  
Messages that aren’t part of a series or connected to other messages, but on topics that I thought would be good for our church to look at
And then, starting on January 10th (which is also the week House Groups resume), we are going to be starting an amazing series called, “Radical Grace”

This morning, I wanted to take a look at a passage that I hope will be helpful for our church in its young infancy
We are still less than 3 months old as a church.  Still an infant.
And there are some things I think we need to learn about each other as we walk through this brand new thing together
So, I want to take a look this morning at a passage in the book of Luke about a group of people who encounter Jesus together
Just to give you some context:  Jesus is just at the beginning of his ministry.  He is just beginning to call his first disciples, while word about him is quickly spreading, and the crowds in his home region are starting to come and see him.  
(Luke 5:17-26) - NIV
17One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick. 18Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
20When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven."
21The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, "Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?"
22Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, "Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? 24But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...." He said to the paralyzed man, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." 25Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, "We have seen remarkable things today."

Sometimes the middle part of this passage is hard to understand…I always have to read it like 3 or 4 times to make sense of what Jesus is saying…so let’s look at that
Jesus says to the paralyzed man, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
So, we can assume, that the man believed that Jesus was God and that the man was coming to Jesus for forgiveness AND healing.
We don’t know what’s in his mind, but it’s apparent by his actions that he believed in Jesus…so Jesus forgives him
This makes the Pharisees (who are the overly religious legalists) upset because only God can forgive sins…
So, Jesus basically just told everyone he was God…pretty intense huh?
And then, here comes the part of the conversation that always confuses me a little
Jesus responds to the Pharisees, “Which is easier:  To say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk?’”  
And I remember reading this story multiple times (in 3 of the 4 gospels), and saying, “I don’t get it.  I don’t know which one’s easier.”
Because the reality is…it’s sort of one of those brilliant trick questions.  
Because on first glance, it’s easier to say, Your sins are forgiven.  
We could all “say” that right?  And “pretend” we are God
But as soon as you say, “Get up and walk.”  You better have something behind that.
But in reality, the more difficult thing (and this is what Jesus wants them to get from his brilliant question) is to forgive somebody’s sins
Because even Jesus’ disciples can heal people…but ONLY Jesus can forgive sins.  
And Jesus strongly communicates something with the order in which he treats the paralytic…  
Think about this…
Picture the four men getting their friend in the house and Jesus says, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Don’t you think that probably was a let-down for a lot of people
We tend to overly put our focus on the body…on the outward…on the visibly miraculous
But Jesus goes straight to what’s most important…our soul
He forgives the man.  
Because honestly, it doesn’t matter if the man can walk if he’s not forgiven when he dies.  
Forgiveness, must come first.  And IT is the more impressive.
But, as the icing on the cake, Jesus goes a step further, to make sure everyone in the room knows He’s God, and then He says, “Get up and walk”
And then the man does.  
Wow.  Pretty amazing.
And the by the way, if you saw that happen, what would you then think about his previous statement of forgiveness?  You’d probably believe him huh?

So that’s great right?  That’s interesting? I always think it’s interesting to dive in more and learn deeper facts of the Bible…That’s my passion, I’m a learner…a teacher…
BUT…sometimes we get lost in that too…maybe you’re one of those people…really good at learning, not so good at applying…
So what do we apply from this passage?  What does it mean for us?
Here’s what I think the essential question is:
If Jesus truly is God and truly can forgive our sins, “How are you reacting to that truth?”  OR, “Who are you in this story?”
Since you can’t be Jesus, you can be one of three people:
The paralytic
One of the people bringing the paralytic to Jesus
Or you can be a pharisee

Before I get to those three people, let me tie something in to the community of our own church
Renovation Church is a church that is deeply serious about community.  About you actually knowing other Christ-followers in this church.
One of the things you are going to hear us talk a lot about in the next couple of weeks again is the restarting of our house groups
25 people in a house, break down into small groups
We are SO serious about being a church where you actually know people that we have already over 90 adults involved in weekly house groups
Sign-ups start again THIS week, and we will be talking about them heavily for the next couple of weeks or so
However, I want to point out something I’ve noticed as I’ve gone around to our different house groups…an interesting trend that I would like to address…and that is this:
This church has attracted a VERY wide mix of people
Not only are we continually attracting a wide mix of ages (which is awesome), but we are attracting a “WONDERFUL MIX OF PEOPLE” in terms of where they are on their spiritual journey
Which is what the Church is supposed to be!
For instance, we have a lot of people in this church who have been walking with Jesus Christ for a long time
However, we also have A LOT of people (you are not alone if this is you) who are just checking Jesus out…maybe you just started a relationship with Him, or maybe you’re just considering it
And, we also have a lot of people somewhere in between those two categories
AND, it has been interesting to watch all of those people interact together
And I think we’ve done OK at it, but just okay
Don’t get me wrong, people are SUPER friendly, but I’m not sure we all really know what to do with each other yet
Some of you that are just checking out God have never been around this many Christians before AND some of you life-long Christians have never been around this many new Christians before.  

Now…keep that in mind, and let’s get back to the story of the paralytic and the three possibilities of the characters in which you could be:  The paralytic, The people helping the paralytic, or the Pharisees
Let’s start w/ the paralytic.  This is a person who is seeking Jesus.  
Perhaps this a person who doesn’t have faith yet in Jesus, or is a person that already has some faith, but it’s pretty brand new.  And they are seeking to know Him more
And I think here’s what’s so impressive about the paralytic:  he conveys this amazingly strong image of letting people help him in his journey to Jesus
He could have just as easily (as I’m sure many people did when JC was around) said don’t bring me anywhere near Him
But he humbly asked his friends to carry him closer to Jesus
And that’s hard to do
It’s like when as a kid you get a Christmas present that you have to put together, and there’s an adult in the room that probably needs to do it
We don’t want them to…  They’ve been down the path before and they can help, but our pride tells us:  I CAN DO IT
And lots of times, we don’t grow out of that…maybe some of you got a new computer, or some sort of video camera, or ipod, or phone this week…
And somebody else already had one, and they could help you w/ the set-up process.  Help you get started
But we say, I CAN DO IT!
And the paralytics actions should be a challenge to those of you who are just starting your faith journey with Jesus Christ
Will you humble yourselves enough to let other people help you in your journey towards Jesus Christ?  
Often our pride gets the best of us, and we want to do it secretly on our own…but there are some people in this church that can really help you grow closer to God…that is…if you let them
And maybe that means to take a risk and sign-up for something like a house group…or if you’re in one, to stop being so afraid that maybe you DON’T know everything, but there are other people here to help you…to bring you closer to Jesus…and that’s ok.
It’s a tough challenge from the image of the paralyzed man…but a good one to think about, and pray about

And if you’re not the paralytic in the story, that means you’re either the people helping someone get closer to Jesus or you’re a overly-religious Pharisee
On the one hand, you have these people who were willing to do whatever it takes to bring people closer to Jesus
But on the other hand, you have these Pharisees who not only question Jesus’ ability to forgive, but are constantly more focused on the details of the law than helping people get closer to Jesus
And if you’ve been a Christian for a little while now, let me just talk to you for a few minutes
Because this ought to be a challenging question for you:  
Are you more concerned about helping people get closer to Jesus or just learning the details of the Bible?  
And it’s not that studying the Bible isn’t important (trust me I’m all for that, that’s much of what I do)
BUT, what are you really about?  Which one would people pick if they had to put you in a category?  
And here’s the problem, I fear that many of us that have been Christians for a few years, fall into the Pharisaical category of being much more concerned about the details of the Bible than we are about bringing people closer to God
Sure we rationalize and say that if we learn all of the littlest details of the Bible that might help us bring people closer to Jesus, but you and I both know that’s not usually how it works…
My knowledge of the levitical sacrificial systems doesn’t usually do a whole lot to bring my friends closer to Jesus
For too many years now, Christians have been overly focused on themselves and their Bible studies.  
So many churches have not done a good job of drawing in new people, so all our Christians end up doing is studying in endless Bible studies amongst themselves and never reaching out to anyone else
We’re like a Marine Biologist who go to school for years and years and then never goes in the ocean
We study, study, study, but we never do anything w/ it!
And I’ve noticed it even in our House Groups as many of you interact with people who are seeking God, and it’s a new (exciting) but new experience for some of you
And I think we’re doing fine, but I want to caution you at this point to not make the same mistakes that so many other Christians have made before you
Because there has been an alarming tendency in our churches in America for Christians to begin to say things like:
“We’re spending too much time talking about this person’s pain in life, let’s just study the Bible”
“I just wish the pastor would dive into complex theology every week.  We’d be better off”
“Wow, I just can’t get over how little people know the Bible here.  Let’s start our own advanced study.”
I’m characterizing a little bit, but just a little
Because I think many of our Christians are dangerously walking the line of becoming a Pharisee and DO NOT KNOW IT
And I want to let you know that at Renovation Church, you have an opportunity (that isn’t always as present at other churches) to not just study what it means to help people seeking Jesus Christ, but to do it
And maybe that means you let go of the fact that you aren’t going to study complex theology every week (we will sometimes), but this isn’t a seminary…it’s a church
And you have an opportunity, many of you in your house groups, to really, dramatically impact other people’s lives eternally.  That’s incredible.
And maybe that means that you even need to step up and be a part of a house group (or something like it).  
Not just because you need it.  But because we have people here who need you.  
Or maybe it means that you might even have a friend with you who you need to take with you to the house groups table when this is done and sign up.  
Or maybe two of you need to go together and sign up.  
The bottom line is, no matter where you are on your spiritual journey, we need to help each other get closer to Jesus Christ because we can’t get there on our own.  

Listen, God is good.  
He forgives.  He gives new life. He can help you walk again.  
Maybe for the first time, or maybe after you’ve fallen down for the 100th time.  
But life is crowded.  And there are lots of obstacles.  And sometimes it’s hard to find Him.  To get to him.
Let’s do this together.  
Let’s pray.  

If you look under your chair right now, you should see a connection card and a pen.  Go ahead and pick those up.
One of the things we do every week at Renovation Church, is fill out these connection cards.
It’s a way for you to connect with us and for us to connect with you.  

We are going to take an offering now as well
An act of worship for a God who has given us so much
If you’re a visitor, feel free to let the offering cans just pass you by
As the offering goes by, you can stick your connection card in there as well
Let me just pray for the offering quick
Let’s pray.  

Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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