What a mess!

stand-by-me

My heart is absolutely broken.  My wife Kris and I drove down to Brownsville, OR to see where the movie “Stand by Me” was shot.  We had a wonderful time playing in the treehouse where the boys played cards, ran down the gun-shot ridden back alley, and took a Kodak moment picture on the famous bridge where they entered the little town.  It was a surreal time, especially for my precious girl.  But it was on the drive home where I saw it…

“STOP SINNING.  COME TO JESUS.”

Yes, a glaringly obvious sign on the side of a church building.  It could have easily read, “Clean up your act, then you’ll be good enough to approach God.”  How sad is that!  And I’m sure the pastor and the church meant well by this exhortation.  I do not for a minute doubt their sincerity.  But there is something fatally flawed with that statement.

It’s kind of like saying…

  • Fix your car, then take it to the mechanic…
  • Turn on the light, then put a lightbulb in the socket…
  • Watch TV, and then turn it on…

Does that make any sense?  These are impossibilities.  You never fix your car and then take it to a mechanic.  Why?  Because a mechanic is only necessary when the car needs fixing.  And that’s where we come into play.  We (yes, you and me) are in need of a mechanic.  We are all very broken people with very real problems.  And yes, we need a mechanic, the Great Mechanic!

I’ve been attending Sandals Church for about 5 years now.  Their vision?  “Real with ourselves, God and others.”  It’s the vision of authenticity.  It’s about reaching out to real people struggling with a real life problems.  I think if Sandals Church was to put a sign up similar to the one above, it might read…

“STILL SINNING?  COME TO JESUS.”

Yes!  Because we are all still sinning.  We are all struggling with tragedies, let downs, anger, un-forgiveness, sin and a slew of other things that most people wear a mask for in order to avoid being outed.  And so, that mask is proudly displayed by the many parishioners that attend churches like the one I saw in Brownsville.  Unfortunately that only leads to fake Christianity.  I’m not about being fake, I’m about being real.

The fact of the matter is that no church in America, or the world for the matter, should ever put conditions on coming to Jesus.  Jesus never required anything but love from His followers.  They flocked to Him in droves!

I’ve sat and pondered the reason why so many people, in the tens of thousands, followed so closely to Jesus as he walked the streets of Jerusalem or traversed the shores of Galilee.  It’s so simple, He loved them just the way they are.  He never put conditions on his love.  The only people he challenged were the fake religious leaders that put conditions on people.  Here’s a modern day look at what the Pharisees did to people (Matthew 23)…

  • They walked around with a big bible in hand telling others how to live, but in secret spent little time living out what they preach.
  • Like modern day televangelists, they guilt you into giving sacrificially while they jet-set to their third house in Miami Beach.
  • They love to show everyone how much money they give to the church, yet they won’t life a finger to help someone in need.
  • They go around showing everyone how holy they are, but in private, their lives are riddled with all kinds of sinful behavior.

And that’s what I saw yesterday; conditions on approaching Jesus.

Maybe you’ve thought about Christianity and wondered what all the fuss is about.  If I could sum it all up in one word it would be FREEDOM.  Jesus came to give you and I freedom.

  • Freedom from religion
  • Freedom from a world that is constantly tearing at our soul, and…
  • Freedom from the plight of sin.

Here’s the truth, sin is something we all struggle with and Jesus is the answer.  Jesus is the freedom.  But His freedom looks very different from what many churches suggest.

Freedom in Jesus is when he said to the people following him, “Come to me all you who are tired, struggling, hurt, angry, frustrated and in a lot of pain, and I will give you a rest you could never imagine.”  This is my version of Matthew 11:28.  And my guess is that many of you could use some much needed rest.

Is that where you’re at today?  Do you need some rest?  May I suggest you find a church that allows you to be a complete mess.  Jesus would say to you today, “Just come to me how you are.  I will take you, mess and all!”  And if you do just that, you will find rest like you’ve never found before.

Please remember, Jesus is about restoring you, not slamming you for your faults.  He knows everything about you.  And you know what?  He loves you right where you’re at.

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