A prostitute in Chicago was in a terrible condition, homeless, sick, and unable to buy food for her two-year-old daughter. She came to a man who worked with the down and out. Through many sobs and tears, she told of the many terrible things she had done to support her own drug habit. The man didn’t know what to say; now he was legally bound to report the case. At last he asked if she had ever thought of going to a church for help. A look of pure shock came across her face. “Church!” she cried. “Why would I ever go there? I was already feeling terrible about myself. They’d just make me feel worse.”
The ironic thing is that, in the Bible, women much like this prostitute fled toward Jesus, not away from Him. The worse a person felt about themselves, the more likely they would see Jesus as a refuge. Has the church lost that gift? Evidently the down-and-out, who flocked to Jesus when He lived on earth, no longer feel so welcome among His followers. They certainly don’t flock to the church (drugs, alcohol, suicide, etc).
What has happened? What do people of the world think about the church? Grace is the world’s greatest need, and Christianity’s best gift to the world, but can the world still find the grace of God in the church? Why is this so important?
If we were to look around at today’s society, we would see a world that is hurting. We see people in our community facing the possibility of losing their jobs, their homes, or struggling just to pay their monthly bills. Many feel hopeless and defeated and lost because of their sin!
Our world is broken - everything and everyone in this world is broken. In fact, there are only two kinds of people in the world: “Those who know they are broken and those who are broken but don’t know it or won’t admit it.”
In our communities and even in our churches we are seeing a growing number of people turning to addictions and compulsions to try to escape the misery and numb the pain. Sadly, they are abusing alcohol, drugs, food, sex, gambling, and one another.
The truth is, people need Jesus Christ, the only true and lasting answer for those who feel hopeless and defeated! The question is, how do we help so many hurting people find the healing they long for in their lives?
The church is the place for the broken, the place for those whose lives don’t work out as they should. “The church is not a select circle of the immaculate but a home where the outcast may come in!”
“The church is not a museum or a club for the saints - it is a hospital for broken sinners!”
But can the broken find the help, hope, healing – the life they so desperately need in the church?
As the church, our constant message to this broken world should be: “No one is broken beyond God’s repair - our Creator knows exactly how to heal and fix His creation!”
Hosea 6:1 - “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds.” NLT
To those who are hurting: “God wants you to know that you are NOT a failure. You may be broken, and in pain, you may have gone in the wrong direction, but you are still wanted by God. He hasn’t given up on you. He still has a purpose for you. His hands are still waiting for your life to be put back in them. He still loves you. Make that choice you know you need and get back to Him, even if you get there on tired, scarred hands and knees - just get there.” Christi Brown
Matthew 11:28-30: “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” NLT
As Christians, we must work diligently to ensure that our churches are “no-shame zones,” or “safe zones” - places for broken people to come when they hurt.
However, the church shouldn’t just “accept” hurting people. We should “want” hurting people in our midst. This should be a place where everybody in the community knows that if they want to find help and healing – they can come and find love and grace and mercy and be welcome, warts and all!
Colossians 3:12 – “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” NLT
To those who are struggling with sin: “God’s grace reaches down to the lowest sinful life – it even reaches me!”
1 Timothy 1:15 – “This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all.” NLT
Our God is a God of “second chances,” and He wants us to be people of the “second chance.” But we can’t be second-chance people until we realize how much of a second chance we’ve been given.
Second chances are not just for addicts and convicts - second chances are for all of us. No matter how squeaky-clean our lives have looked on the outside, the Bible is clear that we’ve all needed a second chance at some point in our lives.
Ephesians 1:7-8: “He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.” NLT
When we realize how much grace God showed to us when He saved us, sharing that kind of grace with others will only be natural.
Chances are there are Christians in our congregation who regularly look at pornography, abuse pain medications or illegal drugs/alcohol, or are engaged in sexually immoral relationships.
Or perhaps they’re struggling with more “socially acceptable” sins like greed, gossip, prejudice, bitterness, or pride. Either way, their sin is destroying them spiritually and emotionally.
They may be fully aware they have a problem, but they’re not saying a word. Maybe you are the one secretly struggling with sin, but you are terrified to confess it to anyone. Every Sunday people ask, “How are you?” You smile and say, “Doing good” or the classic statement: “I’m fine!”
But inside you’re saying, “I’m not doing good at all. I’m a mess, but I’d be devastated if anyone knew that!”
This is not healthy. More importantly, it is not Christ’s plan that Christians struggle secretly and silently with their sin, terrified to confess it to anyone, to come before the church for help, desperate for the gospel and another chance, but too ashamed to take that first step! Why? What are they afraid of?
Most of the time people won’t/don’t reach out to the church because they are afraid of what other people may/will think or say about them!
In some cases people have been wounded by religion, hurt by the very people they should have been able to count on for help!
There may be people of our number who want to stand before us and ask for our support and for our heart-felt prayers because they have serious issues they are struggling with, but they are too afraid to do so because they believe (perhaps experience has taught them) they will be judged and looked down on and talked about and condemned for bringing shame to the family name!
Luke 5:30-32: “But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with such scum?” Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor - sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.” NLT
Romans 14:10 - “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” NKJV
James 4:12 – “There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” NKJV
“I’d rather attend church with messed up people seeking after God, than religious people who think they are His enforcers!”
There may be people who are struggling with debilitating grief and guilt who want to stand before you and ask for your support, but they won’t because they know through experience they will hear things like: “Why didn’t you just stand in the pew and pray, you made us late getting out of church!”
There may be people of our number who want to stand before you and confess their sins, but they won’t because they believe (perhaps experience has taught them) that within an hour of church being over, every body in this community will hear about what they said and did!
Galatians 6:1 – “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.” NLT
There may be some truly mean and evil people in this community who love to hear and gossip about people, especially people in the church! Some of these people may be in this church!
There may be people of our number who don’t feel welcome when they come! “Jesus spent His whole life engaging the people most of us have spent our whole lives trying to avoid!”
Luke 18:9-14: “Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” NLT
If you are one of those self-righteous, judgmental people, you need to know that you are killing others you say you love!
You also need to know that if you do not change your self-righteous attitude and truly start following Jesus, you will be joining the Pharisee’s in hell!
Matthew 23:23-28: “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel! “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too. “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.” NLT
Body Life: The church is the body of Christ – it is a living organism! Jesus gives each member gifts and talents to serve Him and to help each other – Ephesians 4:16 says that when everybody does their part and uses their talents, the church will grow!
When the church functions as a body, people gain a sense of community or belonging where they actually begin to want to go to church! A body of Christ truly alive focuses on people, not programs! “People are more important than things and schedules!”
I believe the church needs to get back to the basic design and purposes God established for His church, the Body of Christ, and seriously start following God’s blueprint for building the church up, which includes relating to one another in specific ways and everybody doing their part through the use of their spiritual gifts!
I believe we need to experience all over again the “one-another” commands of Scripture.
The Greek word for “one another” is “allelon,” which occurs 58 times in the New Testament, excluding the Gospels. The word means that all of the people in the church – old to young, strong to weak - love and work towards the mutual benefit of each other!
I. “One another” commands
Romans 15:7 – “Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.” NASB
Colossians 3:16 – “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” NASB
Galatians 6:2 – “Bear (share) one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” NKJV
If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.
Ephesians 4:1-2: “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love…” NKJV
We should always be humble and gentle and patient with each other – and we should always make allowances for each other’s faults!
Romans 14:19 – “So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” NASB
1 Corinthians 12:25 – “…so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” NASB
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” NKJV
James 5:16 – “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” NKJV
Romans 12:10 – “Be kindly affectionate (love each other with genuine affection) to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another…” NKJV
1 Thessalonians 5:11 – “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” NASB
1 John 1:7 – “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” NKJV
Ephesians 4:32 – “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” NKJV
Romans 16:16 – “Greet one another with a holy kiss…” NKJV
Colossians 3:9 - Do not lie to one another (be honest), since you have put off the old man with his deeds…” NKJV
1 Peter 4:9 – “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.” NKJV
Romans 13:8 – “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.” NKJV
Romans 12:5 – “…so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another (we all belong to each other).” NKJV
Romans 15:5 – “Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded (live in complete harmony) toward one another, according to Christ Jesus…” NKJV
Galatians 5:13 – “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” NLT
Ephesians 5:21 – “And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” NLT
1 John 4:9-11: “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” NASB
Friends, it’s when we realize how much God loves us and has forgiven us that we’re able to properly take that love to others.
Hebrews 10:24-25: “…let us consider how to stimulate (motivate) one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” NASB
When we, as the body of Christ practice these commands and truly experience “body life,” we will create an environment where fellow believers know they are loved and cared for and where people will actually look forward to coming together – meeting with their brothers and sisters will become a priority in their lives!
A body of Christ truly alive also provides a platform for evangelism. In a high-tech, low-touch world, people take notice when a group of people exhibit such loving relationships.
John 13:34-35: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” NKJV
“Love attracts the religious, the prostitute, the adulterers, the tax collector, the confused, the faithful, the unbeliever, the betrayer! Stop being so surprised about all of the people you attract in your life! Love God!” Carolee Dalton