“We Can’t Do It Alone”

"We Can't Do It Alone" on Amazon MusicBeginnings

Beginnings.

What do you say at beginnings?

  • At a birth?
  • At a wedding?
  • At the formation of a new congregation in the body of Christ?

Do you…

  • Ignore it and move on to the tactical needs of life?
  • Quickly recognize the occasion and move on?
  • Slow down and take the time to truly, fully recognize the importance of the beginning?

I’ll admit, with beginnings, I am more of the “ignore it” or “quickly recognize” it type of person…although I was smart enough not to do that with any of our births or Michelle and my wedding. 🙂 I am a “tactical” being, with my brain moving on to the next task that needs to be done, not reflecting on the thing that just happened.

But today is truly a momentous day!

Just think, if “there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (see Luke 15:10), then there has to be at least a bunch of smiles when the Lord’s adopted children form a new family for those repenting sinners to join.

And I wouldn’t be surprised…

If some of those angels are standing…or maybe even sitting…beside you.

So, let’s slow down together.

Let’s recognize the company we are in…and I’m not just talking about our brothers and sisters…and angels…but the Most High Himself.

And let’s recognize…ponder…and celebrate the formation of the Strasburg Church of Christ in its humble beginnings…The Pizza Shop in Strasburg, Colorado.

Humble indeed…but greatly appreciated of its Christian owners…and not as humble as the beginnings in a manger over 2,000 years ago that ultimately brought us here today.

Van Zant

You can imagine for a bit before this first service I pondered a bit myself.

What should I talk about? As your minister, what did I want you to hear most our first day with me in your pulpit?

It wasn’t until I heard a county-rock song that I was convinced I knew what I should preach about today. I never presume with the Lord…but it seemed that what we said the first day we met to form this congregation aligned so perfectly with what the Van Zant brothers sang.

[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the “extras” that come out in the audio (which is available here). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]

Do you know who the Van Zant brothers are? Donnie Van Zant was a founding member of 38 Special and Johnny Van Zant is the current lead singer of Lynyrd Skynyrd. They are both younger siblings of Johnny Van Zant, the lead vocalist and a founding member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, who died with five others in a tragic airplane accident back in 1977.

It has been quite a few years since they started releasing music together, but I don’t recall noticing them until their latest album, “Red White and Blue (Live).” I preordered it on Amazon Music and the first night it was released I stayed up too late listening to it…with one thing especially standing out. After the song “Plain Jane” finished…when any other band and its producer would have wrapped up the track and gone on to the next one…I heard these words from Ronnie:

You know a lot of people don’t know this, but me and Johnny are true believers in our Lord Jesus Christ. Yeah. And we believe through praying hard, miracles can happen. So you just keep believing that people.

Wow!

The name “Jesus”…not used as an expletive…can be the death nell of a song…and not only did Ronnie unabashedly give a testimony…he called Jesus Lord…and he made sure that it wasn’t cut out of the final product.

Don’t worry…I am not about to do a talk about “Plain Jane”…but it was that album that got me buying some more Van Zant…and that song that first introduced me to their faith that is even more evident in the tune that is the basis of this very first sermon of the Strasburg Church of Christ…

“We Can’t Do It Alone”

And that song is “We Can’t Do It Alone.”

I suppose I could have called this talk “The Gospel According to Van Zant”…because “We Can’t Do It Alone” actually packs a lot of truth into 4 minutes and 20 seconds…even repeating the chorus and a bunch of stuff. 🙂

But that isn’t what I called my sermon, because I will want to ultimately have you focus on a a really, really important statement in it.

Before that, however, let’s see if you agree with me that there is a lot of truth in it. For instance, it starts off with:

I wear this cross ’cause I believe

He shed His precious blood so I’d be saved

And daddy had to gold one just like me

But when he died he wore it to his grave

Ignoring any possible disagreement on the value or propriety of wearing a cross, anything you can disagree with in those words? More importantly, does the Bible agree? Let’s look at a few verses and decide:

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, (Ephesians 1:7).

And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot (1 Peter 1:17-19)

Did Jesus shed His precious blood so you would be saved?

YES!!!

So, so far so good…let’s continue with the tune…

He said, ‘Don’t you cry, son

‘Cause in the long run we’ll all be together again’

Too many of us have experienced this…and all of us can imagine the situation. Someone we love…a parent…a child…a friend…doesn’t have long to live. The thought of the impending loss it self can be overwhelming…

But, in the Van Zant brothers’ case, their dad had words of cheer. “Don’t you cry, son. ‘Cause in the long run we’ll all be together again.”

Just happy talk, right? What does the Bible say? For that answer we’ll turn to one of my favorite passages in all of Scripture:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

I know that is a long selection, but it’s impossible for me to want to give up a single syllable in it. 🙂 Like Van Zant…we do “not grieve as other do who have no hope.” We more than hope. We know that with their dad was right and, for us Christians…

“In the long run we’ll all be together again.”

Still looking good, eh? Van Zant not only claims to be Christian, they hold biblically sound beliefs.

At this point the song goes into the first chorus…but I want to temporarily skip that for a couple other portions of the song:

Now I see the world through my child’s eyes

And I wonder where it’s all gonna go

Things are hard, these are troubled times

You know the devil’s always tryin’ to steal your soul

When you hear the news…

When you see how much war and suffering is occurring…

When you see how much this country has changed in less than eight short years.

(And I don’t think for the better.)

Do you “wonder where it’s all gonna go”?

Do you pray that the Second Coming will come soon?

Things are hard. These are trouble times.

But those first three lines are not biblical statements. How about the last one…is the devil always trying to steal your soul?

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8)

Looks like Van Zant got that right too, eh? The devil is out to get you…whether you refer to it as stealing your soul or seeking to devour you.

Oh, and by the way…as you “wonder where it’s all gonna go”…you should take Peter’s previous two verses to heart:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:6-7).

Cast those anxieties on God…because…and never, ever, ever lose sight of this…

He cares for you.

Money Verses

At this point in composing my sermon, I checked to see how many pages it was…and as much as I might have like to continue to do a “verse by verse” exegesis of the Van Zant song, I realized…even if you are sitting in one of the comfortable booths here at The Pizza Shop…I should especially be kind the first time I preached and not go on way too long. 🙂

So, let’s jump to the part of the song I want you to most focus on. The “money verses” that I felt were most important for this church family to hear and focus on:

Cause we’re all God’s children

Sinners tryin’ to make it to the light

There ain’t no easy livin’ so hold on to one another

We’re all sisters, we’re all brothers

Just tryin’ to find our way back home

And we can’t do it alone

And no one can be that strong

We can’t make it on our own

Oh, we can’t do it alone

To save time, can we go ahead and stipulate that “we’re all God’s children,” that we are “sinners tryin’ to make it to the light,” that “there ain’t no easy livin'” so we should “hold on to one another,” and that “we’re all sisters, we’re all brothers, just trying’ to find our way back home”?

If not, hit me up afterward and we’ll sit down together and confirm those. 🙂

What I want to focus on…

What I want to wrap up this sermon with…

Is Van Zants claim that we can’t do it alone. That claim is so important to them it’s what they titled their song.

But is it true?

Before we answer it…let’s stipulate one other thing. When it comes to eternity, we cannot do anything without Jesus.

But that isn’t Van Zant’s point. They are talking about us.

You. Me.

That we need each other. That “no one can be that strong.” That “we can’t make it on our own.” That “we can’t do it alone.”

To confirm or reject those statements, let’s first turn to John 13:34-35:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Are we disciples of Christ? [Yes]

How will “all people” know that? [If you have love one another.]

Let me ask you this…how many times have you heard people say, “That person shows their love for others by being a hermit hiding in a cave and avoiding everyone”?

Well, I suppose there are some people who are so perpetually miserable…it might be the loving thing for them to do for others. 🙂

But seriously…can you show love by being alone? [No.]

So, if we are truly Jesus’ disciples…”we can’t do it alone.”

Oh…and sneaking back to Van Zant’s song one more time, passing the half-century mark I can also agree with these words in it:

And the older I get, the more I see that

More love is always what we need

Of course, not the false love the world offers…which often is just erotic or with the false claim that love means you accept anything someone else does or believes…but a true, honest, godly love. We always need more of that…agreed?

Okay…back to whether or not we can do it alone. What does Hebrews 10:24-25 tell us?

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Although there is a lot more that can be taken out of those inspired words…let’s zoom in on “not neglecting to meet together.”

If we can do it “alone”…why would the writer of Hebrews make that statement? I’ll worship God my way at my home, you worship God you way at your home.

But no…we are told not to neglect meeting together. Why? For that, I’m going to quote from a sermon I did back at the Antrim Church of Christ that included the top ten reasons to go to church…this was “#5 — We need you…you ‘complete’ us”:

We are half way through the list…and to discover #5 we’ll need to read through the longest biblical selection in today’s sermon. Let’s turn together to 1 Corinthians 12:12-27:

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

#5 in our top ten reasons to attend church is “We need you…you ‘complete’ us.”

Yes, just like a disabled or blind or deaf person we will learn to compensate…the Body of Christ “does not consist of one member but of many” and “if one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”

And…if one member stops attending…we all feel the vacuum…we are incomplete.

But so is the person who stays away…

Returning back to this sermon…

We can’t do it alone because we are dependent on each other. As Paul says, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you.”

I need you.

You need me.

We need each other.

Every one of us needs every other one of us.

We can’t do it alone.

You may not think you add much value. Oh contraire.

The Son of God dying for you on the cross proves you are of immense value…and the Holy Spirit, through Paul, reminds us that “the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.”

Every one of you sitting before me is indispensable, regardless of what you think of yourself. I get to stand up here in this prime spot, but I am no more important than any one of you. I am but one member of this congregation…but one member of this body.

I need you. You need me. We need each other. Every one of us needs every other one of us.

We can’t do it alone.

Especially as we, like Van Zant, look around at today’s world and “wonder where it’s all gonna go.”

You may not have noticed…but two of the scriptures I’ve share have spoken of encouraging each other. I don’t know about you, but I can use your encouragement. Can you use mine? Can we use each others?

I need you. You need me. We need each other. Every one of us needs every other one of us.

We can’t do it alone.

Finally, as I have repeated elsewhere quite a few times, when we had our first gathering to form this church, the word that summarized what we wanted was…

Family.

And although it is still early, I have already started feeling that within our humble little congregation.

Family.

Let’s work together to make sure everyone who spends time with us feels that…more and more…

Family.

We are children of the Most High, adopted as brothers of sisters into the family of God…into the body of Christ. We were all chosen to be specific parts of that body: “If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.”

I need you. You need me. We need each other. Every one of us needs every other one of us.

We can’t do it alone.

When you leave here today, if you remember one thing…remember that…

We can’t do it alone.

And that’s okay. 🙂


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