Less than Half
News came out this week that, per Gallup, fewer than half of Americans belong to a congregation (and that's not just counting Christian churches).
Only 47% do.
Now, it can be claimed that one can be "spiritual" without being "religious" and "spiritual" and/or "religious" without attending church.
However, I would argue that those claiming that are at best mistaken, more likely rationalizing to excuse their choice and, at worst actively leading people into sin.
But, that's not the purpose of this sermon…and I am not claiming that somehow we who do attend are better people; we all have the same disease, just different symptoms.
Instead, can we just agree that that is an extremely concerning statistic? That, out of love for our fellow U.S. humans we should hope to reverse the trend?
A natural question would be, "Why has congregational membership declined?" and, together, we probably could come up with a pretty comprehensive, accurate list.
I would suggest that, in the end, it's because we love our sin…and all the other factors are just making it easier for us to embrace our fallen natures and not feel like we have to change but, again…
That's not the purpose of this sermon.
Instead, let's chat a bit about one factor in the falling away of Americans…the reality that people don't think they need Jesus.
And, together…let's try to answer the question…
[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the “extras” that come out in the video above. All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]
Because of What He Has Done
Now, there are myriad reasons for "Why Jesus?," but I am going to follow the three bullets rule for presentations and just posit three key points. Are they the most important ones? God will have to decide that (it's above my pay grade), but I can assure you they are important.
To discover point #1, let's go together to Philippians 2:4-9:
4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Wow. Although still not nearly as significant as what Jesus did, that's like being the prince of a rich and magnificent country, living in luxury and joy, but deciding to give it all up to live in degrading squalor with the rabble of society, because your father, the king asked you to.
Fully knowing that that rabble was going to treat you horribly, culminating in them torturing and killing you.
But you go anyway. Without hesitation. Why?
Let's look at the frequently quoted John 3:16…well, a little bit more than that…John 3:16-17:
16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Jesus willingly came down here because He, like the Father, loves us.
He knows that without what He did, we will perish and not have eternal life.
He does not want to condemn us. He wants to save us.
All of us.
Even the 53% who don't attend anywhere…and even the larger percentage who aren't saved (since the 47% who do attend aren't all Christians…and attending a Christian church also doesn't equate to being saved).
Because He willingly gave up His glory in heaven to live in a metaphorical gutter with people who would reject, torture, and kill Him…
Because He loves us.
Reason #1 for "Why Jesus?"?
Because of what He has done.
Oh, and also because of who He is, since that is, in great measure, what makes "Because of what He has done" so incredible.
Because of Our Need
#2 of the three reasons for "Why Jesus?" is something Uriel and I have been discussing since we decided to start street preaching.
Or rather, as we were chatting about last week, "street conversations."
If you go to the web site, gospel.claims, you'll see a more full rendering of this (although still relatively concise).
And, instead of telling you what #2 is after I give the verses, I'll tell you up front and then give you a couple reasons why it is true.
The #2 reason for "Why Jesus?" is…
Because of your need.
Because of my need.
Because of our need.
I'm glad you asked. 🙂
First, if you look at Hebrews 9:27. It reminds us of two things:
27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,
We will die.
We will be judged.
Everybody will die and be judged.
And how will that inevitable judgment go?
Let's check out Romans 3:23 and 6:23 to find out:
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23)
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).
Our need is something to fix the awful state we are in. We are sinners who, if judged righteously (and we will be), will come up horribly short and deserve death.
We lie to ourselves (and others) to claim otherwise.
We have a problem in need of a solution, and…well…let's look at the answer the Philippian jailor got when he asked how to solve that common problem he shares with us:
30 Then he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" 31 And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household" (Acts 16:30-31).
You see that?! It was a costly solution, don't let anybody convince you otherwise, but it is a simple solution for our need. Believe in Jesus.
Let's look at two other biblical quotes to have handy when others also realize the horrible state they are in and want to know how to resolve it:
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" 38 And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:37-38).
9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).
They are essentially saying the same thing as what we read together in Acts 16.
Because of our need…and because Jesus is the solution to that need!
Because the Tomb Is Empty
Okay, I've purposely kept this sermon short…both to make sure we don't go over…and because it's our first one together after a long time…
So, we are already to the third reason for "Why Jesus?"
What were the first two? Do you remember?
- Because of what He has done
- Because of our need…and because Jesus is the solution to our need
What's the last one?
Well, it's Easter…
Happy Easter everyone! 🙂
And because it is Easter, this last one shouldn't surprise you. Let's join some women on an another early Sunday morning:
28 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you" (Matthew 28:1-7).
Reason #3 for "Why Jesus?"?
Because the tomb is empty!
Why does that matter? Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19:
12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
Why does the tomb being empty matter?
Because everything is contingent on it.
If His decayed parts are still in the tomb, then we are not saved. We are lost. Nothing truly matters.
But if the tomb is empty, then everything He claimed is true, and we will be with Him for eternity. Everything we Christians know to be true hinges on the tomb being empty.
Of course, "Because the tomb is empty" can seem like a "glass half empty" version of the more positive "Because He is risen!," but they are equivalent…
But, humor me, and be like the women and listen to the angel…
Look in the tomb…
And see that it is empty.
Jesus is risen!
- Because of what He has done
- Because of our need…and because Jesus is the solution to our need
- Because the tomb is empty!
Since others may see or hear this after I've preached it…
If you are a Christian, you are still in need of Jesus as much today as the first day you were adopted into God's family. He is faithful to you. Be faithful to Him.
If you are not a Christian, my guess is you are still not convinced…but I hope you at least understand that it imperative you honestly contend with the chance I could be right. This is not something you can ignore, since you will die…and it's not something you should wait to figure out…since you could die today.
If, instead of three reasons for "Why Jesus?," I had only gone for one…it would have been perfectly fine to go with the last one.
The tomb is empty!