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We Aren't Perfect Either

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We’re talking about what it takes to BE CONTAGIOUS with God’s love. Today we want to talk about creating a "come as you are" culture in the church.
Ephesians 2:8–10 KJV 1900
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
No one is a member of the body of Christ, the Church, because they deserve to be.
None of us got God’s attention by our perfection because none of us is faultless.
If you believe you’re perfect please don’t congregate with the rest of us because we’re sinners.
We’re sinners saved by the grace of God and we’re very grateful for that - but we’re still not flawless.
"The church is the only organization in the world where the only qualification for membership is to be unqualified. The church is not a place for people who are ’together’, obedient, and spiritual. If you really think this, then you were conned. The church is actually a place for people who are needy, afraid, confused, and quite sinful. But even more important than that, the church is a place for people who have been loved, and have no idea why. Each congregation is, as it were, a local chapter of ’Sinners Anonymous.’"-Steve Brown
This is one of the most contagious principles the church has going for her! Nothing is more contagious to the unchurched than to find out there is a place where they can come and not be intimidated by the false notion that the people around them think they already have it all together.
If you’ve ever been around a bunch of spiritual snobs then you know what I’m talking about. No one can be more unapproachable than a group of Christ followers who have forgotten how they received God’s grace. Nothing is more repulsive than a bunch of spiritual elites, and nothing is more contagious than a group of humble sinners saved by the grace of God praising God for His love!
The honest admission of Christ followers that, "Yes, sometimes we struggle," is very attractive to the unchurched. It’s refreshing for them to hear us admit that sometimes we wrestle with doing the will of God.
Our Savior is perfect but we’re still in the molding process, the process whereby He’s making us more like Him. Many of us have matured in the faith to the place that we live with consistency - but the truth is - even the most mature among us still struggle with some things. We have general success facing our anxieties and temptations but we still have them. We’ve made progress but we haven’t arrived at perfection yet.
Even the great Apostle Paul admitted this.
Philippians 3:12 KJV 1900
Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:15 KJV 1900
Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.
Every spiritually mature person should have an attitude of humility, an attitude of appreciation to God for His forgiveness, for the pardon that is not based on our level of accomplishment but rather based on His grace!
How can the church utilize this principle to her greatest advantage - this principle of NO PERFECT PEOPLE ALLOWED? How can we create a "come as you are" culture in the church?
There are three SCRIPTURAL & SIMPLE PLANKS REQUIRED TO BUILD A BRIDGE to a "come as you are" culture in the church - three ways we can create a NO PERFECT PEOPLE ALLOWED church.
These are the things we need to concern ourselves with even when we’re having a conversation out in the entrance hall that might be overheard by one of our guests. These are the things we need to emphasize in our small groups and in our fellowships. These things need to permeate every part of our church activity.
The first one is...

A CONTAGIOUS ALLOWANCE.

Ephesians 2:8 KJV 1900
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Creating a culture of dialogue

Ephesians 2:8 KJV 1900
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
When we exhibit grace toward others - we are following the pattern set by God toward us.
How did God allow us to come to Him in order to have a personal relationship with Him?
God allowed us to come to Him for salvation in our imperfect state, while we were still sinners. Even though He is totally perfect and holy, He didn’t wait for us to clean up our act and THEN allow us come to Him. If that had been the case none of us would have been able to come to Him. We would never have been able to make ourselves presentable enough on our own. We had to have Christ’s righteousness in order to stand before the Father.
We must allow others to come searching for Him the same way. We must encourage them to come to God JUST AS THEY ARE. That’s why the invitation song, "Just As I Am" has been so popular in churches down through the years. When I come to God - I must come "just as I am."
We need to demolish any barriers that stand in the way of the unchurched coming to God because they think they aren’t good enough. We must guard against sending out the wrong signals to others who don’t yet know Christ. It may be intentional or it may be unintentional but we sometimes get the steps of salvation out of sequence.
Here’s the process. You come to God JUST AS YOU ARE. You make a faith commitment to Him based on your willingness to believe in what Jesus did in dying for your sins on the cross and His willingness to accept you because of His gracious nature. You don’t say, "God, when I become perfect I’ll be back for salvation." If you could achieve total righteousness on your own you wouldn’t need God. So first, you have to come to God for salvation JUST AS YOU ARE.
Then, AFTER you’ve come to God by faith, He begins the lifelong process of helping you to become more like His Son Jesus by the work of the Holy Spirit!
It’s very, very important that we get the sequence of events correct on this matter. How can we make sure we get this right? Since allowing others to come to God "just as they are" is so vitally important, what scriptural and practical steps can I take to insure I get this right?
Here are a couple ALLOWANCES we need to make:

Allow others to question our faith.

1 Peter 3:15 KJV 1900
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
Show genuine interest in the opinions of others, in their doubts, fears, anxieties, even though you don’t agree or don’t know why they would possess such viewpoints.
You may have to work to find the time to listen. Sometimes a co-worker may approach you when you are supposed to be carrying out a work responsibility and you can’t talk right then. But as often as you can, make time for others and their perspectives, even if their focal point is diametrically opposed to yours. Respect their opinion. If they have questions, respect that too.
Instead of questioning the questions of the unchurched we ought to say, "That’s a good question. I’m glad you asked. If I can’t explain the answer to you we’ll find someone who can or we’ll dig into the Scriptures together to work through this."
It ought to be refreshing to us when someone sincerely inquires, "How do we know the Bible is truly the Word of God? How do we know that Jesus was a real person? Why does the church teach that Jesus is the only way to Heaven?"
Or, "If God is love, why is there a hell, why does He allow evil, why do bad things happen to good people?" Those are good questions. I had to find answers to those questions myself back when I was a new believer. There’s nothing wrong with asking questions about faith.
Creating a culture of dialogue is essential to healthy faith formation. We shouldn’t squirm and frown when seekers ask pertinent questions. We should smile and approve of their interest, because smiling and showing approval are very contagious. We should allow others to question our faith.

Allow others to wrestle with their unbelief.

A good example of this is the father who brought his demon possessed son to Jesus for exorcism in Mark chapter nine.
The demon inside of his son had been causing him to have dangerous seizures and so the boy’s dad brought him to Christ. But even as this father brought his boy to Jesus, he was struggling with placing his complete trust in Christ. Perhaps he had heard of the power of Jesus but never seen it for himself.
When Jesus told him that "anything is possible to those who believe," this father’s answer was so transparent, so honest; you have to admire it.
Mark 9:24 KJV 1900
And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.
Can’t you just feel that father’s inner struggle? Can’t you just sense his sincerity? "This is my boy here we’re talking about. I’d do anything to help him get over his pain and suffering. But I don’t know much about you Jesus. I’m just a layman. I’m not a theologian. Yes, I have some belief. But honestly, I have some doubts too. The last thing I would want to do is lie to you Jesus and tell you I’m 100% convinced that you’re the healer others say you are."
Jesus didn’t shut off dialogue with this hurting father. He didn’t tell him his son wouldn’t have been in this predicament if he had only been a better parent. And He didn’t deny his request for help because his faith was feeble. He healed his son and returned him to wholeness! And that’s how the church should act.
A contagious church culture is one where people can attend and yet honestly say concerning their faith: "I’m not totally at the place of making a faith commitment to Christ but I am interested, I am searching and I do appreciate you allowing me the chance to investigate faith without judging me. I appreciate you allowing me to ask questions."
So, first of all, in order to be a contagious Christ follower, in order to be a contagious church, we must make contagious allowances by creating a culture of dialogue.
Next we need...

A CONTAGIOUS ATTITUDE.

Ephesians 2:9 KJV 1900
Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Creating a culture of authenticity

Ephesians 2:9 KJV 1900
Not of works, lest any man should boast.
The Bible is crystal clear on this topic. None of us who are saved from our sins can boast about it. It’s not a reward for the good things we have done. We haven’t saved ourselves.
The humble attitude represented by this truth is very contagious. Even God finds humility attractive and pride repulsive. Look at what the Bible says.
James 4:6 KJV 1900
But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
Don’t we respond the same way as God does? Won’t we go out of our way to help someone who is humble? And conversely - won’t we go out of our way to avoid someone who is proud and boastful?
We find it more difficult to root for an athlete if he’s arrogant. Of course I realize some professional athletes intentionally act cocky in order to get people to pay attention to them. But that aside, an athlete can be the most talented competitor on the field or on the court or on the ice or in the ring, but arrogance makes him offensive to us. We don’t mind confidence - but boastfulness turns us off.
We need to apply this truth to our reputation as Christ followers. A contagious Christ follower, a contagious church, is one where we don’t boast about our goodness but we boast about the greatness of God!
The Good News is contagious when it is properly represented in this way! When Christ followers honestly admit that it isn’t their goodness that earned them a place at God’s table - it’s so refreshing that it’s contagious!
What practical steps does the Bible give us to help us apply this principle? How can I display this contagious attitude? A couple of things.

Act humble.

Even when we have foolish feelings of egotism inside ourselves, which we all do at times and which of course we need to deal with, still, in our personal dealings with others we need to act humble. Like so many other areas of life we sometimes need to ignore our feelings and act in obedience to the Word of God. We won’t always feel humble but we need to act humble.
A good Scriptural example of how we’re supposed to act humble is found in
2 Chronicles 7:14 KJV 1900
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
This verse offers a clinic on personal, communal and national revival. Here are the steps to follow if I desire a fresher, deeper, more meaningful walk with God.
But it’s only that first step that we want to briefly consider today. And notice it doesn’t say anything about the way we feel. We may not feel humble but we are to "humble ourselves" nonetheless. We are to act humble.
To "humble myself" means I am responsible for acting humble. I am not to wait for God to humble me and I’m not to wait until the results of my foolish words and deeds humble me. I am to humble myself.
Act humble. Why? Why does the Bible point me in the direction of humility? Because people respond positively to humility! Humility says you aren’t self-absorbed. Actions of humility on my part let others around me know that I have room to care about them. All my attention is not focused on me.
That’s one of the many reasons people were so attracted to Jesus. His humility, even though He had every reason to deserve honor and glory, His humility, let others know He was open to them and their needs. His humility made Him contagious!
And Jesus gave us another practical step to take to practice this contagious attitude and thereby create a culture of authenticity.

Act childlike

(Not "childish", "childlike")
Matthew 18:4 KJV 1900
Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Why did Jesus say that? What is it about a child that Jesus is telling us to imitate? What does it mean to "humble ourselves as a child?"
For one thing, a child doesn’t wear masks. Children, for the most part, are authentic - unless they’ve been made to grow up too quickly, it’s natural for a child to be unpretentious, to be "real." As we grow older we learn to wear masks.
The main reason Jesus confronted the hypocritical religious leaders of His day is because they wore masks. They pretended to be what they were not. It’s a common human failing. We’re afraid that if people see us as we really are they may not like us. So we fake it. We fake things like success and we exaggerate our abilities and our accomplishments because we want people to like us.
Another big reason people wear masks is to fake happiness.
It is like the man who went to see a therapist because he was extremely depressed. After an hour together the counselor was struggling to get the man to snap out of it. So he said to the man, "Tonight, I want you to go to the circus in town because they have a clown named The Great Rinaldi. He is the funniest clown I have ever seen. Whenever I go to see the Great Rinaldi it always lifts my spirits."
The man responded, "You don’t understand doctor, I am the Great Rinaldi."
Our world is full of Great Rinaldis. They appear fine to everyone but when they go home at night they cry themselves to sleep because they long to be genuinely happy instead of having to wear a mask.
Those who know Christ don’t have to wear masks. We’re not perfectly happy all the time. We’re sad sometimes. We cry. We have disappointments and struggles and heartaches. But we also have joy that transcends our troubles. We can afford to be open and honest about our struggles, about our foibles and failures. And that authentic attitude, that humble attitude is contagious!
1. A contagious allowance - creating a culture of dialogue.
2. A contagious attitude - creating a culture of authenticity.
And then...

A CONTAGIOUS ARTWORK

Ephesians 2:10 KJV 1900
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Creating a culture of acceptance
Ephesians 2:10 KJV 1900
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Circle that phrase, "we are God’s workmanship." God is crafting a great work of art out of each and every life that is committed to Him. Every one who has made a faith commitment to Jesus Christ has been "created anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago."
We mentioned last week from Ephesians chapter one that God has a plan for us. He has this wonderful plan for us to do good things! When we plug into the plan we become a masterpiece of His grace!
You have to keep grace in mind when you read Ephesians. Grace, as we said it last week, is God’s undeserved favor toward us. Next week we’ll talk even more about in on "Amazing Grace Sunday." Grace is amazing!
The emphasis about God’s grace here is that it was offered BEFORE we were a masterpiece!
God saw a masterpiece in us when we were still unformed lumps of clay. When the canvass of our life was empty He saw the wonderful masterpiece we could become by His workmanship!
How can we employ the artwork of God to create a culture of acceptance? Once again we are called upon to follow God’s example. He accepted us when we were imperfect and we are to accept others in spite of their imperfections.
Romans 15:7 KJV 1900
Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.
How do we do this? A couple of things.

a. Be grace with skin on.

If you’ve ever been to an art museum or art exhibit then you know what it’s like to marvel at the work of master artists. Some of these works of art are worth millions and others are considered "priceless" because of the rare talent utilized in their composition.
Who gets the credit for painting the great work of art? Who deserves the credit for the masterpiece? The Master! The one who created the masterpiece gets the credit - whether it was Michelangelo or Rembrandt or Van Gogh or Joe Shmo.
You wouldn’t walk into a museum and begin to take the credit for the work and dedication and talent of the artist would you? Neither should we try to take credit for the work God is doing in our lives.
When we brag on God’s grace instead of bragging on ourselves we give credit to the One to whom it belongs. Then others around us are able to see God’s grace and what it can do for them by seeing what it has done for us!
We accept others by grace just as God accepted us by grace. He didn’t wait for us to become perfect before establishing a relationship with us. He accepted Christ’s perfection based on our faith commitment to Christ.
As we’ve talked about before, acceptance is not the same thing as approval. I can accept a person that struggles with a bad habit of gossip, or a habit of cursing, or even a drug habit. That doesn’t mean I approve of their bad habits. It means I love them and I’m open to working with them even though they’re imperfect.
That’s how God’s grace came to me. That’s how it should flow out of me. I need to be grace with skin on. I need to be a living, breathing trophy of God’s grace. I need to be God’s masterpiece on public display in the world.

b. By doing "good things."

What is done with a magnificent piece of art? It is displayed in a prominent place for all to see.
Remember, Ephesians 1:10
Ephesians 1:10 KJV 1900
That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
Where did Paul get this idea? He got it from Jesus!
Jesus said, "You don’t put a lamp under a bushel basket. You can’t hide a city on a hill." He told His followers that we are "the light of the world." And then He said:
Matthew 5:16 KJV 1900
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Jesus says I need to do good things to let my light shine before men. I don’t do "good things to score points. I do "good things" to bring honor to my Father in heaven.
If I want to be contagious I do "good things."
What are Jesus and Paul talking about when they use the words, "good things?" They’re talking about the results of the work of God’s grace in our hearts. These are the "good things" I can’t do in my own strength.
It takes the grace of God to love others when they act unlovable. And we’ve all done things that make us difficult to love at one time or another.
It takes the grace of God to accept others when they’re vastly different.
It takes the grace of God to accept others with their all their warts and blemishes, and we’ve all got those too.
It takes the grace of God to forgive those who’ve wronged us. It takes the grace of God to treat others right when they’ve treated us wrong.
Grace is the church’s greatest asset! It’s contagious! People want to live in the culture of acceptance offered by a grace community. They want to know there is a community that offers friendship to the friendless, hope to the hopeless and unconditional love for all.
Any Christ follower or any church that practices God’s grace will be contagious because they will exhibit:

1. A contagious allowance - which creates a culture of dialogue.

2. A contagious attitude - which creates a culture of authenticity.

3. A contagious artwork - which creates a culture of acceptance.

We make it known by our words, our attitudes and our actions, "No Perfect People Allowed." This is a "come as you are" church.
Faith Baptist is not a church where we sit around and pat each other on the back about how good we are while broken people all around us need to hear the Good News that Jesus loves them, He died for them, and will make a masterpiece of grace out of their lives if they will let Him.
Let’s pray.
If you want to be a "no perfect people allowed" Christ follower, pray this from your heart and mind:
"God, help me to allow other people to question my faith. Help me to allow people to wrestle with their faith. Help me to act humble. Help me to be childlike and be authentic. I want my life to be grace with skin on. I want others to see the good things your grace is doing in my life so they will want to experience your grace too. Lord I want to be contagious. Put my life on display. I want others to see that if you saved me you can save anybody."
If you’re ready to make a faith commitment to Christ today, pray this prayer from your heart and mind:
"God, I need your grace. I realize I’m a sinner and I believe that your Son Jesus died on the cross to pay for my sins. I commit my life to Jesus right now. I realize I won’t be perfect but I want you to start today creating a masterpiece in my life. Help me to live for you and share your grace with others. In Jesus’ name. Amen."
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