A message text from Melvin Gaines for Sunday, August 24, 2014:
One of our local churches uses the slogan, “Come as you are, but you won’t stay as you are.” More than likely, it’s not a copyrighted tag line for churches, but ideally, it’s the slogan that all churches would use to give people a true picture of what God desires for a person who visits and joins a church–a new life through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
A church building is more than just a gathering place. It’s more than just a fellowship hall. It is where a person goes to learn about God, and even more specifically, the fulfillment of recognizing the need to have a Savior in Jesus Christ. In order to get to know Jesus, there must be a change in the person who is seeking Him. The changed life is the evidence of a believer in Jesus Christ, and it is a life changing moment.
A church experience varies between people in the same way that no two people are the same. Different people do and see different things in ways that suit them—in other words, “different strokes for different folks.”
For many people, change of any kind may be very difficult.
And finally, let’s add a definitive statement about people and change…
Change in following Jesus Christ is especially difficult for people because of their fleshly desires.
When we come to church, more often than not, we are arriving in the flesh. We show up after going a few rounds with Satan and his band of robbers, and we can be battle-weary over all of the scuffling that takes place. Some of us may not show up at all; however, it is helpful when we decide it’s best to tough it out and come to church because we need a change of scenery. A church should always be a place of rest to help us get back to where we were before we were under attack. It is always a good idea to get back to the place of rest and peace under Jesus Christ, even if it means you have to drag yourself there with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Some will come to church to not change anything at all but their scenery. They come for all of the wrong reasons or motives, and are only looking for self-edification, self-gratification and attention. They come as they are, and they will stay as they are. How long they stay depends upon the people they fellowship with and any relationship development.
Scripture gives an important reminder that change is a requirement for a person who desires to have a strong fellowship with Jesus Christ…whether as a new believer or as a seasoned believer.
In order to experience a genuine change, a person needs to acknowledge their sin and be honest about it.
1 John 1:5-10
5 Now this is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him. 6 If we say, “We have fellowship with Him,” yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say, “We don’t have any sin,” we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
The truth sets each person free (John 8:31-32), and it applies to new and seasoned believers alike.
Next, we need to live a life that avoids sin and cling to Jesus in order that sin repels from us.
Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.
Romans 6:1-4, 12-14, 22-23
1 What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? 2 Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life.
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires. 13 And do not offer any parts of it to sin as weapons for unrighteousness. But as those who are alive from the dead, offer yourselves to God, and all the parts of yourselves to God as weapons for righteousness. 14 For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under law but under grace.
22 But now, since you have been liberated from sin and have become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification—and the end is eternal life! 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The danger for a believer in Christ is to fail to allow the Spirit to overcome your fleshly desires. Just going to church, in itself, is not going to guarantee that you will remain in fellowship with Jesus Christ. Your flesh will see to that.
Come as you are, and keep seeking Jesus Christ in order to keep from going back to where you were.
In order for a visitor to a church to feel comfortable, the existing church environment must be “visitor-friendly” in order to be seen as “second-visit-friendly” or “third-time’s-the-charm-friendly” and even be deemed as “I’ll-invite-my-friends-and-family-friendly.” The key element is that a church is seen as “visitor-friendly” first to allow for the “come as you are” phrase to be applicable for any person who gives the church a test drive.
Churches that are not “visitor-friendly” will eventually fade to black. Failing to attract visitors creates the additional dilemma for a church that is hypersensitive to numbers and growth.
The foundational strength behind “come as you are–you won’t stay as you are” is the uncompromising message of God’s Word. The church visitor may or may not be ready to make a change on the first visit, but it is very important for the church to have a consistent theme from every message that provides clear direction of God’s truth, and not from some philosophical perspective that “tickles the ears.”
5 “Lord,” Thomas said, “we don’t know where You’re going. How can we know the way?”
6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak whatever He hears. He will also declare to you what is to come.
Jesus, in His prayer for His disciples, said, “sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth. (John 17:17)
2 Timothy 3:16-17
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ.
2 Timothy 4:2-4
2 Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new. 4 They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths.
Paul penned a letter to the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians) about the issue of people in the church going back to where they were instead of remaining strong in the faith. Paul knew the people of the church of Corinth very well because he was a major planter of the church. What he had seen when he left the church in comparison to what he had heard in reports was very distressing to him. There were reports of fighting, members suing one another, sexual immorality being permitted within the congregation if not outright acted upon by members, and all of it was based upon one very important issue—pridefulness. Pridefulness and arrogance, however, are ungodly and never accomplish anything in the long run for anyone’s good.
Pride comes before destruction,
and an arrogant spirit before a fall.
For if anyone considers himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
The ongoing discord in the Corinthian church created an environment of a lack of clarity within the church, and as a result, there were people who wound up going back to where they were before they acknowledged Christ.
Just imagine the effect this can have on a new believer in Jesus Christ.
Come as you are, and you’ll see how to remain where you are (that is, in the flesh) in a church that is not closely following Jesus Christ.
1 John 2:15-16
Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. 16 For everything that belongs to the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle—is not from the Father, but is from the world.
2 Timothy 3:1-5
1 But know this: Difficult times will come in the last days. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, 4 traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to the form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid these people!
Here is where the church needs to acknowledge some very important facts about its existence and its responsibilities:
- A church is made up of human beings who blow it from time to time (Romans 3:23)
…as it is written:
There is no one righteous, not even one.
- A church is made up of people who should be less hypocritical and more humble.
1 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples: 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees are seated in the chair of Moses. 3 Therefore do whatever they tell you, and observe it. But don’t do what they do, because they don’t practice what they teach. 4 They tie up heavy loads that are hard to carry and put them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves aren’t willing to lift a finger to move them. 5 They do everything to be observed by others: They enlarge their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. 6 They love the place of honor at banquets, the front seats in the synagogues, 7 greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by people.
8 “But as for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi,’ because you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 Do not call anyone on earth your father, because you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 And do not be called masters either, because you have one Master, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
- A church is to demonstrate change in the life of believers as “sinners saved by grace” and as “saints indwelled by the Spirit of God.”
8 For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— 9 not from works, so that no one can boast.
15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. 17 He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive Him because it doesn’t see Him or know Him. But you do know Him, because He remains with you and will be in you.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
19 Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.
What you see here is the unity of the church body at its finest. Change in the life of a visitor and change within the body to remain focused on the power of the Holy Spirit in Jesus Christ. There is strength in unity within the body of Christ.
Paul shared the same concerns to a non-unified Corinthian church:
1 Corinthians 1:10
Now I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, that there be no divisions among you, and that you be united with the same understanding and the same conviction.
12 Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, 13 accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. 14 Above all, put on love—the perfect bond of unity. 15 And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful. 16 Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Finally, a person who sincerely seeks Jesus Christ in humility will express a true repentance. Come as you are, but you won’t stay as you are.
2 Chronicles 7:14
…and My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.
1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
31 Jesus replied to them, “The healthy don’t need a doctor, but the sick do. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
- True repentance means a changed life in Jesus Christ.
- True repentance in a person will emulate the fruits of the Holy Spirit in words, deeds and actions.
- True repentance means that a person comes as they are, but does not stay where they were.
In order to come under the authority of Christ, the church must be of one mind and one spirit–in humility, repentance and obedience of Jesus Christ.
Come as you are, but you won’t stay as you are.
Copyright © Melvin Gaines