We’re kicking of a brand new series called DNA. As we launch in our new location under our new name Connect Christian Church, we need to start by remembering why all this has happened.
Why have we relocated, rebranded, renamed, and relaunched? It’s because we know who we are and what God has called us to do. And as we kick things off, we’re going to spend the next four weeks talking about our DNA as followers of Jesus.
DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid. It is one of the most astonishing things in all creation. If your DNA was to be stretched out, it would go from the earth to the moon and back 6,000 times!
DNA is the fundamental building block for an individual’s entire genetic makeup. To put it simply, your DNA contains the information that makes you who you are.
For the next four weeks, we’re going to explore what makes up the DNA of our church. We’re going to talk about what is in the DNA of someone who follows Jesus.
We’re going to be in the New Testament book of 1 John for this entire series.
1 John is one of the letters that the Apostle John wrote near the end of his life. He was probably the last surviving apostle. The apostles were the people who had followed Jesus and who were now charged with launching His church.
John was an old man when he wrote the letter that we know as 1 John. This letter really reveals the DNA of someone who has followed Jesus for most of his life…and it shows us what goes into our DNA makeup as well.
The first thing we’re going to see in this series is that we are a movement. Most people think of the church more as a museum than a movement.
Nicki and I went to a museum this past week. We went to the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at the MuseumCenter. We also got to see the oldest existing copy of the Ten Commandments. This fragment is over 3,000 years old. It is almost always kept in Israel in complete darkness to protect it, so this definitely was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see this artifact.
But the problem that I see is that people have come to view the church today in the same category as that Ten Commandments parchment. An artifact. An example of what used to be. A historical relic.
God has not called His church to be a museum. He has called us to be a movement. A movement that remembers what He has done in the past, but also helps connect people to what He’s doing today.
That’s where we’re going to begin as Connect Christian Church takes flight today. Let me pray for us and we’ll get started.
“I don’t go to church because the church is full of hypocrites.”
Anybody ever heard that before? Anybody ever said that before?
Maybe you said that this morning as your spouse dragged you over here. Maybe you heard, “Hey, this church is starting at the Holiday Inn today? I think we should at least go check out it.”
And you responded, “Why would I want to do that? The church is just full of hypocrites.”
If that’s you, I want to tell you two things.
First of all, welcome. We’re so glad you’re here. We really, really are.
And secondly, you’re right. The church is full of hypocrites. You are absolutely right.
But here’s something you also need to know about our church. We don’t deny this truth. We admit it. We own it. We embrace it.
Our church is filled with hypocrites. A hypocrite is a person who claims to believe one thing, but then does something completely different. And that’s us. We claim to believe that God wants us to live holy lives, but we struggle. We stumble. We sin.
And that makes us hypocrites.
So let’s just get this out of the way. If you have ever said, “The church is full of hypocrites,” our answer to you is, “You’re absolutely right, and there’s always room for one more!”
Let’s get into our text. In 1 John 2, John said, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2, NIV)
One of the reasons I love the way John wrote is because he kept things so simple. His reason for writing is simple. So we would not sin.
God has a certain standard that He has called His people to live by. That standard is laid out for us in the Bible.
That’s why John wrote this letter. He wrote it so that we would not sin. Sin is a big deal. Disobeying God who loves us so much and who wants what is best for us is a big deal. Our culture may trivialize it, but we never will. It’s a big deal.
But then, John is also very quick to acknowledge that even though we are called to live a life free of sin, that just isn’t going to happen. So instead of belaboring the point of “do not sin,” John quickly shifts to “but if anybody does sin.”
He knows it’s going to happen. But it seems like a lot of people in the church today want to ignore this truth.
There is a move to redefine sin. To move the goalposts on what is actually spelled out in the Bible. To explain away what we clearly see in Scripture.
We are not a church that will do that. In our church, you will hear the truth of Scripture. Even when it’s hard. Even when it’s not popular. Even when it’s uncomfortable. Sin gets defined by Scripture, not by culture.
But then, there’s another move in the church that isn’t as much about redefining sin as it is about just ignoring certain sins. It’s really easy to talk about the sins that I don’t struggle with. It’s really easy to skim over the sins in my life and just hammer on the sins in your life.
Our church won’t do that, either. We’ll talk about sins that we actually struggle with. Sins that have no place in our lives, but somehow, in some way, they are still there.
The word that sums this up best is authenticity. We are a movement of authenticity.
The sad thing is that when most people think of the church, the word “authenticity” is not high on their list. Judgmental. Critical. Condemning. Holier-Than-Thou. That’s the church in their eyes. But authentic…not really.
Our church is a movement to get back to what the church was when it began. An authentic movement of God. But to be an authentic movement, we have to be authentic about who we are. And who we are is a bunch of messed up, screwed up, broken people.
In other words, we are all sinners. Earlier in his letter, John wrote, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8, NIV)
That’s pretty clear about who we are. And it’s the dirty little secret that a lot of churches don’t want to talk about…but we’re going to talk about it.
The dirty little secret is that if we claim to be without sin, we are liars. The dirty little secret is not that we did sin. It’s that we do sin. The dirty little secret is that we know what God wants from us, but we still do the opposite. The dirty little secret is that we’re all hypocrites.
So, if that’s what this church is all about, then why even bother? If this church is full of sinners and hypocrites, why do I need to be here? I can sin very well on my own, thank you very much.
Let’s go back to what John said in our main text. “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2, NIV)
If anybody does sin, we have an advocate. A defense attorney. Someone to argue on our behalf. Jesus Christ.
Our church is an authentic movement. We freely admit our own sin. We don’t brag about it. We’re not proud of it. But we do own it. We do admit it. We are sinners just like everyone else, except for one key difference. And it’s a big, big difference.
The difference between sinners inside the church and sinners outside the church can be summed up in one word: Jesus.
Our church is made up of sinners who have connected to Jesus. We still miss the mark. We’re better than we used to be. God is changing us from the inside out. But we still struggle. We still fail. We still sin.
But when we do, here’s what happens. Jesus takes over.
Jesus died on a cross to pay the price for our sin. That’s what John means when he says that Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Sin requires punishment, but Jesus took our punishment for us when He died on the cross. He paid for our sin with His life. And then three days later, He rose back to life. And His resurrection to life gives us a new life. That means that our sin is atoned for, which means the price has been paid in full.
And now, Jesus Christ is our advocate. Every time we sin, every time we miss the mark, Jesus stands before the Father arguing on our behalf.
Every time we sin…every single time…Jesus tells the Father, “I died for that sin. I paid the price for that sin.”
And the Father declares us, “Not guilty!”
It’s called grace.
In a 2005 interview, Bono from U2 said, “At the center of all religions is the idea of karma. What you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics, every action is met by an equal and opposite one….and yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that…stuff.
Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff… I’d be in big trouble if karma was going to finally be my judge. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.”
Grace doesn’t depend on our own religiosity. Grace doesn’t depend on our ability to keep the rules. Grace doesn’t require us to be perfect.
Grace simply depends on Jesus. Grace depends on the righteousness of Christ, not the righteousness of ourselves. Grace depends on the work that Jesus did on the cross, not the work we do in our lives. Grace is always and only about Jesus.
In Romans 8, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2, NIV)
If you are connected to Christ, how much condemnation is left for you? None. There is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Satan may condemn you, but God doesn’t. Other people may condemn you, but God doesn’t. You may condemn yourself, but God doesn’t.
In grace, you are not condemned. You are free! Jesus has set you free from sin and death. You now live a life defined by grace. Defined by freedom. Defined by Jesus.
Why do you need the church if it’s just full of sinful hypocrites? Because it’s full of sinful hypocrites who can help connect you to Jesus. And Jesus alone can set you free.
That’s why we are a movement of authentic connection. The name of our church says as much. We exist to connect people to Jesus. And we want that connection to be authentic. Real. Not fake. Not some phony-baloney religion. We exist to help people develop an authentic connection with Jesus.
If you have never been to church in your life, we want to help connect you to Jesus.
If you’ve been part of the church your entire life, we want to help you connect with Jesus. It’s amazing how some people can go to church their entire lives and never meet Jesus. They meet tradition. They meet legalism. They meet dogma. But they never meet Jesus.
Our church is all about this one simple purpose…we want you to connect with Jesus.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a die-hard Reds fan. For me, Opening Day is second only to Christmas. I’m not a casual fan. I’m die-hard.
And I’m trying to raise my boys that way. After all, the book of Proverbs says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6, KJV)
That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to raise a couple of die-hard Reds fans. And my boys know this.
At one point last year, our oldest son, Ryan, decided that he was going to pretend to be a Cardinals fan. He thought it would be a really funny joke. He didn’t think it was funny when I made him sleep in the garage, though.
But any sports fan will understand what I’m saying. If you have a team that love, you want the people that you love to make an authentic connection with that team.
Here are the two things that you need to know about our church. We love you. We really do. We are a church that is built on the foundation of love God and love people.
And that means that your sin doesn’t scare us. Nothing that is going on in your life is going to make us walk away from you. If things are a mess, we’ll walk through the mess with you.
We love you. That’s the first thing you need to know.
Here’s the second. We are die-hard Team Jesus. We’re not just fans. We’re way beyond that. We live, eat, and breathe Jesus. We are all about Jesus. We can’t talk about Him enough because He is the only hope that we have.
And when you combine these two things…we love you and we are Team Jesus…here’s what you get.
We desperately want to help you develop an authentic connection to Jesus.
We are not good enough. But Jesus is good enough.
We are about a million miles away from perfect. But Jesus is perfect.
We could never do anything about our sin. But Jesus paid the price for our sin. All of it.
We could never spend all eternity with God on our own. But because of what Jesus has done for us, we have the promise of a new life here and eternal life with God.
It’s hardwired into our DNA, and we’ve just got to keep telling that story.
Go back to what John said again. “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2, NIV)
Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. His death is the sin payment for everyone. Every race. Every culture. Man. Woman. Everyone. Including you.
If you want a church that will tell you that you’re okay…if you want a church to make you feel good about yourself…if you want a church to preach a message of self-esteem and self-actualization…then this probably isn’t the church for you.
But if you want a church that is raw, real, and authentic, welcome home. We’ll tell you up front…you’re a sinner. You’ve messed things up in every conceivable way. But so have we. The only difference is that we’ve found Someone who can do something about that and we’d love to introduce you to Him. His Name is Jesus.
And if you’re still skeptical, let me just lay this down as transparently and authentically as I can.
I’m the pastor of this church, and I disgust myself sometimes. The thoughts that run through my head. The words that come out of my mouth. The things that I do. The things that I don’t do. I absolutely disgust myself sometimes. I’m not kidding.
But then there are other times when I can see how Jesus has really changed me. There are times when I react to a situation in a way where I can see a glimpse of what God is really changing me into. I’m far from perfect…but I’m also far from who I used to be.
I live in the tension. I live in the middle. I’m a messy mixture of saint and sinner. Saint sometimes. Sinner far more often than I’d like to admit. I’m caught in this messy place between who I am and who God is changing me into. And I’m a pastor!
But I’m not a pastor because I’m that good. I’m a pastor because my God is that good and I want to introduce everyone to Him. I can’t set anybody free, but my God can set everybody free. And I’ve given my life to telling His story of freedom and grace.
It’s what our church is all about. And if you don’t believe me, talk to the people of our church. They’ll tell you better than I ever could.
Talk to Jamin & Julie, who will tell you that our church saved their family.
Talk to Tish, who said that her family was as dry as a desert until they found our church.
Talk to Bryce, who will tell you that our church has been instrumental in helping him beat his drug addiction.
Talk to Aaron & Tina, who were so burnt by previous church experiences that they came to our church trying to hate it. Instead, they found healing for the old wounds and new life.
Talk to all the different people who have come to faith in Christ and have been baptized in the last few months. Ask them what kind of difference the church has made in their lives.
I could go all day on this. These are just a few examples of how God is using our church to change lives. We aren’t perfect. We’ve talked about that all morning. But we are a work in progress. We are being changed. We are forgiven. We are free.
We are all of those things because we are the church. Jesus died for us. He rose for us. And one day He’s coming back for us. We are His church.