DON’T MAKE IT DIFFICULT

We are now entering the countdown to Christmas and much of what we are thinking and doing in our spare time is geared to those few days of family, food, and fun…

As I walk my dog I find it interesting, to say the least, that the homes that were seriously decorated for Hallowe’en are now just as decorated for Christmas
That those who did the Hallowe’en thing are now doing the Christmas thing
And, for many, it is just “a thing” and not, in the least, really connected to the birth of Jesus and the spiritual significance – the eternal difference – that his birth was really all about
But, this I do know, it is a great window of opportunity for those of us who believe to share Jesus and, as we say, “the reason for the season” with each and every person that we meet during the mad rush towards more debt…

But, we need to be intentional in our sharing
We need to not be in a rush when we are out there shopping
We must make time to stop, look people in the eye, and engage them in a decent conversation which includes, if possible, your faith in Jesus and what His birth is really all about
Even when the family gathers … remember to share Jesus
After all, it is our holiday and if they want to be a part of our holiday then I believe that allows us – gives us – an opportunity to share the reason behind the holiday with all the gift giving and the eating
The Christmas season is a prime time to talk about Jesus and why we believe….
There is a verse in the Bible – one we tend to skip over and even forget that we read it – but it has significance when we think about sharing Jesus during this time as we approach the annual celebration of His birth…
Acts 15:19 “It is my judgment that we should not make it difficult for the (people) who are turning to God.”
Jesus’ brother James makes a statement that sums up the feelings of the early church leaders and people
We should not make it difficult for people to turn to God
In this one sound bite, James makes at least four assumptions
1> James assumes that people are turning to God
James simply believes that there are people who want to turn to God
More than that, he is referring to the Gentiles who are turning to God
The term “Gentile” includes the pagans, heathens, uncircumcised, unclean, the dogs
To the early Christians, all of whom came over from the Jewish faith, the Gentiles were the last people they would have ever expected to turn to God
But James admits that people – even people we least expect – are turning to God
Where did James get an assumption like that?
Maybe from Jesus:
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” Matthew 9:37 (NIV)
A scuba diver was enjoying the underwater world 20 feet below the water line when he noticed another man the same depth – but he had no scuba gear at all
The diver went down another 20 feet, but moments later the same guy joined him.
The diver went down another twenty-five feet, but again the other guy showed up!
This confused the scuba diver, so he took out a waterproof chalkboard set and wrote, “How are you able to stay under the water and this deep without any equipment?”
The guy took the chalkboard and wrote, “I’m drowning!”
There are many people out there in our neighbourhoods and where we shop that are drowning
And, many of them, are looking for spiritual answers to real problems in their lives
However, we approach our daily life thinking that people are simply not interested
That they don’t want anything to do with Jesus and the Christian faith
We expect them to not be interested in spiritual solutions to real problems
Many believers have slipped into thinking that everyone is resisting God – but, that is simply not true
Sure, some resist
But, there are people out there who are quietly, if not desperately unsatisfied with their lives
They know there has to be more to life than what they have
They sense an emptiness
They are looking for God
But, we miss them if we don’t expect them – James was expecting people to turn to God
From a passenger ship, everyone can see a bearded man on a small island who is shouting and desperately waving his arms. “Who is it?” A passenger asks the captain. “I have no idea,” the captian admits. “But every year when we pass, he goes nuts.”
Are we missing the people who are spiritually hungry and would turn to Jesus if someone shared their faith with them?
Our verse:
Acts 15:19 “It is my judgment that we should not make it difficult for the (people) who are turning to God.”
Assumption #1- James assumes that people are turning to God
Assumption #2 – James assumes that believers can have a tendency to make it difficult for people to turn to God
In Acts, chapter 15, the barriers the believers had put up dealt with rules and regulations
Acts 15:1-2 (CEV) “Some people came from Judea and started teaching the Lord’s followers that they could not be saved, unless they were circumcised as Moses had taught. This caused trouble, and Paul and Barnabas argued with them about this teaching. So it was decided to send Paul and Barnabas and a few others to Jerusalem to discuss this problem with the apostles and church leaders.”
Some of the Christians at that time were making it much too hard – much too difficult – to become a believer
Behave – Believe – Belong – Become
We saw last week
Belong – Believe – Become – Behave….
Why people say they don’t go to church (informal survey)… making it difficult for people to turn to God
Number 5> The Church is Negative
Ray Johnston (Pastor in San Fransisco – The Bay Area) wrote:
“When you walk into the average church, it is so somber, so lifeless, it makes you want to ask, ‘Who died?’ Not ‘Who lived?’”
It reminds me of a story about a person at an old-fashioned church who actually died during a Sunday service. The paramedics were called. They ended up carrying out five people before finding the one who was actually dead
I have a favourite Christian author – Leonard Sweet – who also teaches at a Christian university…
Speaking of his experience: “When I was seventeen I de-converted from Christianity. Some people can give the date and time and place of their conversion. I can give the place (Sarasota Springs, New York), date (Pine Grove summer camp meeting), and time (Sunday morning’s ‘Big Preaching’ service during the altar-call hymn, ‘Softly and Tenderly’) of my de-conversion… What ignited my de-conversion was the church’s funeral spirit, its fussy-buttoned-up-ness. Christians’ stay-at-home-and-pickle-in-their-own-juices personalities, their vinegary countenances drained me emotionally, incapacitated me intellectually, and shut me down spiritually. The best I could say  was this: by and large, Christians were kind people in a bad mood.”
“The best argument for Christianity is Christians: their joy, their certainty, their completeness. But the strongest argument against Christianity is also Christians – when they are somber and joyless, when they are self-righteous and smug in complacent consecration, when they are narrow and repressive, then Christianity dies a thousand deaths.”  Sheldon Vanauken
Number 4> The sermons are long and boring
It has been said: “There is a thin line between a long church service and a hostage situation.”
Did you hear about the man who got up during the pastor’s sermon, left, then came back right before it ended. “Where did you go during the sermon?” The pastor asked. “I went to get a haircut,” the man admitted. “Why didn’t you get a haircut before the sermon? The pastor demanded. The man concluded, “Before the sermon I didn’t need a haircut.”
TED Talks are 18 minutes or less … Carmine Gallo states:
“The longer the presentation, the more the listener has to organize, comprehend, and remember. The burden increases along with the listener’s anxiety. They become increasingly frustrated, even angry.”
Albert Einstein: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
Assumption #1- James assumes that people are turning to God
Assumption #2 – James assumes that believers can have a tendency to make it difficult for people to turn to God
The Church is negative
The sermons are long and boring
Number 3> All the church wants is my money
An airplane was headed for a crash landing. Everyone was panicking, when the flight attendant turned to a passenger and screamed, “You’re a pastor … do something religious!” So, he took an offering.
The church has the reputation of being money-hungry and taking long offerings
Number 2> Everyone is a hypocrite
The definition of a hypocrite isn’t someone who makes mistakes
That’s the definition of a human being
The definition of a hypocrite is someone who makes mistakes, yet pretends to be perfect
That is more common than it ought to be among Christians
A little boy came running into the living room, “Mommy, Mommy,” he gasped. “I found a mouse out in the garage, so I took a broom and smacked him in the head with it. Then I whacked him up against the wall, and then I golfed him against the other wall…” Just then the boy realized that the pastor of his church was there talking to his mom. So the boy changed his tune and concluded, “And then the Lord called him home.”
Many believers act like they are perfect and have it all together
When nothing could be further from the truth
So, non-believers don’t attend or join because they are not good enough
This is he whole issue of “belong” before you believe
Number 1> Church is irrelevant
Many see church as a waste of time, a ritual that does not make any difference
The music is out of date
The programs are out of tune
The sermons are out of touch with the real world
The newly appointed pastor announced to the old, traditional congregation in his first sermon, “It is my goal to bring this church into the twentieth century!” Someone from the back row yelled, “Don’t you mean the twenty-first century?” The pastor replied, “We’ll take it one century at a time.”
Assumption #2 – James assumes that believers can have a tendency to make it difficult for people to turn to God
The Church is negative
The sermons are long and boring
All the church wants is my money
Everyone is a hypocrite
Church is irrelevant
Who we look at these top reasons why people don’t go to church we see that people are not rejecting God as much as the packaging that we have put him in.
People are not saying they don’t want to turn to God and believe
They are saying that church people might be making it difficult for them to turn to God
Our verse:
Acts 15:19 “It is my judgment that we should not make it difficult for the (people) who are turning to God.”
Assumption #1- James assumes that people are turning to God
Assumption #2 – James assumes that believers can have a tendency to make it difficult for people to turn to God
Assumption #3 – James assumes it is not difficult to turn to God
Peter says, “So turn to God! Give up your sins, and you will be forgiven.”  (Acts 3:19 (CEV)
Jesus said, ““Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”  Matthew 11:28-19 (NLT)
As easy as A-B-C…
A – Admit I have fallen short of God’s plan for my life and I need a Saviour; I need to turn to God
B – Believe that Jesus is the Saviour – He came to earth; lived a perfect life as our example; went to the cross and died to pay the penalty for my sins; and rose again from the dead to prove it. God is there, waiting for me to turn to Him.
C – Commit to following Him the best I can with His help for the rest of my life. Choose to follow His plan and purpose for my life
Many have not turned to God because they believe it is way more complicated than it truly is
Our verse:
Acts 15:19 “It is my judgment that we should not make it difficult for the (people) who are turning to God.”
Assumption #1- James assumes that people are turning to God
Assumption #2 – James assumes that believers can have a tendency to make it difficult for people to turn to God
Assumption #3 – James assumes it is not difficult to turn to God
4> The fourth assumption James makes in Acts 15:19 – he assumes that we can make a difference
James assumes that what the early church people did – and what we do – actually makes a big difference in the lives of others
Teenager Matthew Boys decided to practice his golf swing on a field next to an air base in the country of Benin, Africa
He took one swing and sliced his shot way off to his right. The golfball struck a low-flying sea gull and knocked it unconscious.
As the sea gull started to fall towards the ground it slammed into the windshileld of a trainer jet that was taxiing into position for takeoff.
The impact of the bird caused the pilot to lose control of his aircraft, which then plowed into four shiny Mirage jets that were parked along the runway. The trainer jet and the Mirage jets were all greatly damaged or destroyed. Unfortunately, the entire air force of Benin, Africa consisted of that trainer and those four Mirage jets.
Matthew Boys did over $40 million worth of damage, and that was in 1987 dollars.
Think of the impact that you and I can make.
Assumption #1- James assumes that people are turning to God
Assumption #2 – James assumes that believers can have a tendency to make it difficult for people to turn to God
Assumption #3 – James assumes it is not difficult to turn to God
Assumption #4 – James assumes that we can make a difference
Jesus said: “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:37-38)
We need to be planning for more house churches because ‘people are turning to God’
The key question:
Is the expectation that people are turning to God actually a part of my every day life as a disciple?
As You go about your daily life…
IN LIGHT OF Assumption #2 – James assumes that believers can have a tendency to make it difficult for people to turn to God
The Church is negative
The sermons are long and boring
All the church wants is my money
Everyone is a hypocrite
Church is irrelevant
The big challenge:
Come up with at least one other reason other than the top five I explained as to why people may not be attending church