"What Good Is Organized Religion?"
What good is "organized religion" in a world where individuality is so important? What does the church of Jesus offer to a world that wants everything?
What Good is Organized Religion?
A. Thank you for being with us today. If you visiting today, let me say that you are not simply our guest, but a guest of God, in whom we want to serve and show. In doing that we want to seek to be honest about two very important questions. In our last hour we talked about “Why does a good God allow pain and suffering?” While that question may not have been answered fully in your mind, we hope it at least sparked some ways to think.
B. For a few minutes this morning, I want to look at a second important question, “What good is organized religion?” This question is asked by many people who have a deep faith in God and a sincerely love for Jesus. The question is often asked by people who have experienced some sort of hurt from a religious group claiming to be people of God. If that is where you are coming from, let me start by affirming your hurt that God’s people need to be people who follow the teachings of Jesus and his apostles, and not seeking to manipulate others into some action that is not God ordained.
C. The history of Christianity is open for all to see. The Christian community is made up of genuine believers who don’t always see eye-to-eye with each other and are often at odds with the a secular world-view. That alone can cause people to turn away from the church and simply follow their own private beliefs. But I would like to share with you some reasons as to why “organized religion” is more than simply a place where people want your money and tell you what you are to do/not do, what to believe/not believe.
I. The Church and Jesus are the Same
A. In the passage read to you a moment ago, we heard Jesus asking his disciple who other people thought him to be. That really is a great question for people to consider. Many people today think of Jesus as a myth, or maybe a religious teacher of the Jews or even a prophet that started a religion.
B. But the bigger question is who do say that Jesus is? You may wonder why this is important to our question about organized religion. But give yourself an answer. Who is Jesus to you? Some here would say that Jesus is their personal savior. That Jesus died for their sins upon a cross and rose up from the dead to conquer sin and death once for all time. That’s a great answer and one that I wholeheartedly agree with. But I want to take it step farther.
C. Jesus told his disciples that upon the confession that Jesus was who he said he was “the Son of God” or the “living manifestation of God,” that he was going to build what we call “his church.” The word that is used is simply a word that defines a group of people who are different from others. It is a word that describes people as “called,” or more literally, “called out.” Jesus then binds this group of believers in him together and we use the term “church.”
D. What I want you to understand is the church is Jesus, and Jesus is the church so from a Bible point of view, you really can’t have one without the other. The church becomes the visible body of God in this world to the community in which we live. So every Christian is a part of the church because every Christian is a part of the body of Christ. Jesus is the head of the church which is his body.
II. Organized Religion
A. That may not be the answer you came to hear, but it is the answer that Jesus gives. Now let’s take a few minutes to examine “organized religion.” There are so many different denominations out there and they all claim to be “the church.” Most all of them claim that Jesus is their founder. So why so many and how does one choose which one to identify with?
B. Let’s start with what we have already learned. The church belongs to Jesus, so the first thing we are going to have to do is find a church that teaches what Jesus taught and not simply man’s interpretation of what Jesus taught. For some churches today, public appeal is more important and God’s absolutes.
C. Some try to find ways around passages that to the reader seem clear and easy to understand, but some churches seek to change the understanding. Paul warned Timothy of such a practice (READ 2 Tim. 4:3-4). My job is to teach the word of God. It is not easy, because I want some things different, but I come back to where we began, the church belongs to and is Jesus, so I don’t have a right to change what has been given. Organized religion gets a bad rap for different reasons. One is some try to take man’s interpretation and places burdens upon people that God didn’t. A second is some hold to God teachings when society want to say “sin is okay as long as you are nice.” God calls us to discipleship not people pleasing. When you find a church that holds to God’s truth and does so with God’s love then you’ll find a church that belongs to Christ.
III. What’s Good About Organized Religion
A. So the church belongs to Christ, I am called to discipleship and worshipping with people who walk according to God’s teachings, but is there more in this life than just a “good afterlife?” The answer is yes.
B. Jesus said (READ John 10:10). That abundant life is now, in the visible kingdom we call the church as well as in the kingdom we call eternal life. Think of the good that comes from being a part of church which belongs to Christ.
C. The local congregation is where we as individuals receive our greatest blessing in this life. When the church first began it was more than just something exciting and new, it was life-changing. (READ Acts 2:41-47).
D. Consider what happened here. The local congregation becomes the place where you can grow spiritually. There is not one person here that is so knowledgeable that they don’t need others to help them apply God’s truth to their life. You want to know what is right about the church? It is great for others to walk with me and help me keep in step with the Spirit of God, to help me live out God’s love and grace and hold me accountable.
E. The local church is where you receive deep fellowship. I will take that even a step farther, it where you find real family. I have a great physical family who loves me, but there are not in Pittsburgh. While I know they would do many things for me, the church becomes the family that walks with me through good days and bad. It rejoices with me when good things happens, and cries with me when I am suffering some pain.
F. A third thing we see is that of worship. They devoted themselves to the “breaking of bread.” That is what many churches call Holy Communion, Eucharist, or the Lord’s Supper. We all just did that a few moments ago, but the context is more than a memorial, is a call to worship. It is place of like-minded believers that want Jesus to fill their lives and love to worship Him. Sunday is my favorite day of the week because it’s a family reunion for me and a time when my spiritual family joins with me before God’s throne.
G. The last thing we read is about praying. For many people prayer is very private. But there is something special that happens when Christians pray together. They share their heart with each other before God. They share their struggles and the triumphs. Pray is not just talking to God, but listen to God. That may seem strange, but when we pray we open ourselves up to receive God’s wisdom.
A. So why should I look for a church when I already have a personal relationship with God? First, because He has already placed me in His church. Second, because I need to make sure I understand God’s truth and not just my own will and personal desire. Third, the local church is a place where I can find fellowship and family. Fourth, I get to worship with other believers and my heart is always filled when that happens. And last, it is a place where real intimacy can take place in activities like prayer.
B. Are we perfect in all these areas? No. But we can offer a family that will encourage you to become more than what you are right now. Would you like to know more?