Now I bet some of you hear that, and you say, “Yes! Change. Finally! Let’s open things up. Get rid of this outdated message. Relax the strictness. Then people will come!” “If we just stop close communion, lighten up about sexuality, stop with the men’s and women’s roles, then our church would be full!” Hold on! There’s nothing here about chang-ing God’s Word. What were probably the two most unpopular teachings of Christianity in ancient Greek culture? There is only one God. No sex outside marriage. What two things did God lead those early Christians to insist on? No idols. No sex outside marriage. God’s Word doesn’t change, whether it’s popular or not.
I wonder if we really get this. Being a Christian is not about how well I fulfill all the rules. Because I haven’t! But being a Christian is also not about how free and independent I am from all the rules. Because I’m not! My insistence on my preferences, and your insist-ence on your preferences—whatever they are!—is a dangerous sign that we’re not trust-ing in Jesus for our salvation! You’re not saved by an organ or a piano or a guitar. Not by your language or race or citizenship. Not by your popularity or looks. Not by your family history or how often you come to church. Can you see how those thoughts pull us away from Jesus? Tradition can’t save. Innovation can’t save. Only Jesus saves!
We need Jesus. Just like Peter and Paul and James. The denier. The murderer. The unbeliever. We need Jesus. When Jesus was on earth, whom did he hang out with? Every-body. He ate in the homes of rich Pharisees. He associated with prostitutes and tax collec-tors and “sinners.” Why? To Jesus, there was no difference. Every one of them was a sinner. Every one of them needed him. You can see that on the cross. When Jesus was hanging on the cross, who mocked him? Everybody. From the Pharisees to the thief hanging next to him. There was no difference. Yet, whose sins did he die for? Everyone’s. He promised heaven to the thief. He was buried in a rich believer’s tomb. There was no difference!
The message of Jesus’ grace is the most universal message in the world. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God—all! It doesn’t matter who you are. You can’t ig-nore it. You better not excuse it. You’ve sinned! All are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus—all! It doesn’t matter what the sin is. Jesus died to forgive you! There’s no distinction. No “us” and “them.” Whoever you are sitting by, whoever you see walking around town is equal to you in two important ways: A sinner who needs a Savior. A soul for whom Jesus died. They don’t have to become like us. They need to believe in Jesus’ grace. That’s what’s essential to being a Christian! “We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
If it’s by grace, that means two things for us and our church. First, we want to be people who love Jesus and his Word. There is no other way. There is no other name. There is no other Savior. Every day is a day to lay your sins at the foot of Jesus’ cross. Second, let’s not make it difficult for those who are turning to Jesus. This summer, we’re going to be talking about clearing the roadblocks. We’ll be thinking about these questions: What is the truth from God that can’t change, no matter what our culture says? What are the traditions that need to change so that we don’t get in the way of people coming to Jesus? Let’s not make it difficult for the people who are turning to God.”