Lies we tell ourselves about the church:
We need to get busy
What lies do you believe about the church? Things like, “We need to grow the church. As long as we keep doing good things, the church will grow. It’s the pastor’s job.” Over the next month, we’re going to look at the early church and see what they thought of these statements. We’re going to see how they dealt with the lies. We’re going to then apply their answer to our situation today. And we’re going to confront the lies in our own lives. It might make you a little uncomfortable. It might strike a little close to home. I hope it does. I hope this gives you a chance to reflect on how you approach this thing called “church.” I hope you grow as you consider all the many ways in which you have been lied to and how those lies have seeped into your life. I hope it draws you closer to the one who has saved you from those lies and freed you to worship Him joyfully.
Today, we’re going to take a look at a lie that is very dangerous for us here at St. Luke’s. You’ve even heard it spoken here. I’ve fallen for it. “We need to get busy if we’re going to survive!” It’s easy to fall into this lie. It would have been easy for the apostles to fall into this lie. I want you to picture the situation: It’s about forty-three days after Easter. Last Thursday, Jesus ascended into heaven. He retook his throne. And now there’s about a hundred and twenty believers left. If they’re going to survive, they need to get busy! But what did they do? Let’s take a look.
In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus— he was one of our number and shared in this ministry.”
“For,” said Peter, “it is written in the book of Psalms, “ ‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’and, “ ‘May another take his place of leadership.’ Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”
So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.”Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.
The disciples knew they had to tell others about Jesus, but they didn’t get busy. They set themselves up so they could do it well. First they identified a need. Peter stood up and said, “Hey, guys, Jesus set aside twelve of us as apostles. And now there’s only eleven. We should take a look at getting a twelfth apostle again.”
Then the very next thing they did after identifying the need was… search Scripture. Did you hear how well Peter knew the Bible? “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the book of Psalms, “ ‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’and, “ ‘May another take his place of leadership.’ And please note, this is before Pentecost. He’s not supercharged by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit right now.
The first thing Peter did was check to see what the Bible said about the situation. He points out, “Look, the prophecy says that no one’s going to take Judas’s home and dwell there. But, someone else needs to take the position he had.” Isn’t it interesting that Peter’s reaction to Jesus’ ascension isn’t panic? He doesn’t spring into action. Instead, he turns to God’s Word. He trusts that it says what it means and it means what it says. So, he goes and sees what it says.
And then Peter applied the Word to his situation. “Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”
He used his human wisdom guided by biblical truth to apply the Word. “All right. We know someone needs to take the same position. The position of an apostle. What does that mean? Well, all the apostles saw John the Baptizer doing his thing. And we all saw Jesus alive. And we all saw him ascend into heaven. The new guy needs to have been with us that long. And we know this person is going to be a leader. What does God demand of leaders? They need to be above reproach. What else? God set up the family and his people so the man was the head. We need to stay consistent with that. So I’m going to apply Scripture to our situation when it says leaders in the church need to be men.”
Peter doesn’t go off half-cocked. He makes sure that he’s investigated what the Bible says and applies it to the current situation. He’s not getting busy to get things done; he’s checking to make sure the right things get done first. He trusts that the Bible talks to him and his situation. It’s not just a book. It wasn’t just for Sunday morning. It was for this very real and specific situation.
And now, having searched God’s Word, they trust God for the answer. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.”They didn’t run a popularity contest. They didn’t even vote. They yielded to God. And they trusted that God would give the best answer. Did you see how they made their decision? They cast lots! They had a bunch of twigs and hid their lengths. Whoever pulled out the marked twig was the chosen one. They trusted God to guide that outcome to be the best outcome. They weren’t challenging God or testing him. They trusted that God would do the right thing.
And once they had their answer… they accepted it. The lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.And we don’t hear anything about Justus screaming, “Unfair!” We don’t hear anyone leaving the church over their friend not being chosen to be an apostle. We don’t hear about anyone being disappointed. The decision came from God, and they accepted that.
After the ascension, the disciples didn’t get busy. They saw a need. They searched Scripture for an answer to that need. They applied the Word to their situation. They trusted God for the answer. They accepted the answer.
Now, what about us? At St. Luke’s we see the need to get busy. In the last year, we opened a childcare. How many of us looked into God’s Word to see what it said? Or did we just assume that we had to use the building for something, so slam something in there? I have to admit, I was swept away. We never looked at God’s Word concerning a child care in church council. No meeting I went to searched God’s Word for wisdom on this particular subject. And that includes the voters’ meeting that involved all of us. And that’s a problem. We thought we knew best and we acted. That’s incredibly arrogant of us. Now I confess to you: I was wrong. I should have slowed down and searched God’s Word first. We didn’t make a wrong choice, but how we made it was wrong. Let’s confess that sin of thinking we know it all already without consulting God’s Word. And let’s repent of that sin and not commit it again. Before we act… we need to go into God’s Word. We need to see what he says.
Or are you so arrogant to think that God’s Word doesn’t apply to you and your life? Or to the life of the church?
Let me give you an example of what this looks like. Let’s say that you’ve been offered a new job. The job is in Utah. Now, it would be very easy to look at just financial things. The job pays higher and is more stable than your current job. Sure, you’re going to miss friends and family, but with phone and internet, you won’t be that far away. But wait! What does the Bible say about moving? Is there anything there to consider? Hebrews says, “Let us not give up meeting together.” The Psalms urge us over and over again to worship with other believers. So, one of the things we need to look at: If we move, will we be able to continue to worship with other believers?
You look and you find out: The nearest WELS church is a hundred miles away.
All right. What are your options? Should you just stop going to church? No! We saw that the Bible says we should continue meeting together! If we don’t, we’re putting our faith at risk – and with that our own eternal life, and that of our family!
All right. Should we attend a different church? God’s Word says: Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation (I Peter 2:2), not mixed up with the poison of false doctrine. So we can look at the churches that are there and investigate to see if any of them do teach God’s Word in its truth and purity. But why should we do that? Why not make the drive? You want to be good stewards of your money. That’s a laudable goal. But you should also be good stewards of your souls. You’re making extra money, and even if you weren’t, what’s more important to you: your soul, or money for gas? What’s more important to God?
Or, looking at the spiritual reality out there, you have the option of deciding to stay here and say no to the job. But then you worry: if you stay here, will you have enough to feed your family? Go back to God’s Word. What does it say? “Seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things – food and drink and clothing – will be given to you as well.” And we see in God’s good promise that we have nothing to worry about. Nothing at all.
So you got a job offer. You could have gotten busy with all the planning… but first, you look to God’s Word and it guides you in your decision. You know that you can say no to the job and still be taken care of. You also know that if you say yes, it means some work on your part, either driving the distance, say, twice a month, or real work of seeing what churches really teach. But you spent time in God’s Word, seeing what God says, and then you applied it to your situation. Once you’ve applied it, then you can take action!
You’re going to have a hard time doing that, though. You see, the Devil wants to keep us busy. If we’re busy, we’ll never take the time to read God’s Word. And that brings Satan so much glee. Keep them busy, and they’ll never listen to God. Today, now, confess your sin. Confess your sin of thinking you need to be busy. Turn away from your busyness. Instead, hear what God’s Word says:
Jesus was not too busy for you. He’s the God of the universe. He rules all of creation. He oversees the stars of the heavens and the caterpillar in your yard. But he has time for you. Right now, in heaven, he intercedes on your behalf. He looks to his Father and says, “I know she thinks she needs to be busy. I know St. Luke’s has gone off half-cocked because they think they need to be busy. I died for those sins, too.” Jesus is not too busy for you. He still stands between you and his Father, constantly reminding God that he forgave every single one of your sins.
And, as you turn away from your sin of needing to be busy, find your guidance here first. Go into the Word. It’s useful. And apply that to your life. And once you have that guidance…then you can get busy. Then you can act. But make sure you come back. Don’t leave the Word behind.
In the Word we read how Christ died for us to forgive us when we fail. But we also read how he lived for us. And now he enables us to live for him. As we search for guidance in the Word, we can then move forward with confidence and assurance that whatever we do he will be with us and bless us as we strive to live for him.
Don’t believe the lie. We don’t have to get busy. At least, not until after we have first gone back to God’s Word.