Pastor Cal's
Weekly Message

These messages
contain the manuscript
that the Pastor uses to
prompt him as he
preaches each Sunday
morning at worship.

The actual sermon may
vary but this will give
you an idea of what he
said if you missed the
service.

We hope to have audio
or video clips of his
messages and the
special music we enjoy  
available on this site  by
next fall.
Central Baptist Church of Westerly
16 Elm Street, Westerly, RI   02891
Phone: (401) 596-4929     

Check out our blog at Central Baptist Life
You Get What You Pay For

May 15, 2011                                                                Acts 2:42-47

Several years ago a fellow Rotarian asked me how much it cost to be a member of my
church. It was a strange question. I knew it arrived out of the fact that we just had an
increase in our annual dues in the club.

Always reaching out to get people to think about joining the church, I immediately told him
that it didn’t cost anything. Anyone could become a member. All you had to do was come. It
seemed like the right answer at the time.

But over the years I have thought long and hard about the answer I gave him. The truth is
that if I were to answer him today, I might come up with a very different response.

You and I know that there is a cost to being a Christian disciple and a price to be paid for
belonging to the body of Christ. I’m not just talking about our tithes and offerings. I am
talking about the price that Christ paid to purchase our pardon. It didn’t come cheaply. He
gave his life on the cross so that we might have communion with God.

I’m also talking about the price paid by the early disciples as they faced persecution to
come together. Many of them were beaten, imprisoned and even killed simply because they
were associated with the church.

The cost today may pale in comparison but there is still a cost. You and I know that because
we are paying the price. Whenever you get involved in something you have to give up
something of yourself for the good of the whole. In the book of acts we get a description of
what life was like for the early church. We just heard it a few minutes ago.

The people came together to break bread, to learn about Christ and to share one another’s
burdens. The passage even goes so far as to suggest that they lived communally and took
care of each other’s financial concerns as well. They sold their personal property and used
the money to care for others.

When you look at the early church and compare it to many of our churches today, we ask
for far less from our members. To many people today, the answer I gave my friend seems
just about right. We come on Sunday. We put a few dollars in the plate. We enjoy a good
show and then we go home. But that is not church, at least not the church that Christ
envisioned when we gave it the power to change the world.

The truth is that we are often guilty of investing as little as possible into this thing called
church today. It has become for many people an extra-curricular activity whereas for the
early Christians it was at the heart of their whole life.

The church was meant to be like the huge redwood trees in California. They are are
amazing. They are the largest living things on earth and the tallest trees in the world. Some
of them are 300 feet high and more than 2,500 years old. You would think that trees that
large would have a tremendous root system, reaching down hundreds of feet into the earth.
But that is not the case. Redwoods have a very shallow root system. The roots of these trees
are, however, intertwined. They are tied in with each other; interlocked. Thus, when the
storms come and the winds blow the redwoods still stand. With an interlocking root system
they support and sustain each other. They need one another to survive.

That was God’s plan for the church when it was born. When one is baptized, one is baptized
into the body of Christ. Through Christ we are bound together in a community of faith.
Belonging to Christ, we belong to each other. Fellowship with Christ means fellowship with
each other. Through Christ, God has made us a family, a community of faith. This is our
God-given support system. As such, it is intended to meet some crucial needs in our lives.

The problem is that too many people fail to develop the roots in the church that will sustain
them over time. They don’t want to pay the price. Well the old adage is true: You get what
you pay for.

Those of us who have invested our lives in the church have received great bonuses. Our
faith has grown. We have a deeper relationship with Christ. We also have found friends
who have supported and encouraged us through the storms of life.

I think one of the reasons people and churches fail to connect and thrive is because we have
bought into a way of thinking about church that leaves out this aspect of belonging. Dallas
Willard, in his book The Divine Conspiracy, has suggested that to many people Christianity
is all about sin management. The church has become obsessed with pointing out sin to the
world and forgotten its very roots. As a result, instead of making disciples and building
communities where the love of Christ is on display, we have become paper tigers that look
nice but have lost their ability to transform hearts and lives.

The truth is that Jesus dealt with sin when he went to the cross. It was his love that
overcame its power in our lives. Yes, it is important to identify sin and avoid it in our lives
but that is not and was never intended to be the focus of the church.

I always tell people if you want to know what we are called to do as the followers of Christ,
you need to look at what Jesus did in the scriptures. As he accepted God’s call he quoted
the prophet Isaiah and said,

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to
proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim
freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,

For three and a half years Jesus was the good news to a dark and hopeless world. He
brought compassion to the lame and sick, he brought healing to the demon possessed, he
brought hope to those who were disenfranchised. He invited everyone to come and
fellowship with the heavenly Father. He called them into a new kind of community that
honored God by living faithful lives.  

That is the calling of the church today. We are called to live out that story. We are called to
be his witnesses and to show the world what life in communion with God can be like.

Here’s the rub: You can’t do that when you are only willing to give one hour a week to the
Lord. It costs much more.

Jesus never promised that following him would be easy or that the cost wouldn’t be steep.
He said "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their
cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it,
and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain
the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?" (Luke 9:23-25)

Somehow we have decided we can follow Jesus without a cross, without demand, without
change, and without sacrifice. We want a low demand faith. We want a faith that we can
practice at our convenience. We want a faith that doesn't challenge our weaknesses and
requires nothing of us. But then again, you get what you pay for. That’s why our churches
are falling apart. That’s why the influence of Christianity is fading. That’s why our personal
lives are dry and empty. WE AREN”T AYING THE PRICE.

The truth is that "You get out of something what you put into it." It has always been true.
There is a very interesting story in 2 Samuel 24. It is the story of David building an altar to
the Lord on a threshing floor that he bought from a man named Araunah.

When King David came to this man to buy the threshing floor, he said, "Let my lord the
king take and offer up what seems good to him; here are the oxen for the burnt offering,
and the threshing sledges and the yokes of the oxen for the wood. All this, O king, Araunah
gives to the king."

But David replied to Araunah, "No, but I will buy them from you for a price; I will not offer
burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing?" So David bought the threshing
floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. Then he built his altar and made an offering to
the Lord.

You see, David refused to make an offering that cost him nothing. Yet many Christians
today don't mind doing that at all.

Can you imagine having that attitude toward your wife or husband. Can you imagine a
groom who wants to get a ring for his wife, but he decided to get one from a bubblegum
machine. Do you think his wife would be happy? Why not? It would be a great deal for the
husband. He would have a ring for the wedding and it would cost very little. No, I am afraid
that his wife would not accept such a cheap gift.

Sometimes cost does matter. It matters when you want to give your very best because of
your love. When it comes to a wedding, being cheap is not a virtue. Oh, there are no laws
that require a husband to give nice gifts to his wife. No law demands that a man give a nice
ring. Only love demands it.

The same is true with God. There are no commandments that say we have to give our all to
the church. You can be a member of this church and enjoy all the benefits of church
membership and never give a dime, or spend hours working in the Sunday School or
serving on a board or committee or being part of a Bible study or fellowship group. The
church will never give you any less service because you don't give.

But if you want to experience a life changing faith, a dynamic relationship with Christ and a
joy that flows through all your days, then you have to be willing to pay the price. You need
to get involved and make fellowship and service a way of life.

Have you heard the name of Jason Castro? He was a contestant on the seventh season of
American Idol. He didn’t win but he did pretty well. He came in third and you may
remember him for his sweet demeanor and soaring performances of Leonard Cohen's
"Hallelujah" and his own ukulele-accompanied "Over the Rainbow." What you may not
know is that Jason is also a born again Christian. He’s not a “Sunday only” Christian. He
lives his faith, reads his Bible and attends worship regularly. When asked about his faith he
says, “My faith makes me who I am. That's my rock, and it influences everything I do.
People comment a lot on the passion in my performances, and that passion is something
I've found in God and in my faith. The passion of Christ, that kind of love would come to
die for us—that's inspiring. That's in my heart always. Everything I do, I want to live a
passionate life.”

That is the kind of joy that God wants us all to have. That’s the kind of faith the church is
called to witness. That’s the kind of faith that is possible if you are willing to pay the price.
The good news is that once you commit to it, God pays you back in spades.
Amen.