Summary: Why does a successful church do what it does? Is it because they do everything right... or is it something else?
OPEN: Sesame Street has been a popular children’s educational show for years. With the exception of a few “human” actors, the show revolved around the learning experiences taught by hand puppets called “Muppets”.
Kermit the Frog, The Cookie Monster and Bert and Ernie have all been favorite characters on the show. And even though they were basically hand puppets, the children on the set would ignore the man holding the “Muppet” and interact directly with the hand puppet as if it were real.
The majority of the characters were hand puppets, but one was not. Do you remember what this big yellow character’s name was? That’s right, “Big Bird” – a big yellow feathered bird with a man inside.
One day, one of the children on the set was stunned when he the actor climbing out of the Big Bird costume. "Mom," the toddler yelled, "Do you think Big Bird knows he has a man inside of him?"
APPLY: It never occurred to this little boy that there might be somebody inside the costume.
He just thought that Big Bird did what he did – because that was what big birds did.
But he was wrong.
Big Bird needed someone inside him so that he could BE Big Bird.
He needed someone inside him so that his character could truly live.
In the same way, the Bible teaches us that we also need Someone inside of us so that that can truly live.
In Titus chapter 3, Titus is told to teach the Christians on Crete 3 things
1. There is a certain behavior that’s expected of Christians (verse 1-2)
2. We didn’t used to be that way. At one time we lived an entirely different kind of life (vs.3)
3. But that changed once we became Christians (verses 4-7)
Now, there are people who believe that’s all there is to it.
There are people who believe that we can live Godly lives SIMPLY because we made a decision to be Christians. Thus (they believe) we do what Christians do because we go to church, Sunday School and Bible Studies. We do what do because we have the right theology and we attend the right congregation.
Just like that little boy who thought Big Bird did what HE did because that’s what big birds did, so also, there are those who believe that Christian do what Christians do because that’s what Christians do.
That’s not how it works.
Real Christians do what Christians do… because there’s Someone inside of us.
Notice what Titus 3:5-6 says. “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior”
When we were saved, God put Someone inside of us.
He generously poured out on us His Holy Spirit.
And God put that Someone – that Holy Spirit – inside us to help us control our lives.
In the book of Romans, Paul tells us that when God’s Spirit lives inside us, He “CONTROLS” us.
“You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” Rom. 8:9
How does God’s Spirit control us?
Doe He dominate our lives and manipulate us like some kind of hand puppet or marionette? No, it’s more of a voluntary thing. God’s Spirit doesn’t force us to do anything against our will.
Galatians chapter 5 (for example) talks about us needing to be “led by the Spirit” and “walking in the Spirit”. The implication is – we get to choose whether we walk in God’s Spirit and allow Him to lead us in our decisions.
In other words, if we DECIDE to let God’s Spirit rule in our lives - if we DECIDE to deliberately let God’s Spirit lead us in our lives - THEN we change.
And that change yields a certain result.
You can tell when someone is “led” by God’s Spirit by how they behave – by what fruit they bear. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control….”
When God’s Spirit leads me in my life, then I’m going to behave in a certain way.
But can’t non-Christians have those qualities?
Of course they can!
We all know of people who have shown the ability to love, to have peace, to be kind, and so on. But apparently their good deeds are not going to have the same appeal to God.
That’s because good deeds, in and of themselves, don’t really impress God all that much. Isaiah 64:6 tells us that “…all our righteous acts are like filthy rags…”