“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.” – 1 Peter 5:8-9.
If you are a Christian long enough, you will hear people say that they don’t go to church anymore, usually coupled with the reasons why; they were offended, ignored, view the church as money hungry, they see the church as out-of-touch with the times or hypocritical. While those reasons have taken a life of their own, the reality is people have had bad experiences because the church is far from perfect.
The devil wants people to have bad experiences at church. 1 Peter 5: 8–9 tells us the devil is an enemy, which is plural. It means that not only do we have a personal enemy who hates us but one who ultimately wants to oppose the work of God in every church. He will harass, seek to bring division, seek to offend people, do all in his power to keep people from learning about the saving grace and love of Jesus Christ.
Many people think Christians should be perfect. Nobody is perfect in any church and that should surprise no one because Jesus started the church with imperfect people. But imperfect people can do some incredible things when coupled with God’s incredible grace. That God would use all us imperfect people is pretty amazing when you think about it. Ephesians 3: 10-11 says, “God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.” The idea that God would use you and me is pretty amazing. He has unlimited options. He could have spoken to the world directly, but instead chose to use imperfect people to make the impossible possible in so many people’s lives.
I want to be clear that we don’t get everything right every time. But I do believe that part of the reason God’s allowing us to have the influence we have in the Florida Panhandle is that is everybody is welcome, nobody is perfect and anything is possible. The best way to defeat the devil is by telling and living the greatest story of the world: the story of redemption and hope in Christ. It’s the heartbeat of the Gospel and I believe it needs to be the heartbeat of the church as we work to save those far from the heart of God.
- Have you ever been at a meal or an event where you feel noticeably out of place? What was the experience like? Do you think people coming to church for the first time can have that type of experience?
- How does the devil work to undermine the church?
- What can you do on Sunday to ensure everybody is welcomed?