Should "Pumpky's Train" Bring You To Church?
Several years ago I received an invitation from a church that began, “Let’s face it … many people aren’t active in church these days.” The church invited everyone to a Pumpkin Festival that was to include a 3-on-3-basketball tournament and a roller blade hockey tournament. The Festival also featured games, face painting, fun prizes, a straw fight, free refreshments- and, for the little ones, rides on “Pumpky’s Train”!
In addition to promoting the Festival, the church advertised many ongoing groups. A Kid’s Club was promoted as having upbeat music, games and crafts. A Youth Group offered amusement park tickets, concerts, camp, paintball, and lock-ins. And a ladies group, “Fellowship”, promised a “warm atmosphere to connect with women from your area and form lasting friendships” as well as “shopping retreats”.
Jesus said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” John explains, “But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die” (Jn 12:32-33). So many churches today have cheapened the process of interesting people in Jesus. Which do you think should interest more people, “Pumpky’s Train” or “Jesus’ Cross”? But, which will interest more people, “Pumpky’s Train” or “Jesus’ Cross”?
People are more desirous of entertainment than they are salvation. Recreational and social promotions will “bring people to church”, but they will not and cannot make them disciples of Jesus and save their souls.
The Woodland Hills church of Christ does not offer fun and games. We preach Jesus’ Cross in order to save your soul. If this interests you, we hope you will come. If Jesus’ Cross does not interest you, then we have nothing else to offer you and certainly we have nothing better to offer!
I Stand Amazed, Do You?
If you have never heard the story of Jesus, you will find it simply amazing. If you have heard the story of Jesus “a million times”, you will be amazed once more as I tell it to you using a medley of Scripture:
1) Jesus came into the world as man! “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being…the Word became flesh and we beheld His glory…Although He existed in the form of God, (He) did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, being made in the likeness of men…Since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself also partook of the same” (Jn 1:1-3, 14; Phil 2:6, Heb 2:14).
2) Jesus suffered and died for man! “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many…And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross…He knelt down and began to pray, saying, ‘Father if Thou art willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Thine be done.’ … And they (the Jewish Council) all condemned Him to be deserving of death. And some began to spit at Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him with their fists, and to say to Him, ‘Prophecy!’ And the officers received Him with slaps in the face…And wishing to satisfy the multitude, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus scourged, he delivered Him to be crucified…And they (the Roman soldiers) dressed Him up in purple, and after weaving a crown of thorns, they put it on Him; and they began to acclaim Him, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they kept beating His head with a reed and spitting at Him, and kneeling and bowing before Him. And they led Him out to crucify Him” (Mt 20:28; Phil 2:8; Lk 22:41-42; Mk 14:64-65; 15:15, 17-20).
3) Jesus died for sinners! “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the un-just, in order that He might bring us to God … He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed … For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man, someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (1 Pet 3:18; Isa 53:5; Rom 5:6-8).
How amazing it is that Jesus came as man- even more that He suffered and died- but the ultimate wonder is that He died for un-worthy sinners like you and me! The hymn- writer Charles Gabriel said it so well,
- “I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene, and wonder, how He could love me, a sinner, condemned, un-clean. How marvelous! How wonderful! And my song shall ever be: How marvelous! How wonderful! Is my Savior’s love for me!”
What Effect Should The Story of Jesus Have on You?
The story of Jesus should not only amaze you, it should move you. Several years ago, I went to a woman’s home once a week to show her some Bible filmstrips. One night I showed her a filmstrip that very vividly portrayed the death of Jesus. As we looked at a frame that pictured Jesus’ outstretched arms on the cross, we heard the sound of the nails being driven into His hands. The filmstrip soon ended. The woman turned on the lights and, without a word about what we had seen and heard, began serving popcorn and drinks. The “show” was over and it was time for refreshments and socializing. I shuddered at how anyone could be so unaffected by Jesus’ sacrifice.
Jesus’ death truly should draw us to Him like a magnet (Jn 12:32-33). The death of Jesus cries out for man to respond! Jesus’ demonstration of love should compel men to love Him back. As John simply put it, “We love because He first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19).
What should a man’s love for Jesus motivate him to do? Paul wrote, “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all; and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Cor 5:14-15).
Paul described his own grateful surrender to Jesus this way, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Gal 2:20).
Anyone who truly appreciates the magnitude of the love of Jesus will find that they are left with no other choice than to surrender their will and their life to Him. How can they do any less?
A eunuch from Ethiopia was reading a passage of Scripture that he did not understand, “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so He does not open His mouth. In humiliation His judgment was taken away; who shall relate His generation? For His life is removed from the earth.” Philip began at this Scripture and preached to him Jesus.
The eunuch then understood it was Jesus who went quietly and without protest to His death, and that Jesus had died for him. As soon as they came to some water, he was baptized, to receive the forgiveness provided by Jesus’ death. He buried the old man of sin in water and rose to walk in newness of life, surrendering his will and his life to Jesus who died and rose on His behalf (Acts 8:26-39; Acts 22:16; Rom 6:3-4).
What about you? Has the story of Jesus been just heart-warming entertainment to you? Won’t you let it be the life-changing message God intended for it to be? As the eunuch did, respond with love to Jesus who first loved you. Be baptized and let His blood wash away your sins. Make a lifetime commitment to live for Him who died for you. Then spend a lifetime learning the breadth, the length, the height, and the depth of Jesus’ love (Eph 3:18-19).