Past Exhilaration

Roller Coaster

I can still remember the day that I got through the fear. I remember it well. I was in the eighth grade and my parents took me and my brother to Disney World. The drive to get there from our home just outside of Washington DC seemed like it took forever, which is one of the things that helped me get over my fear. I told myself, “I’m not traveling all the way down to Disney World and not riding these awesome roller coasters everyone’s talking about, just because I’m afraid!”

So, there I was standing with my brother outside of the coaster I heard about the most: Space Mountain.

After the ride was over I realized a couple of things: one, I was still alive, and second, that was actually exhilarating! Like, I want to ride that again! I think we rode that crazy roller coaster eight times strait!

This opened the world of roller coasters to me. That summer when we went as a family to a theme park close to our home I was riding everything they had. And, I’ve never stopped. When my daughter was six years old, I had her on every adult ride she was tall enough to climb on; and she loved it too.

But, I realized something after years of riding the same rides that used to be so exciting to me. After riding a roller coaster 50 times, it loses much of it’s exhilaration. It’s just not as exciting anymore.

You know, so many people walk into churches and they’re looking for something. And they should be! Everyone who walks into a church is looking for what they’re looking for. What I mean is they know what kind of music they like, and what they don’t, what kind of church “feel” they like, and what they don’t, what kind of preaching they like…You get the point.

When they come into church and it’s what they like, it’s exhilarating. I often have conversations with folks about that. They’ll say, “the worship is fantastic,” “the sermons are just what I need” or “the people are so friendly I feel like I’m at home.” Just so you know, to be a pastor and hear these things is definitely a win!

Inevitably, however, after a while the church can become like my experience with roller coasters. What was once so exhilarating is now, because of familiarity, no longer that big of a deal. And, it becomes easy to drift. What happens? The same thing with so many Christians in America. They stay for a while at a church, it loses it’s exhilaration, then off to the next. So many American Christians are bouncing from church to church because the excitement and newness wears off after while.

What’s the answer?

1. Remember what church is really all about.

If you’re looking for a church you should find one that makes you glad you were there. There’s nothing worse than boring church. As a matter of fact, it’s a tragedy when worship of our great God and His Word are made boring—because there’s nothing boring about them!

But, church is not about being excited all the time. It’s actually about Jesus and following Him. If you didn’t know this, following Him is not always easy and He never promised it would be.

2. Remember that Jesus brought you to His church on purpose. 

You are a part of the whole and that matters more than you may know. Paul uses the metaphor of a “body” for the local church. And a great metaphor it is. A body only functions correctly when all it’s parts are in place and healthy.

Paul Tripp explains it this way:

Autonomous Christianity never works, because our spiritual life was designed by God to be a community project.

It’s good that you loved what you saw and experienced when you first went to your church but make sure your love for Jesus and understanding why He calls the church together become important to you too. Then, you’ll become a part of the church’s mission:

Reach people with the Gospel—make disciples—change the world.

Let me tell you, there’s nothing more exhilarating than being a part of the church that way!

3. Church doesn’t exist for Christian consumption.

If Christians are always just looking to be exhilarated, the work of the church will actually never be done. And, that work is the only thing going on in this world that’s actually of eternal impact. That’s pretty important.

Thom Rainer states this very well in his book I Am A Church Member.

Rainer states that Jesus,

placed us in churches to serve, to care for others, to pray for leaders, to learn, to teach, to give, and, in some cases, to die for the sake of the Gospel.

In other words, Christ brought us together for so much more than a fleeting feeling of exhilaration.

If you’ve spent any amount of time in church, I’m sure it’s been for you like roller coasters became for me when I was a teenager—exhilarating at first but not so much with more familiarity. Just know, that for you to see the church as more than that, is incredibly important. It won’t always be so exhilarating, the sermon won’t always be exactly what you want to hear, and the song choice won’t always be the one you like the most.

But, the purpose and eternal impact of the church will never be less than Jesus gave His life for it to be. And that’s a huge calling, purpose and impact that needs to include you.

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Encounter

Encounter

If you read any of Paul’s epistles it’s easy to see that he had a one-track mind after he met Jesus Christ. What an encounter he had! You can read about his encounter with Jesus in Acts chapter 9. It wasn’t that Paul was blinded that made the most impact on him, though it certainly got his attention. Paul, after his encounter with Jesus was overwhelmed; not by the situation, not by the circumstance but by Jesus Himself!

Paul initially did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God, but when he met Jesus, that all changed. When Paul met Jesus he had to deal with him the same way everyone does as described by C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity. This paragraph in Lewis’ magnum opus has been distilled down by many as “liar, lunatic or Lord.” This is how C.S. Lewis describes how people must, or must not, view Jesus:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” This is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising [sic] nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”[1]

Every encounter with Jesus Christ demands a response.
The encounter Paul has with Jesus is one that affects him in such a way that the rest of his life will be telling others about Jesus that they may have an encounter with Him too. Paul knows if they do, like him, they will never get over it. No one who has a true encounter with Jesus will ever get over it. No one walks away from Him thinking He’s no big deal.
That’s why Paul preached, wrote and even endured trial, affliction and persecution the way he did. His encounter with Jesus changed his purpose and life-direction. That’s why he tells the Ephesians to pray this way: “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.[2]

You may not have been blinded by a light when you met Jesus for the first time, as Paul was, but your encounter with Him was, no doubt, just as overwhelming; wasn’t it? So, what’s your response been? In all of history, since Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, the response has been to leave all to follow Him. Don’t think that your response should be any different. Are you still overwhelmed by Him? If not, take a look at Jesus again. He’s still incredibly beautiful and overwhelming. You won’t get over Him!


[1] C.S. Lewis. Mere Christianity. p. 52

[2] (Ephesians 6:18–20, ESV)