Pastor of Decatur United Methodist Church
What has God done for me? Why do I need God? Do people even need Jesus?
These are good questions. But if you look at society, you look at our culture, I’m not even sure that these are questions people are asking. For many years people have been researching America’s religious outlook and beliefs.
Groups like Pew Research and Barna have done quite a bit of work as it relates trying to understand people’s religious outlook. Interestingly, in 1996, a little over 20 years ago, 85% of people in America had a favorable view toward Christianity and its role in society. This changed drastically in 10 years. In 2007, the Barna group released a book called UnChristian. It was book about my generation, those people now known as Millennials, specifically those who are now between the ages of 26 and 39. In 2007, nearly 40% of my cohort held a “bad impression of Christianity.” That represents a dramatic turnaround in 10 years.
This book UnChristian was formative for me and it continues to establish the bad news that America’s youngest adults in 2007 had a very poor view of Christianity. And they continued to see Christianity in a bad light and they didn’t a reason to participate in the faith. The question, “do people need Jesus?” wasn’t even on their radar. As written in the book, “Millions of young [people] are mentally and emotionally disengaging from Christianity. [and] the nation’s population is increasingly resistant to Christianity.
As I was reading over that book again, I realized that I was really dating myself. Really it started to make me feel old. I guess I am part of what people are now calling older millennials. I didn’t grow up on Instagram or Snapchat. In fact, I’m really not sure what the purpose of Snapchat is besides making funny faces. I remember my first cell phone was only for making phone calls, and I remember dialup and call in for internet access. The struggle was real. I remember it taking an hour to illegally download a single song. In many ways to the world in which our young people now are coming of age is a very different world than the one I experienced growing up. So if we are only relying on data from 2007, I might as well pack it up and go home.
Well, the story continues. From Pew’s major religious research they found these trends to continue. And almost 10 years after this UnChristian book, National Geographic boldly declared the creation of the World’ Newest Major Religion: No Religion. According to them, it’s the second largest religion in North America. The question used to “Is God Dead?” this is the question Time Magazine asked 50 years ago. More and more, people are responding to this question with another questions, “God who?”
For so many people the idea of God isn’t even relevant in their lives. The question, “Why do people need Jesus?” doesn’t even enter their imagination.
Instead of asking this question, we find that people are asking different questions. How can me end world hunger? How can we find friends and connect with others? How can we create a better world? How can we get more people into education? How can we ensure that everyone has quality healthcare? What can we do to make a different in the world?
These are many of the questions Millenials (people roughly in their 20s and 30s) are asking. You might hear much complaining about Millenials, calling them lazy, selfish, and what not, but we are finding is that is not true. These people are asking serious questions and wanting to be engaged with answers. In an article on Forbes, we find that within a decade, Millennials we be 75% of workforce. And that millennials are aware of the plight of others and want to make a difference. In fact, over 80% of millennials reported that it is important to be engaged in work that gives back to the community. I could go on and on. But the purpose is not to tell you how good my generation is, although, I’m pretty proud.
But the thing is, we find more and more millennials and really, all people, just don’t see Jesus relevant. People may want to make the world a better place, but Jesus isn’t a part of it. As a pastor, as follower of Jesus Christ, this breaks my heart.
I see so much hurt in the world. Each year nearly 700,000 children are abuse in the United States. One in Nine people in the world do not have enough to eat. In the last decade, the number of worldwide refugees has doubled; since 2008 terrorism deaths have increased by 247%, violence costs 12.6% of the worldwide GDP. The political turmoil in our own nation is disheartening. It is likely that we all know someone in our own families who is touched by alcoholism or a drug addiction. Really, we could talk on and on about the ongoing hurt in the world, and we could all leave here very depressed.
Whether the problem is global or local. Whether the problem has an easy solution or solution so complex that we don’t even know where to start, I believe that these deep problems and heartaches are at the core -- spiritual problems.
We must know that these problems are not new and they are not unique to us. If you look at the 4th chapter of Genesis; that’s at the very beginning of the Bible. We read that the first human somehow lived in an idyllic state, but they ruined it. If you are familiar with the story, Adam and Eve were placed in this perfect garden to live and grow, but because of sin they had to leave. Because sin entered the scene, these humans had to start again in the difficult world. This problem was spiritual problem, and it poisoned human relationships. In the words of another, “The first human act outside the Garden is Cain’s murder of Abel.” This man, Cain, he jealous of his brother, and instead of deal with the jealousy in a helpful way, he murders his brother. This is the first explicit demonstration of the war and heartache that we see around us today. And this first act was deeply spiritual problem.
We as humans have done our best to try to make things better. We have passed laws. We have educated people. We have fought wars. He have raised living standards worldwide. We have lifesaving medical advances. We have widespread literacy. We have done so much, but yet the hurt remains. Our hearts are still stone; all the we do just isn’t enough to make the world a better place. Hurt and pain still remains.
But maybe, we have approaching the wrong way all along. A growing number of people don’t see Christianity as relevant, but maybe that’s just another symptom of our spiritual problem.
This is not just my thought. Another United Methodist pastor writes, “Jesus Christ is the solution to the deepest longing of the human heart. He is the answer to the most serious problems that plague our society.” (Adam Hamilton, Leading Beyond the Walls)
Do you believe it? Even if you don’t believe, that is the reason people need Jesus. People need Jesus because is the solution to the deep hurt in their lives. People need Jesus because he is the one who can change our hearts of stone and give us hearts for love alone. That’s Jesus. Do you believe it? Even if you don’t believe, this is the reason people need Jesus.
Jesus is the one who breaks down barriers of hate. Jesus is the one fills the deep empty places in our hearts. Jesus is one who holds the little child while she cries. Jesus is the one who comes to put evil in its place.
The earliest Christians experienced this. They had lived with Jesus and had experienced the miracle of his resurrection. They knew there was something different about Jesus. And in the face of persecution; in the face of poverty; in the face of ridicule, the earliest Christians proclaimed:
1 John 4:9 – This is how the love of God is revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we can live through him.
The earliest Christians lived a life that said they needed Jesus because Jesus can so that they could live. Do you have neighbors that wish they could live? Do you have family members that so overcome is hurt or addiction or pain and just wish they could live a happy or a full life. We need Jesus because came so that we can live through him.
We read stuff like this all over the New Testament. The earliest Christians, new that Jesus meant life for them. Sometimes Christians today think Jesus or salvation is about some free pass when you die. As way to get to a happy place after death. And that may be true, but there are people around us maybe someone here today living hell on earth here. And they need this message that Jesus came so that they could live now.
Another passage, 2 Peter 1:3-4 – I’m paraphrasing here a bit. These earliest Christians knew what we need to hear. “The Lord has given us everything we need for life and godliness [through Jesus] … he ahs given us his precious and wonderful promises, that you may share life with God and escape the hurt, the sin, pain, the heartache of this world.
The hope that people have in Jesus is the hope that through the power of God things can change. Because of Jesus -- disease, war, poverty, incarceration, depression, addiction, death do not have the last world. Friends, this is why people need Jesus. People need Jesus he brings life; he brings hope for a better tomorrow. Jesus answers the deep spiritual longings of all of our hearts, whether we know it or not.
We have discussed how people, especially many young people, don’t find Christianity relevant. We have discussed how many of these people want to try to the world a better place. And we have discussed the hurt and pain that we find all around. Friends, to this, Jesus is not deterred.
Why do people need Jesus? Because Jesus is the answer to the deep hurt and pain that people carry. Jesus is the one who if let in, will invade the heart, transform the person, and help them transform the world. Jesus is the one who can change a heart of stone or empty heart into a joyfilled and hopefill heart.
That’s why people need Jesus.
What do you think? Do you believe it?
Decatur United Methodist Church
Our hope is that these messages will be relevant in your life and encourage you in faith.