We are continuing our sermon series entitled Holy Habits. Today we are talking about Holy Habit #3: Reaching Consistently. Continually reaching out to others with the love of Christ.
I want to start out with a story.
It was a beautiful day. One of the first days of Spring. The air was warming, the grass was greening, and the flowers were popping their heads out of the muddy soil. My husband Lon was studying in the basement, my two little girls were at school, I was upstairs putting away laundry. My son almost two years old was…where was he?
“Lon, is Eric in the basement with you?”
“No, isn’t he with you?”
“Eric where are you?” we kept calling as we searched the house.
Anxiety began to rise as we saw the screen door, was not fully closed, and his plastic ball close to the street. We took our search outside.
Our neighbor, Dave Reese, heard our panicked calls. He got in his car to join the search, driving through the neighborhood. Our imaginations, especially mine, began to run wild.
Finally, we thought it best to call the police. The officer came right away, but all the protocol seemed to take an eternity. Then he said, “Do you mind if I look through your house? The children are often not very far.”
Searching the house seemed futile. We had already looked everywhere, but we conceded.
The officer wasn’t in the house too long before he called us into the family room. He pointed to the couch and asked, “Is this the little boy you are looking for?” I felt like saying sheepishly, “Oh no, that is a different little boy.” 😊 But I had to admit it was.
You see, on this lovely spring day, something unusual had occurred, an active two year old boy, wearing navy blue overalls and a navy blue shirt had fallen asleep in the middle of the morning, on a navy blue sofa and became almost invisible. 😊
Fortunately, there was a good, even embarrassingly humorous, end to my story, but we all know what it means to be lost or to lose someone. Whether it’s losing a child at an amusement park, getting disoriented while hiking in the woods, or getting lost on a country road while looking for a gas station. We all know about being lost. We all know that anxiety that begins to rise.
Today, people are lost. We are no longer grounded by the things that have given us security—work, school, the environment, health, government, the economy, even relationships have come under stress. We’ve always faced turmoil, but we are now facing turmoil on every front at the same time! We are being shaken. We are being battered. We are coming untethered.
This is not new news to any of you. You see it in your own lives and in the lives of family members.
People are lost and they don’t know where to turn!
Lost is the word I use to describe myself in High School. I was leaning toward teenage insecurity and rebellion as it was, but when my parents divorced, I became untethered—I was grieving the loss of my family as I knew it; questioning the moral values they taught me; and distrusting God, who in my eyes allowed my family to break up. I didn’t know how to make life work. I didn’t know what the meaning or purpose of life was. I didn’t know where to turn. I was lost.
Have you had a time in your life like that? Do you know others who are lost? Fortunately, the Bible has some direction for us.
Christ is telling a story that describes his mission statement that he states with great clarity in Luke 19:10.
What does this passage tell us? Jesus has a heart for the lost. Christ was on a rescue mission. He came to earth with a singular purpose—seek and save the lost, seek and save the lost, seek and save the lost.
Jesus was so intent on seeking and saving the lost that he sends the 12 disciples out on a search and rescue mission. Luke 9: 1-2, tells us “When Jesus had called the Twelve [disciples] together, he gave them authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.”
A chapter later in Luke he sends out 72 followers out on a search and rescue mission. Luke 10:1, says, “After this the Lord appointed 72 others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He gives them instructions and a mission focus—Luke 10:9, “Heal the sick who are there and tell them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”
What is the Kingdom of God? Broadly speaking, the kingdom of God is the rule of an eternal, sovereign God over all the universe. More narrowly, the kingdom of God is a spiritual rule over the hearts and lives of those who willingly submit to God’s authority.
In the kingdom of God, we have a perfect benevolent ruler, who is also called our heavenly Father. The Kingdom of God is the home we are all homesick for.
Seek and save the lost. Seek and save the lost. Seek and save the lost. Bring them safely home.
In Matthew 28:18b,19, 20, He sends out you and I.
Just before Christ ascended to heaven, he said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Jesus Christ has commissioned us to seek and save the lost. He has commissioned us for his search and rescue mission.
Some of you may be thinking, I don’t think people want to hear about God anymore. That is not the case. And I will tell you why… people are still looking for God because God is looking for people. People are still looking for God because God is still looking for People. And is revealing Himself to them!
Similar to the Luke passage, in Matthew 9:35-38, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Brothers and sisters, people are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. There is nothing wrong with the harvest! And you are the answer to those prayers.
Years ago I met a gentleman named Bill Cwik. He shared this important lesson that has remained with me, he said, “If you stay prepared God will set spiritual appointments for you.”
Then he told me this story, “I was on the phone with a customer service representative. She was helping me resolve a problem I was having. As she waited for her computer to bring up the information she needed, we chatted. We just talked about life. We had a nice repour. At the end of our conversation I sensed the Holy Spirit telling me to ask her about her spiritual beliefs. I stepped out in faith and said, “Do you have any spiritual beliefs?” There was silence on the other end of the phone. Bill got nervous. He thought he offended her. He thought maybe she had hung up. But then he heard quiet sobbing on the other end of the phone. Finally, the woman said, “You know…I was just at a funeral yesterday and I have been asking myself, what is the meaning of life.” Bill was able to share the good news of God’s love with the customer service representative. He lead her to the Lord over the phone.
I have never forgotten the lesson Bill taught me. If I stay prepared the Lord will set spiritual appointments for me.
As you stay prepared God will set spiritual appointments for you. He will lead you to the lost sheep.
So what does it mean to share our faith?
To share our faith is to cooperate with God and others to lovingly bring a person one step at a time closer to Christ. –Dr. Lon Allison, former Director of the Billy Graham Center
There are several encouraging things about this definition of faith sharing.
First, it tells us that the God’s Spirit is involved. We are not alone when it comes to sharing our faith with others. God has gone before us. He is the one who sets spiritual appointments for us. He prepares our encounters and reveals Himself to people.
Second, other people are involved. At different times in a person’s life God will involve different people in giving a Christian witness. He may use a praying grandparent, a Christian neighbor, a high school friend, or a believing coworker. All these people may not know each other, but they plant seeds of faith in the person’s heart. 1 Corinthians 3:5,6 “What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.”
Third, our job is just to take a person one step at a time closer to Christ. People don’t come to the Lord in one giant step. They come to the Lord by making a series of small decisions. Though every person’s journey is unique it may look something like this–In the beginning of their journey they are going their own way, perhaps not even thinking about God. Something may happen in their life that causes them to search for the purpose of life. Along the way, they meet a Christ follower and see the peace they have in their life. At some point they may begin to read the Bible and see that it has something of value for their life today. It gives them direction and comfort. Then they become aware of the good news of Christ (the Gospel) and they choose to respond.
Once we understand the process of how people come to faith we can relax and trust God. We can participate with God in this process by doing 3 things. Praying, Caring and Sharing. An easy way to remember these three elements of witness is to rhyme them– prayer, care, share.
“Before I talk to people about God. I talk to God about people.” –Bill Bright, Founder of the campus ministry called CRU
Praying for people to come to know the Lord is an essential element of sharing our faith with others.
“…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven.” (Matthew 5:16b)
It is healthy and good for caring to go both ways. Allow your neighbors and co-workers to also do things for you. This is how community and friendship are born.
We pray for people. We care for people and we share with people.
SHARE–Their story SHARE–Our story SHARE– God’s story
Share their story—We share their story. We get to know them by questioning asking and listening. We take joy in the unique person God created them to be. Whether it is a one-time conversation or an ongoing friendship we establish common bonds that gives us a heartfelt connection.
When you are speaking with people who are not Christians are you ever tempted to filter out the God part of your life? I know I am. That is appropriate to some degree, but it is also good to let them see the God part of your life. Share about a spiritual lesson you learned, a struggle you are trusting God for, an answer to prayer that you experienced or a Bible verse that has encouraged you.
So the first ‘share’ is to share their story. The second ‘share’ is to share your story.
Share your story—The brief well told story of how Christ’s love became real to you gives listeners a vivid picture of what new life in Christ looks like. This story is something that you can share with anyone, strangers and acquaintances. Even friends and relatives who have known you for a long time, might not have heard how you came to the know the Lord in a personal way. They may be curious as to how you got so ‘religious’ as my friend Robin was.
Robin and I were friends in Junior High and Freshman year of High School. Recently, we reconnected. She said, “In Junior High you weren’t religious, then in High School you were. What happened?”
I realized that all Robin new about me was that “I got religious.”
I shared how lost I was, how upset I was about my parents divorce and how I was searching for the meaning of life. I told my friend how my mother ‘forced’ me to go to a Christian Youth Group where kids were all super friendly and invited me to go on a weekend retreat. At the weekend retreat the Youth Pastor gave a talk. He told us that Jesus Christ, who was God, lived the perfect life and gave himself as the perfect sacrifice to pay the penalty for all our wrongs. He did this because he loved us and wanted to have a personal relationship with us. I accepted Christ into my life that weekend. After that I was a different person. I didn’t feel lost anymore, over time as a result of my relationship with God I began to experience—more love, more joy, more peace. I haven’t been perfect and my life hasn’t perfect, I still have challenges, but I feel God’s presence with me in everything.
Your personal testimony is important and worth giving thought to. You will want to write it out, refine it and put it to memory so that you can share it at the spur of the moment.
We want to be able to tell the story of how we came to faith. We also want to be able to tell God’s story of salvation.
Share God’s story—When we are sharing with someone we often get nervous, so it is helpful to keep in mind three simple elements of the gospel—There is good news, sad news, and great news.
God loves you and created you to be in a loving relationship with Him. (John 3:16)
Our sinful behavior separates us from God who is Holy. Sin includes the wrong things we do and the right things we don’t do. (Romans 3:23)
Jesus Christ, who is God paid the penalty for our sins, so we didn’t have to. He did this so that through Him we could be forgiven and have a relationship with God, now and forever. (Romans 6:23)
It is always a little bit scary to share our faith. Years ago, there was a new ride at Great America. It was called the Giant Drop. Once you were tightly buckled into the seat, they slowly crank you up 277 feet. That is 25 stories high. As you are going up, you have plenty of time to think…When was the last time an engineer checked this ride?…What does it feel like to splat to the ground from this great height?…Did I tell my family I want them to sing “I’ll fly away at my funeral?” It is so scary you can barely breath. Then whoosh…you begin to drop. By the time you get to the bottom you say, “Wow, that was fun, let’s go again.”
Evangelism is like that. Sharing our faith is scary fun! It is never completely without fear, but it is always scary fun.
God has commissioned you to be on his search and rescue team. He has called you to seek and save the lost, to bring them home. He has called you to engage with Holy Habit # 3-Reach Consistently. The Holy Spirit has head of you. If you stay prepared God will set spiritual appointments for you.