Notes not available for this sermon.
Well, as Pastor Greg said earlier, my name's Jesse Workman, if I haven't had the pleasure of meeting you yet and my wife, Stephanie is here as well. And our four kids, two older ones are here with us in the service, Aiden and Sophia. And then the two younger ones are in the kids' church and Sunday School, Molly and Teddy. I want to say thank you to all of you for a couple of reasons, first of which is for blessing us so much with allowing us to live in the Ministry House at this time. We reached a point in South Africa while we were preparing to come back here for our, this is our first home assignment. And we were on the list for another mission house, and it fell through because another family needed it.
So for a period of time, relatively shortly before we were preparing to come back here, we didn't know where we would live. And so, it was a matter of prayer for us, a big prayer request. And within a very short number of days you were in your generosity, able to meet that prayer request, and so we thank you so much for that. Thank you also for allowing us to be here with you this morning and to share with you a little bit from God's word as well as about our Wyclife ministry. So Stephanie and I and our family have been members of Wyclife Bible translators since 2015. Well, this morning I want to just take a look at John 4. You're welcome to open your Bibles there. We'll be reading verses 1-42. Let's go ahead and pray, and then we'll read from John 4.
Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you so much for this morning. We thank you for this opportunity to gather as your children around your thrown and to worship you, Lord, to gather around your word; Lord, to be fed on it, nourished and to look into it. We pray that your Holy Spirit would be at work this morning in our hearts, in this place, You would help us to understand your word and that you would help us to apply it to our lives as well. Lord, we thank You, we praise You, and we pray these things in Jesus' name. Amen.
Starting in verse one, John 4 says, "When Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was baptizing more disciples than John, though Jesus himself was not baptizing, but his disciples were, He left Judea and went again to Galilee. He had to travel through Samaria. So He came to a town of Samaria called Sicar, near the property that Jacob had given his son, Joseph. Jacob's well was there and Jesus worn out from his journey, sat down at the well. It was about noon; a woman of Samaria came to draw water. 'Give me a drink,' Jesus said to her, because his disciples had gone into town to buy food. 'How is it that you a Jew ask for a drink from me? A Samaritan woman?' She asked him, 'For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.' Jesus answered, 'If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you Give me a drink, you would ask Him, and He would give you living water.' 'Sir,' said the woman, 'You don't even have a bucket, and the well is deep, so where do you get this living water? You aren't greater than our father Jacob, are you? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons in livestock.' Jesus said, 'Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again. In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up in him for eternal life.' 'Sir,' the woman said to him, 'Give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and come here to draw water.' 'Go call your husband,' He told her, 'and come back here.' 'I don't have a husband,' she answered. 'You have correctly said I don't have a husband,' Jesus said, 'For you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.' 'Sir,' the woman replied, 'I see that you are a prophet. Our father's worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.' Jesus told her, 'Believe me, woman, an hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know. We worship what we do know, because salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming and is now here when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.' The woman said to Him, 'I know that the Messiah is coming who is called Christ. When he comes, He will explain everything to us.' Jesus told her, 'I the one speaking to you, am he.'"
"Just then his disciples arrived and they were amazed that he was talking with a woman. Yet no one said What do you want? Or why are you talking with her? Then the woman left her water jar, went into town and told the people, 'Come see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?' They left the town and made their way to him. In the meantime, the disciples kept urging him, 'Rabbi eats something,' but he said, 'I have food to eat that you don't know about.' The disciples said to one another, 'Could someone have brought him something to eat?' 'My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work,' Jesus told them. 'Don't you say there are still four more months and then comes the harvest?' 'Listen to what I'm telling you. Open your eyes and look at the fields because they're ready for harvest. The reaper is already receiving pay and gathering fruit for eternal life so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together. For in this case, the saying is true; one sows and another reaps. I sent you to reap what you didn't labor for. Others have labored and you have benefited from their labor.'"
Now, the Samaritans from that town believed in him. Now, many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of what the woman said when she testified, 'He told me everything I ever did.' So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. Many more believed because of what he said, and they told the woman, 'We no longer believe because of what you said since we have heard for ourselves and know that this really is the Savior of the world.'"
Well, I think it would help to understand this passage a bit more clearly. If we think about a couple of different background issues that kind of sit behind this passage. The first of these is this issue of living water. What is Jesus talking about when he mentions living water? Well, I think basically, or put maybe simply; this living water that Jesus talks about, it's calling up ideas from the Old Testament when God promised that he would send salvation through His Messiah, and it includes a lot of different things. It can include things like the forgiveness of sin, this salvation; it can include things like Jesus talks about eternal life, even in this passage and especially in the Gospel of John. It's life that we have in eternity in the future, but it's also an eternal life that we can have now, and that eternal life that we can have now is had through the spirit of God, which is a gift that God gives through His Messiah. And how is this living water received is through faith in Christ in the Messiah.
There are a few passages here if you'd like to look at them at home. You're more than welcome to. I think these kind of provide a backdrop for this passage and for many passages in John where it's talking about this issue of water or living water, and especially this John 7 passage explicitly connects living water with the spirit of God, the gift of the Spirit. So besides the issue of what this living water is I think it's helpful to think about this second question, which is, who were the Samaritans? This is quite significant for this passage. The Samaritans were again, basically remnants of the northern tribes or the northern kingdom of Israel. As you may know, the kingdom of Israel was divided and the northern kingdom shortly after the kingdom was divided, they went kind of headlong into a rejection of worshiping God as He commanded and went into pursuing idols and many kinds of other disobedience.
And God sent judgment through the Assyrians who came into Israel and conquered and captured people from the northern kingdom. They carried many of them away, and they replaced them with other conquered peoples. And then these people's, the remnants of the northern kingdom and these other people who were brought in, they mixed together and they resulted in what we today know as the Samaritans. So the Jews from the Southern Kingdom looked at the Samaritans as a nation of half breeds., esentially. They looked down on them, they despised them and they considered them inferior, and they could not associate with them as we see in this passage. They couldn't share a meal with them, and so it was completely inappropriate in their eyes, what Jesus is doing by interacting with this woman. Now, not only is this woman a Samaritan, which would make her despised in the eyes of many Jews of that day but she's also an outcast among the Samaritans who are outcasts among the Jews. So she of all people, it's quite striking how, how inappropriate it might have seen for Jesus to be interacting with her in this way.
Well, I think in this passage, there are kind of three major questions that Jesus answers for us as well. The first question is, to whom does Jesus give this gift of living water? So we see this Samaritan woman, the least likely in the eyes of maybe the disciples in this passage and we see Jesus offering eternal life, this living water to her. The answer, I think to that question is that Jesus gives this gift of living water to all who trust in Him, even those we would deem least likely to receive Him. I think this is true for a couple of reasons. If we look at the context within the gospel of John where this passage falls we have in chapter three, Jesus having an interaction with a man named Nicodemus.
Now, Nicodemus was an upstanding man. He was well respected in his community. He was a leader of the Jewish people and a member of the Jewish Jewish ruling Council, the San Hedron. And yet he comes to Jesus at night secretly. And then we have in chapter four, this contrast, this woman who is the least respected in her community and in the eyes of the people. And she comes to Jesus in the middle of the day, a time when none of the other women who would've gone out to draw water on a regular basis, they would've gone in the early morning of the late evening when it was cool and comfortable, and yet she comes in the heat of the day to do this because she lives in such shame. So this woman, the least likely maybe in our eyes to receive Him, Jesus offers living water to her. I think there are a couple of points of maybe personal application we can take away from this. The first of those would be to ask ourselves the question, who are the Samaritans in our day? Who are the people that we might look at and think, you know, these are maybe the least likely in my eyes to receive Christ.
The second point of application I think we can think about is to ask ourselves - what is our deepest source of shame? The thing that Jesus might be most wanting to offer His living water to overcome. If he can take this deepest source of shame from the Samaritan woman, a serial adulterous, a woman who is completely despised; don't you think that He can take your deepest source of shame as well? What does God maybe causing you to think about this morning? What is that thing that He wants to take?
Well, you might be asking yourself at this point, why are we looking at John 4 today? You know that Jesse and Stephanie are missionaries and they're going to share about their ministry, so why are we looking at John for? Well, I wanted to share with you something from the Gospel of John because we've had the opportunity during our time in South Africa to work with a translation team called the Fui Team. Fui is a language from Zambia. One of the translation team members is a guy named Pastor David. I talked to Pastor David and I asked him, "Have you preached at all from the Gospel of John, and have you preached from John 4? And what were the takeaways for the Fui people from this passage?" And I want to read to you what he said about this passage. When he preached among the Fui people. Pastor David said, "Some people where we live, Africans, believe that they, (black people) are not God's children. They believe that only white people can be redeemed. And even that Jesus was a white person. And these ideas come from people who had come from the West, come from Europe and many places, and taught them these things. They're living lives marked by evil and enjoying evil things because they are not counted as God's children."
He says, "When I preach to them,' I said that we are created in God's image. Although we in skin color, but we have the same spirit. We are God's children. So if we believe in Jesus, no matter what tribe we are, but if we believe in Him, He can give us everlasting life. He promised that Samaritan woman that if you had known me and what I have, (the living water), you could first ask it from me. So, we also enjoy breathing the same breath and having the same spirit from God. When we ask Him to be with us, He can totally change our lives, and we can even receive what we are lacking. And God can even give us eternal life where those who are white, we can be with them, because even in heaven, we will not be separated into black or white, but we will be the same because we have the same spirit within us."
That wasn't an application that I would've taken away from this text, but that was maybe the most obvious point of application for him and for the Fui people. I'm so thankful that they have John four in their language today, and they can hear from God's word and be able to see these truths and believe and be transformed.
I think a second big question in this passage is this question of how does Jesus give the living water? And how does he use us in that? Well, I think he uses us as we see in verses 27-38, as He's speaking with the disciples. He uses us through the sewing and the reaping; the sewing of the gospel and of His word and the reaping of souls for His glory. This is primarily done through making disciples. This is something that we're all commanded to do, and it's also done in ways that support and strengthen His mission to establish His word in the world.
When we were in South Africa we had the opportunity to visit a place called [unclear17:12], which is about two hours east of Cape Town. [Unclear17:18] was the first mission station established in South Africa or what is now South Africa. it was established by a Moravian missionary, a guy named George Schmidt. George Schmidt, he arrived and settled this small mission at a place called Bovian's Cliff, which means Baboon Gorge. It was the year 1738. He worked there a few years sewing the word, sewing the gospel. But even though the people were receiving, they were receptive to the gospel; the Dutch reformed in the country at the time, they didn't believe that he could accomplish anything, but yet they were also feeling threatened by what he had already accomplished, by going to the native people of that area, which were the [unclear18:02] people.
Well, over time, Nikolaus von Zinzendorf, granted ordination to George Schmidt, so he became an ordained Moravian minister. Well, after that time, he began to baptize native people. He baptized five native disciples. The names were [Joes, Christian, Magdalena, Jonas, and Christina18:30]. Shortly after that, the local non-native people took offense to this because the fact that he was baptizing these native people, implied that they were equal to the non-native people. These native people were equal to the white settlers. And so, the Dutch Reform Church refused to recognize this Moravian ordination because he wasn't ordained in the Dutch reform Church, and they sent him back to Germany.
He went home assuming that he hadn't accomplished much. But when he left, he left a New Testament with Magdalena, one of those disciples he had baptized. And Magdalena sat for many years under a para tree, which is still there in [unclear19:11] and she read from that New Testament to a small group of disciples who sat around her. And that group grew. Well, a second mission was opened there about 50 years later. And at that time, by that time, thousands of local people had flocked to this place. In 1806, a governor named Janssens came to what was at the time called Bovian's Cliff. And he said, "This place is no longer Babboon Gorge. This place, because of the transformation, is now [unclear19:45], which means the Valley of Grace.
Well, if you go to [unclear19:51] today, there's a cemetery there where a number of saints are buried, and if you walk into the cemetery, there's an archway. And on the side, as you're entering it says in [uncleear20:01], which means sown in weakness. And in coming out on the other side, it says, [unclear20:10], which means raised in power - sown in weakness, raised in power. Well, I share this because the situation in Southern Africa is such that years ago, many came and many sewed the gospel, and it has been received to a great extent by the people there. And yet there's so much work to do, still, there's much reaping to do, there's still much sewing to do. But especially, there's a great need for people to have access to God's word and the language they clearly understand. So Stephanie and I and our family has chosen to follow God in sewing and reaping in this way, and engaging in the work of Bible translation in Southern Africa. Stephanie's going to come up and we just want to share a bit about our Wyclife Ministry, how we got involved in this work, our roles, some of the things we've been involved in, and what things look like going forward.
Stephanie: To begin, we wanted to give you an idea a little bit about our story. We could go on ages and ages telling you all the different stories and things that led to this point in our lives, but for the sake of time, we'll consolidate that a bit. We first began considering missions in 2010, shortly after we moved back here, after Jesse graduated from Moody Bible Institute. And we started looking into serving with Wyclife because while we were at Moody, Jesse discovered that he had an interest and a gift for biblical languages like Greek. And he - well, not he wrote yet, but Greek - and just languages in general. And so then we as a couple, we learned about more about Wyclife and the work of Bible translation and the needs for Bible translation.
We joined Wyclife in 2015. We went to our initial orientation called Equip, that same year/ the following year - so in 2016, we moved up to Canada for some prefill linguistics training. And so when we first became Wyclife members, we were assigned to serve in Tanzania. We had been praying for a people group there. And so when we were asked, you know, they asked us to put our top countries or areas of the world where we would like to serve, we named Tanzania as our first choice. But then when we were in Canada, our youngest Teddy was born, and he was diagnosed with a genetic metabolic condition called PKU. And for the sake of time, we pretty soon realized that Tanzania was not going to be a feasible option because they don't have the medical resources there that we need to support his medical condition.
So we started looking for a change of assignment, and at CANIL, Canada Institute of Linguistics, one of the instructors there who was also a friend of ours, he told us that we should look into serving in South Africa. He had spent some time working there, and he knew that in the greater Southern Africa region, there's lots of need for Bible translation, there's lots going on there. But in South Africa specifically where our branch is based, there's also really good medical care for Teddy. So we accepted a change of assignment to SIL Southern Africa in 2017, and then spent a little while trying to get visas. It was quite an ordeal the first time around, and finally arrived in South Africa in October of 2019. So, as far as our roles, Jesse's primary role is as a translation consultant in training.
A consultant goes into help assist in Bible translation. So the easiest way to put it is that it's quality assurance or quality control for Bible translation. So in the past, the model was that a linguist would go in and spend many years learning a local language before they could start Bible translation. But more and more today, we see like local communities like the [unclear24:19], doing the bulk of the translation themselves because they know their language better than we ever would if we spent the rest of our lives trying to learn it. And then consultants like Jesse's in training to be, go in and help make sure that the Bible translation is accurate with the original text, and that it is clear and natural in the local language, so it's kind of the best of both worlds. So his primary role is translation consultant in training, and he's also the director of HR for our branch, which he's been in that position for about a year and a half. But it's kind of taking over the translation side of things, so he's looking to move away from that and back into solely CIT work. I'm primarily homeschooling the kids and doing just the whole stay at home mom thing. And then all of us have been doing language learning to some extent. That was a big part of Jesse's role for our first term, was language learning for various reasons. And then the kids and I also learned some as well.
Jesse: Yeah, so as Stephanie said, that's the second time.
Stephanie: I did it for sure too.
Jesse: As Stephanie said, you know, we've been doing language learning together as a family. We've been studying a language called [unclear25:40] which is an indigenous language of South Africa. It's what they call a Bantu language. Bantu is the language family. So the Bantu language family is about 500 to 600 languages in Sub-Saharan Africa. And so, the primary reason for learning that is to be able to work with these related-languages in the region, which are the majority of the languages that we work with as a branch. One of the things that that's allowed us to do that's not necessarily a part of our job description, so to speak; it's part of what I would call our life ministry, the things that we do in our regular life that are not part of our work ministry.
We've been able to get connected with a church in the area near where we were living called [unclear26:33] Church. This is a closer church, and we've been able to thankfully build some connections there. We've been able to go and worship with them on a somewhat regular basis. But one of the kind of highlights of that making, of having that connection with the church is that [unclear26:51] is a church plant that our local church is helping to start. And many times the churches get together, [unclear27:02] is a, as I said, a closer church, so Black South African almost entirely or entirely. Our church is primarily white South Africans and other people, but an English speaking church. And so, the churches sometimes get together and have different events, and there's always this kind of barrier between the people. There's never a good mixing together of people establishing relationships with each other.
But in March of this year, we were able to start a language learning initiative and to have some introductory close classes at our church, which is called Gracefield Church. And the people from Grace Fields were able to learn some basic closer phrases and begin learning the language. And out of that, we've seen people begin to make some connections between the churches, which has been a great blessing. It's kind of a testament to the ability of language to bridge these gaps and to make connections between people. Well, besides that on the work ministry side of things during this first term, we've had a few opportunities to connect with translation teams. So Stephanie said my role is a translation consultant in training, which means that I would support a number of different teams, different translation teams.
The first of these that I was able to observe was a team called the Kuda Team. Kuda is the language from Eastern Zambia. And the Kuda team, since I was able to observe them in 2020, they've completed the New Testament, so they have a complete New Testament, and they're just working on publication now. So that project is kind of on hold at this point, but it was an unexpected opportunity to be able to observe them and to get to kind of see how the translation process works up close and to get to know a team. Second opportunity that came up was to work with the South African Sign Language team in Cape Town. There are about 600,000 deaf people in South Africa. So these people, obviously South African sign language is their first language or only language for all of them.
At this point, the SASL team, as we call them, the South African Sign Language Team, has completed a draft of a story set essentially from the Bible. So the scripture's being translated, It's a video translation because it's sign language, and it's beginning to go out, beginning to be tested and beginning to be used in the community. Just one quick story about that that we think that was inspiring to us was, there's a lady named Michelle. Michelle is an interpreter with the SASL team. So Michelle grew up as the child of two deaf parents. South African sign language, even though she's a hearing person, is a first language for her because she grew up using it with her parents. Michelle does a great service for the SASL team. She's a fantastic interpreter. I mean, she understand this so well. And during, I think it was in 2021, her godfather passed away in Cape Town. So she was asked to come and interpret for the funeral. And at the funeral there were about 50 deaf people in attendance. Bulk of the people who were in attendance were deaf.
So she was signing for this funeral. And as part of the funeral, she wanted to share from John 15, which was a passage that the team had translated. It was quite significant for the team and for her, so she wanted to share with this group what they had learned. She shared from John 15 about Jesus speaking about the vine and the branches. And as a result of sharing from the Bible in South African sign language, 48 of the 50 deaf people who were at in attendance accepted Christ. And because of that, and because it was under covid regulations, she had contact info for all of them, was able to follow up with all of them afterwards.
It was just an amazing way that God worked through that situation, and an example of how important it is for all people to have access to God's word in a language they can clearly understand and the difference that makes. Well, the final opportunity we want to tell you about that we had to interact with the translation team during this last term was to work with a team called the Fui Team. Now Fui as I said, Pastor David is a Fui person, he's a pastor from the Fui community. Fui is a language from Zambia, Western Zambia. And the Fui team is a really wonderful team to work with. They work in what they call a cluster project, so a group of languages, translation teams who come together and work together several times a year in what's called the Mongu cluster. There are four other translation projects that are a part of that cluster.
So I had the opportunity to not only observe this team earlier this year, but also to begin doing some translation checking with them, which is a great blessing, something I didn't really expect to happen during this term. But the consultant who's associated with this project was really generous in allowing me to participate. So the Fui team is made up of four people. One of them is this guy in the blue and green. His name is Ndu Cosmos. Ndu means chief in Fui. So he is a chief of the Fui people, an important person to have as a part of the translation team. There are three others. One is named Innocent. Innocent is kind of the lead translator, Rhoda, who does most of the type setting or the keyboarding for the project, not type setting.
They do a lot of handwritten translation, and she will put all of that into Parex, which is the software we use for recording the translation and working with it. And then finally, Pastor David, as I told you about. With the Fui team the Fui people in general, it's so exciting to hear them talk about having scripture in the Foy language language, because the Fui people are very hungry to have God's word in their language, and they're using it. It's really naturally happening. Sometimes you translate, you know, the Bible gets translated and the people don't use it so much. But in the Fui community, the people are getting these, you know, portions of scripture as they are produced and they're using it, they're reading it, they're preaching from it, like Pastor David, and it's really blessing the community. And they value these translators so much that Innocent reported to the team, to the group - at the beginning of one of these workshops, he reported that there was a lady from the Fui community who told him, "You translators, you are chosen by God. You are chosen from your mother's womb," she said.
They value this translation team. They face a lot of challenges. They don't come from wealth; they come from what we would consider poverty. They're farmers, they travel to a central area about four times a year for a three week workshop, leaving their families behind at home to watch over things. And they deal with sickness and all kinds of things, and yet they applaud forward, they continue in the work. So we're thankful for them. And this is just a picture of what the workshop looked like. It's the best we could do at the time. Everybody prefers to meet in person for these things. Technology is wonderful in that it allows us to do things that we couldn't otherwise do. But it also comes with its challenges, especially when you're meeting with a team in a remote area.
So Jim, the consultant is in the top left, then Hillary and Diane are consultants in training like myself, and you can see the team on the bottom right there. So pray for the Fui team that they would be able to continue and remain healthy, and that their families remain well, and that God's word would continue to bear fruit in the community. As far as our future plans, we plan to return to South Africa in March. We plan to continue supporting translation teams such as the Fui, possibly getting into sign language, although I'm not sure if that will be the case or not, but we're looking at that.
There are many sign language needs in Southern Africa. Our branch has received requests to support 16 new sign language projects in Southern Africa. So if not us, somebody's going to need to step in to help with those things, so just some exciting things for the future. And then finally, we plan to continue engaging in and through our church Gracefields, as well as with [unclear36:09] Church. You can pray for them as well, that church they face challenges as well. It's in a very poor community. And some of the challenges, you know, challenges with leadership, the difficulties of life really make ministry very difficult in many cases. And also, especially I think, you know, they have many children who come to the church, which is wonderful. They have many women who come to the church, but there's not many men who are a part of the church, so you might pray that God would bring more men into the church [unclear36:44], and that God would continue transforming the community of [unclear36:48, where the church meets.
Stephanie: So there's a few different ways that you can get involved with Bible translation. First of all, you can pray. We have seen time and time again how important and how crucial prayer is, not only for us and our ministry, but just for missions in general. So you can definitely pray for us. There's a few different prayer requests that we have. First of all, we would ask for prayer for our visas. We applied for new visas about a month and a half before we left, and were hoping that they will be ready for us to pick up by the time we return to South Africa. It's taking quite a long time right now for visas to be processed for a few different reasons, but we're hoping and praying that they will be ready for us to pick up when we return.
Secondly, we have a budget deficit right now. So just due to fluctuations in giving, because of people have to stop or reduce their giving for various reasons. We've had an increase in like, just cost of living increase as everyone has seen. And then we also have to budget differently for Teddy's Medical needs this term. So we currently have a need of about $900 per month to be fully funded, and we have to be fully funded before we can be released to go back to South Africa. We also have branch personnel needs. Like I said, Jesse's wanting to step out of the HR director role and back into full-time consultant and training roles, so that means we need a new HR director, but our branch also has other personnel needs especially on the leadership team right now. We've had people just move on to different roles, and so we've got a lot of needs in our branch for personnel.
And then also out on our table, we have prayer cards with other prayer points on the back. So secondly, you can give, like I mentioned before, for our our deficit right now. And then thirdly, you can go. Maybe you have been called to missions in some capacity. And the thing is that missions needs everyone, and any walk of life can be helpful in missions. It's not just linguists and translators, even in organization like Wyclife needs people like it staff and medical personnel and teachers in some cases for the missionary kids and things like that, so anyone in any walk of life can be involved in missions. And last but not least, you can advocate not only for us and for our ministry, but also for missions and for Bible translation in general, so that people know what the needs are and that there is a need for Bible translation.
But for us personally, if you know of any other groups or individuals that would like to hear from us about our ministry and about Bible translation, we're open for presentations or one-on-one meetings or anything like that. We would love to talk to you if you would, if you know anyone that would like to hear from us. And we also have materials out on our table out in the back. We have business cards with just our contact information. We have prayer cards with our picture, and then prayer points on the back. We have magnets, and we also have our brochures where you can sign up to be on our newsletter team or where you have various options for giving for our Wycliff Ministry.
Jessie: So just returning to John 4 as we close here. I'm going to ask you - maybe you've been sowing the gospel in the life of someone you know, for a long time and you haven't seen the fruit from it yet. I just want to encourage you to continue doing that and may God bring a harvest soon. You never know when that time might come. Maybe you've had the opportunity to be the harvester, and praise God for that. Maybe God's calling you to join in supporting this ministry of the Gospel through God's word and translating God's word. We ask you to prayerfully consider that. And then finally, I think there's one more big question that Jesus answers here in John 4, and that is, why does he give the living water?
I think we see that he gives the living water to us so that we can worship him the true Messiah, true God, through the Holy Spirit and spirit and truth. So let's do that again this morning. Let's continue doing that, remembering that God is drawing and gathering a people to himself from every nation. This picture was something that I just saw that caught my eye [unclear41:43]. There are a lot of things in this picture that I'm not crazy about, that I don't like necessarily. But there are a lot of things that I do like, and I think it's a picture of the motivation that George Schmidt had, when he went and established that mission station, which is that all might worship him. You see Jesus in the middle of their reigning and receiving the worship of people from many nations.
Well, let's pray. Ask the team to come back up. Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for this morning. We thank you for your word, Lord, for your salvation that you give us. Lord, we know without you, we are nothing. Yet we continue on and saying, yet, not I, but through Christ in me, we thank you, God, that you are with us, that you help us through Your spirit You empower us. I pray that your word would take root within us, that you continue to speak through it as we go through this week, and we pray these things in Jesus name. Amen.
Pastor Mitchell does not make available his sermon notes.
Trust God Completely!
What have you trusted that proved trustworthy over time?
What happens when we trust God?
Isaiah 40:1-2 We receive God’s comfort
-Guilt and consequences from sin are meant to turn us towards
-We receive comfort by asking for and receiving God’s
Forgiveness- he removes our guilt and shame
Isaiah 40:31 We experience supernatural power
-strength to face life appropriately
-freedom to rise above our circumstances
-endurance to finish strong for God
Why can we trust God?
Isaiah 40:3-5 He came to us
-Prepare the way of the Lord- John the Baptist
-God paved a road straight to us
-vs 4 common description for road construction
-God makes a way when there is no other way
-We will all see “the glory of the Lord” (presence and power)
Isaiah 40:6-8 His Word remains forever
-Everything in this earthly world fades away
-vs 8 “but the word of our God remains forever”
-history has proven the endurance of God’s Word
Isaiah 40:9-11 His followers say so
-vs 9 Zion- another name for God’s people
-God’s people declare how wonderful God is
-vs 10 God brings justice and truth
-vs 11 God brings protection and tenderness
Isaiah 40:12-26 Nothing and no one else is comparable!
-Illust: the sand and gravel pile I used to play in- I was in
complete control over everything, made roads, tunnels,
houses, and then wiped them out to start all over again.
-vs 12-14 Above creation
-vs 15-17 Above every nation
-vs 18-21 Above every idol
-vs 22-25 Above every earthly ruler
How to trust God Isaiah 40:27-31
-Does the thought of God comfort you?- forgiveness is free!
-Do you supernaturally want to do what God says?
-Is there evidence God is supernaturally changing your life?
Stop trusting your feelings and framework
-stop trusting what you know over what you don’t know!
-vs 27-we think they can hide from God
-God is so much “other” than we are or what we know!
-vs 28-29 summarizes the past several verses
Trust God with your whole life
-vs 30 Are you faint and weary today?
Are you stumbling and falling today?
-vs 31 “But those who trust in the Lord…”
-those who “wait on the Lord”
-God may not change your circumstances but He will
empower you IN all of your circumstances
-Isaiah’s audience trusted God centuries before Jesus came
-John 1:29 …”Here is the Lamb, who takes away the sin of the
-Connection Card, Online Contact Page, Prayer Team
Full of Grace and Truth
Observation of John 1:14
Word became flesh and dwelt among us
-Word- Jn 1:1 = this is describing God, Jesus
-Jesus entered earth as a person, “tented”
-Jesus “tented” or habited with us.
-Every true Christian believes this!
-churches that deny that Jesus is God are not churches
We observed his glory
-We- John 1:12 those who believed in Jesus, didn’t reject him
-the ones God gave the right to become his “children”
-the ones who were spiritually “born” – new life
-observed his glory-manifestation of God’s presence and power
The glory as the one and only Son from the father
-Jesus is the one and only “God with us” person to exist
-there are no other representatives of God’s power/presence
-We CANNOT say God and Buddha, or God and Caesar
-Christians died before denying their full allegiance to Jesus
-Syncretism is not an option- the Bible declares all other
religions to be false, created by humans rebelling from God
Full of grace and truth
-full of: Jesus/the Word/God is full of both grace and truth
-fully grace AND fully truth
-grace- charis- unconditional mercy, favor
-God’s dealing with us in undeserved ways
-an outflow of God’s goodness and generosity
-compares to Hebrew (c)hesed
-lovingkindness, gracious mercy
-truth- altheia- that which is reality
-Hebrew emet- aithfulness, steadfastness, consistency
“Or” is not an option!
Grace without truth destroys intimacy
-acceptance without absolutes = confusion and denial
-zero truth boundaries leads to a life of chaos
-absolute freedom invites slavery to our flesh and feelings
-1 Peter 4:3
-Relationships built on grace alone have unhealthy boundaries,
raise soft & rebellious children, permits abuse in marriage,
eventually leads to resentment and dissatisfaction when we
refuse to identify what we need or how someone hurts us
Truth without grace destroys authenticity
-Fear of rejection leads us to hide, refuse to confess faults
-leads to a life filled with judgment, constant guilt, anxiety
-God’s Word (the Law) is designed to reveal our sin
(Romans 3:19-20) and remind us we deserve God’s
condemnation (Romans 4:15)
-Relationships built on truth alone forces us to
-we perform/pretend (no one is perfect!)
-or we fully rebel (give up trying and resort to fatalism)
Jesus offers grace AND truth
Grace: Come as you are!
-Matthew 11:28 Come all who are weary…
-Luke 15:20 Jesus welcomes the child who rejected him!
-Jesus receives us before we change: Zacchaeus, Matthew
-Christians love outsiders MORE because of Jesus
-no lifestyle, attitude, rebellious tendency should stop us
-Christian marriages receive like Jesus received them
Truth: Leave Changed!
-John 8:32 the truth sets us free!
-we must face our guilt before we ask forgiveness!
-John 4 Woman at the well- Jesus revealed her sinful lifestyle
(truth) after he accepted her (grace), which led her to abandon
false religion, trust in Jesus, and lead her city to find Jesus
In the book of John - Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, the fourth book in the New Testament, I always say, if you take your Bible and you cut it, don't cut it in half, you open it in half, you're generally often in the Psalms. And then if you take the other half and you cut it in half or open it in half, you are in the New Testament, usually around Matthew, Mark, or Luke. If you're in Malachi, you can read that as well if you want. But go forward, go to the right a little bit, and you hit Matthew, Mark, Luke, and then John this morning. John 1:14, Full of grace and Truth. That's my message title this morning, and we're going to talk about the idea that grace and truth must work together in our lives.
I don't know about you, but I don't enjoy eating the individual ingredients of a cake. I'm not really into vegetable oil by itself. Even olive oil, still kind of weird if you substitute things like that or lard, some of you - big old scoop of lard. Maybe some people, most people, not. I'd like to eat two cups of flour. Now, have you ever tried to eat flour on its own? I've had some stories of my children going to my mother-in-law's house. They thought that the statue of limitation had run out, and they were explaining to me how they destroyed her kitchen. And they actually dared each other to eat flour. And they did. How'd that go? It’s disgusting. Flour needs to be mixed with something to be tasty. Oil, flour, eggs - we don't eat these ingredients by themselves. We put them together for a tasty dessert.
Now, every illustration on the earth breaks down when you're talking about spiritual things because there's a stark contrast between the two. Living the Christian life is far different than eating cake. It's not a cake walk. I didn't even try that out last service. I don't know. Stick to the notes, Greg, sticks to the notes. You see, grace alone, if we were to just live by grace alone or we just let anything go, we just love people and don't ever seek the truth about what we ought to do and how we ought to live; grace alone leads to abused freedom. And it actually leads us to be continually enslaved to the very things that God wants to change us from. And it actually enslaves us to lifestyles that are disruptive and abusive in relationships, be it a marriage, the most intimate one you can think of on earth, relationships between parents and children, and obviously relationships between friends. But truth alone leads to abusive authority and shame and pretending.
We're going to unpack these as we go, but just think about it, that if you have somebody that has this high expectation of you with no room for forgiveness or grace, and they think that they have the best way of telling you how to live your life, they will abuse that truth and beat you to death with it; emotionally, spiritually, and sadly in horrible, difficult relationships physically. Truth without grace leads to abuse of authority, shame. In other words, I can't ever get out of the guilt that I have because there's no pathway for reconciliation for forgiveness. You see, grace plus truth equals acceptance, intimacy, and reconciliation. I'll share that as we move forward. But grace and truth put together brings in our lives, acceptance, intimacy, and full reconciliation.
John is writing about this man called Jesus who walked the earth, died in rose again. Many years later he's writing an account of the history of Jesus, the story of Jesus, the reality of Jesus. He doesn't start with Jesus in the manger. He starts with Jesus as the preexistent God. He is God. He is fully God. And the word became flesh and made us dwelling among us, we're going to see here in just a moment. But in the beginning of his gospel, he says in chapter one, verse one, in the beginning was the word - in the beginning, like before anything ever began, Jesus always has been the word being God, the word representing Jesus Christ. And the word was with God, and the word was God. Some cults who say they are followers of Jesus, followers of God falsely put in there a little word called "a" He was a God, and they changed the word God to little "G" god. And that is absolutely does complete violence to the original language of the Greek New Testament. And it is actually meant in order to purport a very false belief about Jesus Christ.
And so, John is writing to us to explain to us who Jesus is as the beginning. And so when we see in our verse the word, it means Jesus. And by the way, John says later in his gospel, "I'm writing these things that you might know Jesus, who He is, and that by believing on Him, you might have life in His name." His whole purpose of his gospel was that people would find Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. And indeed, if we were to walk away from this service and everybody had a nice little message about history and nice little message about linguistics, and they say, "Well, pastor really studied up this week. He knows what he is talking about. Or he went way longer, which means he didn't study enough to get rid of the stuff he shouldn't have talked about," that if we just had a nice little time, and you learned and made thought the jokes were funny, and that's all you thought about, then I have failed miserably because I desire and I pray, and we do all of what we do up here. We have our baptism time - all that we do together as a body of Christ is meant to bring people towards Christ and for people who are in Christ, to keep living in Christ and walking and growing in their faith in Christ.
So I pray that this morning you might, wherever you might be on that spectrum of, here it is, I'm a follower Jesus, or I'm close to following Jesus, or I'm already following Jesus. Wherever you are on that scale this morning, that you would find yourself taking one more step towards Jesus Christ. And I would pray that anyone who is not following Jesus, that they would put this step into following Jesus this morning because eternity is too long for you to be wrong, and you never know how much time we have left to make that decision.
So let's look at John 1:14. Let me read it, break it down. And then at the end, we're actually going to camp out on the last phrase, "Full of grace and truth." But let's break down this passage so that we can see it in context. In verse 14, it says, "The word became flesh and dwell among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the one and only son from the Father, full of grace and truth." What are we saying here? What is John saying? What did the Holy Spirit inspire John to tell us this morning? First of all, the word we already established that is Jesus Christ. It became flesh and dwelt among us.
Jesus entered earth as a person and as some translators talk about, He tented with us. He pitched a tent and hung out with us. He habited with us. He became part of, He dwelt, we're in dwelling places, our homes, right? He wants to make his home in us. He made his home with us, born of a virgin, came in into this earth and grew. And it said that they were impressed by how well He continued to grow in His walk, in His maturity, in His stature. Jesus tented with us. And every true Christian believes this. And every true church believes this. There are people, there are certain organizations that call themselves a church, but they deny the fact that Jesus is God. He was just a representation but he's not God. And they'll even have Easter pageants, they'll even do all kinds of grand things that look very Christian, but they deny that Jesus is God, which makes them not a church, even if they say so.
And we have to be careful that we don't slip into a religiosity of the culture that just allows anything to go, anything to go, "Well, I'm a Christian. Well, I'm a Christian." No, a Christian believes that Jesus is the word, become flesh, fully God and fully man. And it says, "We observed His glory." We? Who are we that John is talking about? Well, verse 12, go up there a little bit further, up before that verse that we're looking at today. And it says, "But to all who did receive Him," there were some that rejected Jesus. But the ones who didn't reject Jesus, 'the ones who received Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not of natural dis descent or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God."
Those who believe in Jesus, that's the ones. We beheld His glory. We're the ones that see Jesus, the ones that didn't reject Him, the ones who he gave the right to become his children; the ones who they were spiritually born. And interesting, John could have said all kinds of things here, he's making a point in his entire gospel that later on, he is the one that would include the story of Jesus talking to Nicodemus in the night when he'd say, "What do I need to do about this? What must I do to be saved, in his own ways of saying it. And Jesus said, "You must be born again." And he talks about the idea of being spiritually born, that we not only have a physical birthday into this world, but we have a spiritual birthday. And that's why I say there is... can everybody in this room say I know the day and the time that that happened?
I don't know that everybody in this room can say that. Some can, but the fact is it ought to have happened one way or the other whether we can pinpoint it or not, we need to know that we did put our faith in Jesus Christ. And at that moment, we became born again. And these are the ones who observe his glory, the manifestation of God's presence and power. We be held His glory. What is His glory? His presence and His power. There are people that say, I'm a Christian, but there is no presence of Christ in their life. They don't look like Christ, and there's no power in their lives. They have no interest or desire to change their lives. They want to continue on a lifestyle that is ungodly. They want to continue to live for whatever they want to do. And they don't want to bow themselves to what God says is true or right in their lives; they just want to do their own thing. They want to be a lone ranger.
That person might be completely rebelling against what the Holy Spirit's saying to them. And that person is probably more miserable than an unbeliever. Or that person is an believer who is a cultural Christian, but not a true Christian. They have religion, but they don't have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Those who observed His glory have been changed. They've observed His presence. He's living within them. There's movement in their lives spiritually. There's something to be said for who that person is. Now, I'm not here to say I know who that person is in this room, that everyone I can just point it out which one is you or living for him or not. I watched all your Facebooks, your Twitters, your ticks, your stuff, and I've just made a judgment call today. No, I mean, as my head chaplain at the police department says, "I've seen the job assignment for being the judge of the world. I don't want it. I'll let God be God."
I'm just here to say a warning that anyone who thinks they're following Jesus, but there's no power, there's no presence, there's no change; I would say repent and be baptized. Tell the world you're a Christian. Start living for Him. Cross that line from religion into a relationship with Jesus and observe His glory, the glory as the one and only son from the Father. What else is this verse telling us? That Jesus is the one and only God with us person to have ever and whoever will exist on this earth. This is not a lineage of there was God the Father, and then He had a baby, and it was Jesus, his son. We're talking about a family relationship that is in a sense of a tightness of the same essence, not genealogical history; that Jesus is of the same essence of God and He came as the son of God and He came as the only begotten son of God, right? That's where the one and only son of God in John, again, John 3:16, John is building his case here for the reader to say, this is the one and only example.
Syncretism is not acceptable for the Christian life. It's not God and Buddha. It's not Jesus and Caesar. The Christian faith has always been intimidating to absolute authority on this earth. Why? Because absolute authority wants you to bow to them - cultural authority. We may not have a potentate king or an autocratic or whatever you want to say. We may not have a dictatorship in our country, but there is a cultural code that says you will bow to our gods and you don't tell us your god's more important than ours. And if you don't do that, there will be consequences. And the further we get into that kind of lifestyle thinking in our country, it will be the same as, I mean we know this, our Christian brothers and sisters that are suffering even in this very moment in Meia Mar and in China and in the Middle Eastern countries and different places of the world where they believe their God is God and their whole authority of their government is based upon that God, which is a false God, an evil representation of a God. And any Christian who would say, I'm not bowing to that is excommunicated and at worst, put to death.
You see, this idea that Jesus is the one and only representative and there is no other on this earth. I mean, you can just blow off the guy that's the vegan downtown that looks like Jesus and says he's the incarnate. Okay, just don't have to worry about that guy. You're not laughing. We go to these big conferences, at church Christian conferences and there's always, Jesus is always on the corner. I'm a vegan. And there's nothing wrong with being a vegan. If you're a vegan, God bless you. But it just seems that - I've never seen that. Jesus says I eat red meat, I just haven't seen that.
Again, stick to the script. But people have a Jesus complex. I'm God. And you know that person is safely helped to a mental institution or they're given warm food and a bed for the night somewhere because their families rejected them at this point. That's just crazy. But often, it's usually not that Jesus we're rejecting, it's just that we're trying to look at these other things and say, "Well, I want Jesus and my horoscopes. I want Jesus and my," and Jesus is the one and only. We can't compromise that.
The glory is the one and only son from the Father, and then we get to our phrase, full of grace and truth. Full of - Jesus, the word God. He's full of both grace and truth, fully grace and fully truth. Now, what is grace? Grace is the Greek word charis. The Hebrew "hesed" is in parallel to that in the Old Testament when it was mentioned, hesed said, meaning loving kindness, gracious mercy, unconditional mercy or favor. Basically, God is dealing with us in an undeserved way. It's an outflow of God's goodness and generosity that He wants to receive you and love you come as you are because He's not asking you to do something in order to earn his favor and love. For God's to love the world that he gave us one and only son. It didn't say for God's love the world and when they finally got their act together, He sent His son. They weren't getting their act together, and that's why he sent His son. You didn't get your act together and that's why Jesus came to you, you didn't have to come to Him. Grace!
But then it says He's also full of truth. "Althea," maybe if you say that right in the Greek, that which is reality, that which is true, that which is the reality of this. When we first started our church, we had a phrase, "Real people, real church, real God" had the t-shirts and everything, had it on our banners. Real people, real church, real God. Now, that doesn't mean while just being real, I'm going to be abusive in the way I act. Just being real. No, no. It's just saying, we take people right where they are, please don't pretend; please be who you are. I told somebody when we started our church about three or four years into it, they were talking about an argument they were having in their church about carpet, or I'll use carpet because that's what churches sometimes argue about. And they were arguing about some paint on the wall or something. I says, "We don't argue about that kind of stuff." I said, "First of all, we don't have a building." And all of their conversation was leading me to think I never wanted one. But anyway I'm glad we have this.
But I said our arguments are about like can someone come to worship today with the other person because they really can't stand each other right now and they had a big fight. I mean, they're baby Christians growing in their faith, had nothing to do with theology or the ecclesiology or the church or anything. It just had to do with real people, with real messes and real stuff going on in their lives. And I'll say I don't want all that stuff, but I'll take that far more than I'll take carpet problems, because that's people being real. It's like the guy on the airplane that'll tell you everything about him. You're like, "Wow!" And that happens to me at Aldi's, it happens to me at Kroger, I mean, you just start listening and people tell you everything. The banker starts telling you stuff. I mean, and it's awesome. People are being real.
What do we do? We go to church. How you doing? Fine. How is your week? Pretty good. Don't talk. Don't talk, don't tell. Don't let anybody know we're having problems in our marriage. Don't let anybody know that we're heartbroken over a loved one that's running away from God. We don't want to talk about the fact that I had a nervous breakdown this week because I'm dealing with anxiety. We don't want to talk about that. We think somehow that there's a barrier between the parking lot and here that we have to get rid of all that stuff and suppress it because that's - no. So we talked about being real, real people, real church.
We're going to go there with you. We want to walk in that situation. I want you to walk in my mess. I know you don't want to think I'm a messy person, but I am. I'm still a mess. I'm still being growing in my faith. I still have people say, "Pastor, you shouldn't have done this, are you offending me?" Because I'm a Christian that's growing in my faith, I'm still growing. Now to say I'm just being real, that's not an excuse, I got to mature in my faith. But so do all of us and we all need to come to a church that's willing to deal with our mess and not just pretend that we're a bunch of nice people.
We are a bunch of nice people, but we're growing to be nicer, right? Okay, we want to be real because we have a real God who has standards, but who really takes us right where we are and wants to move us to where we need to go - full of grace and truth because or is not an option, or He is grace or truth. He is truth or grace is not an option. It's not an option with God because God is full of grace and truth. And it's not an option for your relationships with one another. And it's not an option for how you relate to God. You need to receive God fully by His grace, and you need to receive God's truth at the same time. Because grace without truth destroys intimacy.
You can't really talk about the real stuff that's going on when you're just, "Oh, it's okay. Just not worry about it." That's why we spend a large chunk of my time in premarital counsel talking about being real, about what you feel and what you think. You have two people coming together and you could easily have someone dominating over the other person in such a way that that person never expresses how they feel about something. I'm not saying they want to go into, you know what I kind of like the color blue. Maybe one of our rooms could be blue. This is a real benign, easy thing. But if you are 45 years and you never get blue in your marriage, you'll get blue. You'll get sad because you've never been able to express yourself because it's all grace but there's no truth. You're not telling the truth of how you really feel. I'm fine, but you're not. And you're suppressing that and you don't really get to know the person because you don't really care. You know, just keep going. Zero truth boundaries leads to lives of chaos.
Romans 6 tells us, "What then should we send because we are not under the law, but under grace." Absolutely not. We need to have... we're accepted by faith, and the grace saves us. By grace our faith saves us and it's because of His grace that we come to Him unmerited favor. We don't have to earn our way into His presence. But we don't just say, "Well I can do whatever I want now that I'm a Christian." No, no, no, no. What does it say in Colossians 3:5, it says, "Therefore, now that you become a Christian, put to death what belongs to your earthly nature. Sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry. Don't let the sins of your life replace the God of your life because they will be your idols. They will be your gods instead of God."
1 Peter 4:3 says, "For there has already been enough time spent in doing what the gentiles or the unbelievers do, (choose to do), carrying on in unrestrained behavior, evil desires, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and lawless idolatry." Verse four, "They are surprised that you don't join them in the same flood of wild living and they slander you." What's going on there? When you become a Christian, your friends that aren't Christians are going to start looking at you and go, "Who do you think you are?" Now, you don't even preach a word to them. You don't even say, "You know, you shouldn't be doing that." You just stop doing some of those things. And what do your friends who don't want to do that do? They start making fun of you? They start brow beating you and they start slandering you and they start calling you names - "You Bible thumper, you preach your boy. Who do you think you are?" "I'm just trying to live for Jesus. Leave me alone." "Oh I'm sorry. Forgive me for that." "Get out of here. Quit asking me to forgive you all the time."
I mean, there's going to be a hostility naturally because they don't... here's two things. There's two people you meet. You meet the Christian who's bashing Christianity because they're rebelling against a holy God and they're living in a backslidden life way away from God. And so, they need friends in their camp so they don't continue to... they want to try to suppress their guilt by helping you join them in what they're doing so they can feel better about their badness. And then there's people that absolutely have no iota of care or guilt and they're just inviting you in because that's how you'd live life. They don't know any better. That's just how it is. And they just think you're a weirdo if you're doing that, and you're like, I'm not a weirdo, a weirdo for Jesus, I guess. And they just don't get it.
Because you're saying, "I'm living by grace." Yes, God's accepted me fully, but that means I'm also on a pathway of moving forward into the truth. Relationships built on grace alone will have unhealthy boundaries. Sometimes those boundaries lead to, oftentimes it's the wife or the girlfriend that will keep forgiving the abusive partner to their death. They just keep throwing grace out there as if there is no truth to the fact that I'm being beat up physically and I need rescued from this dangerous situation. It raises soft and rebellious children. Kids that have no boundaries will have no boundaries in life as they grow up to be adults. It eventually leads to resentment and dissatisfaction when we refuse to identify what we really need or how someone has actually hurt us. Grace without truth destroys intimacy, and truth without grace destroys authenticity.
You see how many here's perfect? Wow! Just one person? You and I know that we can't go a day without doing something we shouldn't do and we have to ask forgiveness to God, "God forgive me. I didn't mean to do that." Yeah, you did, you did it. Don't give me, I didn't mean to do that. And sometimes we do things we didn't mean to do, but oftentimes we're pretty good at thinking. Did the devil make you do it? No, I thought of that all by myself. We're pretty creative in doing bad, and we're pretty good at... you know, I always tell people, "I'm just glad my bad is legal because I don't like going to jail and I don't like paying fines, so I just keep my bad under the radar." That ain't right, is it? But it's kind of, you know, oftentimes we want to be a good person doesn't mean that we're perfect.
And when we are not perfect and we live and think that God is only truth and not grace, what happens? We start hiding. We start pretending. We start acting like we're perfect even though we're absolutely not, because there's no pathway for forgiveness if you're just living with a God of judgment and truth. And by the way, some of you might have grown up in a home where it was all about truth and not about grace. And you have a hard time understanding God's love and unconditional favor because you were never given that as a child. You were never graced with a man or a woman who loved you unconditionally and said no matter what you do, no matter how far you go, no matter what happens in your life, I will always love you, I will always take you, I will always accept you and I will always love you; I will never stop loving you.
And if you've never had or experienced that kind of intimate relationship on this earth, it might be hard for you to understand that that's how God accepts you and loves you. And so, if you're just living by a God, that's just the judge, you're trying to run from the judge. You're trying to hide from the cops. You're trying to run away from the reality of who you really are and you will not be authentic in your life. It leads to a life filled with judgment, constant guilt, anxiety because you have never had anything to relieve you of the pressure, of the sins and the problems that you're dealing with because you don't think there's a pathway out of it. I've gone too far, I've really blown it this time, no one can accept me now. These are the phrases that are used by someone who believes that it's all about truth and not about grace as well.
You see God's word, the law - later on it says in the passage here that Moses came with the law, Jesus came with grace and truth. In other words, the law was never meant to save us or make us happy. The law was meant to convict us. It shows us that we're condemned if we don't trust in Jesus, if we don't trust in God, if we don't trust in the one true God who gave us the law. And it was really by his grace that He gave us the truth, because the truth lets me know what's right and wrong. It lets me know who God is and how He relates to me. The truth is wonderful, but when we don't live by the truth and we don't; all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, that truth beats us up. It's a hammer.
In our relationships we start performing and pretending to the other person because we don't want to be caught doing something that would possibly cause them to reject us. Sometimes kids, they'll hide their sin like crazy because they know there's no forgiveness in the home, and they'll absolutely do everything they can to be one person here and another person here; two different persons, split personalities. Some kids even go so far as to have different sets of clothes that they put on their way to school, and then put the clothes their parents want them to wear when they come home, pretending the whole time. Or they get to the point where they're so sick of not living up to the expectations of their parents that they say, "I'll show you," and they rebel completely. They say, "I'll be your worst nightmare. I'm going to end up being what you say you can't stand just to get back at you."
And the hardest part about that is, as you look in on a situation like that and as pastor, as a friend, as a brother in Christ, your heart breaks because you know that they're doing to themselves things that you would never want anybody to do to themselves. And they're living in a life that is enslaved to the very thing that God has come to save them from. Think about this, we want God to accept us right where we are, which means we know we have a portion of our life that if God didn't do that, we're unacceptable. In other words, we want God to accept us right where we are so that we don't live in our shame, which means we do have a sense that there is shame in what we're doing.
But then here's the ironic thing. A person will say, "Well I want God, or I want the world to accept me for who I am or what I'm doing because I'm doing it anyway and I don't care what people think." And yet that same person is saying, "But I don't want to change. What's made me unacceptable over here, I don't want to change that. I want to do whatever I want to do God, but I want you to accept me for whatever I'm doing." But the very fact that you said that means that you know the truth is that you're not doing what God intended or designed for you to do or to be, and you're denying His ability to walk and work in your life so that you can become all that he's intended for you to be. And it's painful to watch.
And I know that I've had mentors and small group leaders that it's probably been painful for them to watch me in that situation. Again, we're all in this together. We're all dealing with this. This message is as important for me as anyone in this room, because Jesus offers grace and truth. Will you trust Him today in both realities? He offers grace, come as you are. There's a church opposite of us; we're on Anthony North, they're on Anthony South, way south by the Highway 27 going out of town, and they're called Come as You are Community Church. I love that. That's a neat name. Maybe we would've been that name, but they were existed before we did so we didn't get it. Come as you are. Didn't Jesus say come all you who are weary and heavy laden. Didn't He the one that said I will give you peace that passes all understanding?
Jesus is the one who told the story of the prodigal son. And you can read Luke 15 later. Luke 15 tells the story of the boy that said I want my inheritance now because I want to do what I want to do, and this father agreed. He says, "You're not dead yet, so I want your money now." And so he took all that money and he squandered it, winding women, debauchery, crazy. And he is living in a pigsty and he's barely able to eat and he's homeless. He says, "You know, if I could, I'm just going to go back and get hired by my dad. He's got a good pension plan. You know, minimum wage. He pays more than minimum wage. I'll get a warm meal and a bed. I'm going back to Dad. I'm not going to go back as a son; I've already blown that story. Man, I am the worst son anybody could ever want. But I'm at least going to go back and ask for a job because getting a job as a servant is far better than being homeless and hungry."
And what does he do? He gets there. And from a far off, Jesus says in the story, from a far off as if his dad had been waiting for him to come home the entire time he was gone. From a far off, he saw him and he ran to him and he embraced him. He says, "Look, my son who has lost is found, let's throw a party. Let's tell the world, here he is, my son, my son. Not my servant, my slave, not my hired hand. No, you get status of being in relationship with me, and God says that's how I am with you. Will you come as you are? Don't come with a cleaned up act. All you got to do is turn around from where you are and from a far off you're going to see God staring at you, looking for you, wanting you, receiving you right where you are.
Christian, I want you to know that that's how we need to be with anybody who's far from God. You see somebody in a lifestyle that is abhorrent to God or one that just makes you go, "Oh I don't like that." You should love them even more because of your faith in Jesus Christ. You know, you can love somebody and accept them without approving them. You can love them without applauding them. You can be compassionate without commending them. Just because you love someone unconditionally, does not mean that you accept right what they're doing. God doesn't accept what you're doing when He receives you. He just accepts you because you're a person and you're worthy of being accepted by His standards, not yours or mine.
And so, which person in our community did Jesus not die for anybody? You got a list. Because I'll avoid that house when I'm talking to him. Anybody have a list? Anybody have a list of what a house looks like that I shouldn't be talking to about Jesus? Anybody? How about any lifestyle out there? Is there anybody in our community that Jesus didn't die for? Anybody? If you got that list for me, I will tear it up because there is no list. The list is full of everyone in this community that does not know Jesus and including everyone in this room that does and all those in this community that do, Jesus died. For God to love the world that He gave us one and only son.
We ought to love more than the average person, someone who is far from God in the way they're living. We are representatives of the Father who are looking from a far off waiting for that person to turn around so we can say I love you, I care about you, you're important, you matter. Jesus offers grace, come as you are, but He also offers truth. Leave changed. That story, another story; you can read John 4, another homework assignment this week. The woman at the well - won't go into all the details, but she's there by herself. She's kind of an outcast, and Jesus starts talking to her; all kinds of things that He violated culturally for him to be in her life at this moment. And He basically starts to share with her the truth of love and trusting and and basically, she's dealing with religion and He's talking about a relationship. And at some point He says, "Can you get your husband now?" How dare he get personal with her? She says, "Well, I don't have a husband." That was true because she'd had three and she was only living with this guy. He wasn't her husband. In other words, she had some relationship issues and we think maybe, possibly that she was looking for love in all the wrong places. She hadn't found it in God. She was trying to find it in relationships, and it was failing her miserably.
So Jesus didn't just say, "I'm accepting you right where we are." He pinpointed the very pain in her life. He pinpointed the very place where she was trying to find satisfaction where she hadn't; He was being truthful. Now, he didn't hang out there and beat her up, He just brought it up, and then he went on. And you can read the story for yourself and the nuances and the way it's written out. But I'll tell you what happened. He gave her grace and acceptance. He shared the truth, she gets saved and the whole city comes out and finds Jesus. Her life has changed and the whole city has changed. And they hung out there for a while. I'm telling you, truth, when we accept the truth after we've received His love, it changes us. We become a different person.
And so my question this morning is, will you trust the grace and truth of Jesus Christ? Will you put off those feelings of intimidation about God that maybe somebody has erroneously taught you? Will you understand that the right handling of the word of God means that you are fully accepted and loved by God? Will you come to Him this morning? But the same Bible that talks about being saved by grace, also says we accept the truth of God and that it is by faith in Jesus Christ. And the truth is, we've got to pledge our allegiance to Jesus Christ to find and experience a personal relationship with God and to know his love and to know how to live his love out in the relationships that we are in on this earth. So this morning my prayer is that you and I will trust in the Jesus of the Bible, not Jesus of the culture, not the Jesus that you were taught that may not have squared with the Bible, but with John 1:14, that Jesus is full of grace and full of truth.
Well, I got a question. Did you mean it? That's a powerful song. And let's not forget the words that we're singing when we're enjoying the song that we're singing. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander. How many of you growing up were swimming on the shallow end, looking carefully at the deep end? Yeah. And there were times when you were like, "I don't know that I want to swim over there because my feet can't touch." Is our faith such that we are only willing to go where our feet can touch? Or are we willing to go in a place where all we have is Jesus to get us through? Let me give you a hint. You'll probably be given a situation like that anyway, so get used to it, because God has a way of putting us in unusual circumstances that shows us that we can trust Him above the circumstances.
Well, I'm going to hone in on a passage of scripture in Romans 12 on talking about how we serve Christ together. And the reading of the scripture from where Jesus washed the feet of His disciples reminds me of a time when we planted our church and where we went to what was called basic training for church planters. And the leader of that training event on the second night of the second day of the three days that we were there, had us all sit in a circle and he took a towel and he simply just started wiping each of our feet. We didn't take our shoes and socks off. I've had that happen a couple of times. In fact, when we started our service, our church, before we even got launched, somebody did that for me. And it was a powerful example of servanthood and love, and I grew up going to a church that did that.
But even just wiping the outside of our feet was humbling. And it reminded us that Jesus, the Son of God, the king of the world, the king of the universe, the King, bent down and served his disciples and demonstrated that the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give us life as a ransom for many. We did a series of messages on servanthood in our church when we got start in the early days. And we actually had a towel that was printed up, got our old style logo on it, and it says, "I will serve my Christ, my church, and my community." We handed it out to everyone who was willing to take it to say around here, we're not passing out titles, we're passing out towels because we are servant-minded. I still have a few of these.
If one of you wants to get deputized and be a servant, and we may even print some more up because it's a powerful reminder we are called to serve, and we serve together in Christ's name. How do we do that? And I believe chapter 12 versus three through six kind of gives us a hint as to how to do that. And I'm not going to go into the spiritual gift, mix lists of spiritual gifts, but I want to talk about the practical application of that we have them and how we actually use them for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Christ followers imitate Christ by serving. If you want to look like Jesus, start serving in His name. You don't look like Jesus by being in charge of a bunch of stuff. You might be in charge of a bunch of stuff, but you are in charge of a bunch of stuff as a servant of the people and the situation that you're in charge of. We are all servants in the name of Jesus Christ, and every believer is gifted to serve. Every believer has some kind of a spiritual gift. And I'm not talking about abilities; we'll talk about that in just a few moments. I'm not talking about - some people... we all sang this morning, only a few ought to have a microphone. And that's just, I mean, you know, in fact, I realized, did you all hear me singing through your earpiece? Good, because occasionally I keep it. They'll mute it up there, but then it still goes through the earpieces and my daughter's like, "Yeah, we heard you singing." I'm like, "Oh, I'm sorry," because it still comes through there. And so I'm like, "Eh."
But anyway, but we all have different gifts. I'm not talking about abilities. I'm not talking about talents, things that we're we just kind of naturally good at. Some people are carpenters, some people are mechanics, some people are neither, some people, right brain, left brain. We're going to talk about that a little bit this morning, but I want to hone in on the conversation that every believer is gifted by the Holy Spirit to serve. When you become a Christian, God gives you a spiritual gift. We're going to talk about it in Romans, but it also talks about it in 1 Corinthians 12 In your homework time, you can go look at 1 Corinthians 12, and in 1 Peter 4:10, I'm going to actually hone in on that a little bit later as well to say that we all - in fact, let me read that for you 1 Peter 4:10 says, "Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve others as good stewards of the varied grace of God." We show the grace of God through the using of our spiritual gifts as we serve people in Jesus' name. And people will not really receive the full grace of God. And I mean, I'm not talking about you get the grace of God, but you won't experience that grace, that unmarried favor unless the body of Christ is functioning well and that we're all serving the way we're gifted so that everybody experiences the grace in a practical way.
You see, God says we're supposed to serve, but he empowers us to serve. Think about it. You may have had an employer or a supervisor or even a teacher that told you to do an assignment, but they didn't equip you to do it. Anybody. And if you're a supervisor, don't do that. A parent says, "Go mow the lawn," but if the parent doesn't show the child how to turn on the lawnmower and safely mow the grass, "straight lines, please," then and then get mad at them because they didn't do it right, that's just cruel. So in the same way, if God has told you to go serve people and then He doesn't give you any ability to do it, He doesn't show you how, that would be unfair. Not right.
There's a saying, you know, when you talk about calling and being called to be a pastor, being called to be in ministry, God doesn't call those who are equipped, He equips those who are called. He takes care of the empowerment part, we just have to show up and be obedient to do the work, and He will come through us and be a blessing to other people. So, we all are gifted to serve. And the reason He changes our lives and the reason that He wants to move in our lives and we become more like Jesus is so that we do serve people in His name. So in Romans 12, it starts out by saying, "Therefore brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. This is your true worship." And then he says verse two, a lot of times you may have heard this, if you've been in church a while, "Do not be conform to this age."
Don't just be a conformist to this age, to the people around you, to what's going on to the culture. No, no, no, be transformed. How do you do that? By the renewing of your mind. And we talk about prayer, bible study, getting around other godly people, being around godly influences, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing and perfect will of God? So that you can do the right thing. And then the word "for" in verse three actually attaches itself back to what he said, "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. And when your mind is renewed, this is what you're going to do." So let me read for us, verse three, "For By the grace given to me," this is Paul talking through the inspirational Holy Spirit, "I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, he should think sensibly as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one."
Verse four. "Now, as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function in the same way, we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another, according to the grace given to us, we have different gifts. "
Let me pray for us, Father God right now, is we unpack this very meaningful and important and practical passage of how to experience and how to use the gifts you've given us, how to understand what you've done and how to function well as the body of Christ, Lord, may You deliver the message to every heart that's needed this morning. There might be someone who's far from God. They're not even figuring out what it means to have a spiritual gift. They're just trying to figure out how to hold things together. I don't know where people are this morning. I can't read minds. I don't know every heart. I've prayed for a lot of people in this room, but only you know where they are right now. And so, I just pray in Jesus' name that if it's someone who just needs to draw closer to You this morning, may You translate this message in their hearts to know that You love them and You have a purpose for their lives. And You want to work in and through their lives to make a difference in their situation, and that they can live a life of purpose and meaning. And if it's those of us that have lived with You and walked in You for a long time, Lord, wake us up to what You want us to do next, to serve You and to honor You and to be a blessing to You in whatever season of life we're in. And everywhere in between, God, You know what to do in this moment. May you be more important and may you be thought of more, and may I diminish even as I'm talking and I pray this in Jesus name. Amen.
Well, I want to talk about what Christian servants are like this morning. And this passage gives us a pretty clear picture of what servants in the Lord Jesus name are like. It first says in verse three that we are humble. Verse three says don't think of yourself more highly than you should think. We need to be humble. We're not all that more, but we are - I'll get that in a minute. But we need to make sure that we're not thinking puffed up, thinking about, "Oh, look at that. It's like the story of the pastor that's coming home from church and he's in the car and he's just thinking about how he got all the words right. He didn't twist his tongue up like I do occasionally. His kids didn't giggle at him when he messed up, and he just thought, you know, he brought it. You know, dropped the mic moment in the pastor's life, right? And he's just thinking to himself these thoughts. But you know, you don't say that out loud in the car. So he said something to the effect of, 'Aren't there a lot of great preachers out there today that probably preach the word of God?" And his wife heard that and she immediately said, "And probably one less than you think."
We need to make sure that we don't get too full of ourselves. Don't think too much of yourself. But then he goes right around and says, but think sensibly of yourselves. We need to be confident. There's these two bumpers or guardrails that we need to have in our lives. There's the bumper guardrail of pride that says, "I'm all that and more. "And I don't mean you can't use the word proud. I think there's a right way, but don't be proud. God resists the proud, gives grace to the humble. Do you want to be resisted by God? Don't be proud. So that's the bumper. Don't be proud, but don't feel like you're insignificant, like I don't matter to anything. As I said in the early service - worm theology, I'm a worthless worm. There's actually a hymn that we would sing, and it just brought this whole idea that I'm just a groveling nothing. And that is saying that God made junk. That's saying that God didn't make you into something special and important in this world. Like, you were the mistake in the universe. And that is a lie from the pit of hell.
That is an absolute lie, it's a lie that causes people to have more anxiety, more fear, more struggles. It causes people to have identity crisis and it causes people to take their lives, and anywhere in between. And they sit on a shelf and they think, "Well, I'm just not good at anything." You're good at something. You're not good at everything, but you're good at something. So don't be so prideful that you think you're all that more. And don't live life saying I'm not good at anything. That's a lie. God has gifted you. And every Christian in this room has been given a spiritual gift to be used to the glory of God. Again, not a talent or an ability; I'm talking about a spiritual empowerment that so uniquely makes you see the world that you see it in such a way, that sometimes when a brother or sister in Christ sees it a different way, you get a little offended. You're like, "Well, you're just not as merciful as you should be because you're the super mercy.
Or the person says, "Well, you're being a little soft on them," because they're more the teacher or they're the exhorter. A teacher, you know, kind of teaches an exhorter. I'm not getting into the weeds here, but an exhorter says, "Well, here's..." they come alongside and they encourage. There's hard gifts, there's soft gifts, there's gifts that are, you know, gift of giving, gift of mercy. And then there's the gift of forth telling, the prophet that tell it like it is. Frank and Ernest who's done more; those two men have done more to destroy fellowship than anywhere else - just being Frank and Ernest. Don't! No, we work together. I'll talk about that in a minute. I'm getting ahead of myself here. We need to be confident that God has given us a gift, but not so confident that we get high minded.
Sometimes we get too confident and we think we need to have some kind of recognition. God will recognize, and God will use the body of Christ to recognizing you. You don't have to worry about that, God don't take care of that in his timing. You present yourself. If someone's supposed to be in ministry, present yourself. That's a good thing to do. But let the body of Christ work with you and in and through you as you do that. Or to be humble, to be confident, and a Christian servant, we are gifted. Okay, let's just state the obvious. We are gifted. It says in that first verse there, verse three. And think sensibly as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one. Some commentators suggest that that measure faith phrase means "the faith" that God's been measured out, the faith of Jesus Christ, the faith in trusting in Him. And that's it.
Others will say no, that's actually, measure of faith is just a synonym for... it's another way of saying spiritual gifts. He's given you a measure of spiritual gifts. And I think of measure of faith like I've been given my piece of real estate to take care of in a football game, and I got to stay home. That's what one of the things they talk about, stay home. You need to stay where you're supposed to be as a defense to make sure that you're capturing and cleaning up the area that you're responsible for on the field. And just as the offense is supposed to go where they're supposed to go, you don't put two receivers to go the same direction. Maybe you do, but then there's a split off so that there's actually a confusion so that the quarterback can get to somebody who's open. You need to own the real estate you've been assigned to take care of. So you've been given a measure of faith; you have a spiritual gift that you've been given and you're responsible for taking care of it and using it and fostering it into better and stronger so that you might honor God with your life with that spiritual gift.
In verse six it says we have different gifts. We are given these gifts. In 1 Corinthians 12:7, "A manifestation of the spirit is given to each person." The Holy Spirit gives you that gift. And by the way, there are things about our lives sometimes that we get irritated with ourselves about. Why don't we always see things that way? Why is it if I'm a hammer, every time I see a problem, I think it's a nail? And I just bang on things all the time, the way I design to bang on things and it just doesn't work right. Yeah, because I'll talk in a minute here that there's a reason for that, but don't resent the fact that you're a hammer. Don't resent the fact that you see the world that you just - why is it that I just get bent out of shape when I see bad things happening? That just tears me up. I don't know what to do about it. So just thank God that you have sensitivity, some of us don't, like you do.
Sometimes I have to - my wife and I, I don't think either one of us have the gift of mercy. Poor kids! And get hurt in games and we're like, "Get up. Throw some dirt on it." "Yeah, but there's blood on it." "The blood will make the blood clot better, faster." Yeah, just go for it. That's why one kid had a broken ankle for two days before we found out that they had a broken ankle. Yeah, that's God's six sense of humor on our kids. That's awful. Anyway, pray for my kids, pray for my kids. But we all are all gifted in our particular ways. That's no excuse by the way, for us not being merciful. That's why I'm self-confessing this morning. It doesn't mean that you can just forget mercy if you're not merciful.
Alright, let me give you another. I don't have the gift of evangelism, the gift of telling people about Jesus, but we're still called to go and tell people about Jesus. Just because you don't have the ability to help others do it better, and every time I was growing up, the evangelist would come into town, we'd have week long bible worship services each night and this evangel and every time he got on an airplane, it seemed like he was sitting next to somebody and they got saved on his way to somewhere else, or he'd be somewhere. Everywhere he went he'd be like, they all came to Jesus. I was like, man, I'm not that person. I talk to people, I feel like I might take people to the next step, but I just don't - I'm not the closer, I guess you might say. I don't know what it is. But the bottom line to is, people are super gifted to give, but it does not negate all of our responsibility to tell people about Jesus.
So I'm not talking about the commands to go and tell people. I'm talking about the spiritual unction that you have, that spiritual power that's within you that enables you to equip the body of Christ to be something more than they are already. We're gifted, but we are also interdependent. Verse four, "All the parts do not have the same function," which means none of us has all the gifts, only Jesus was perfect. And if we're going to be like Jesus, we got to work together to show what Jesus looks like through all of us doing our particular part in the body of Christ. Verse five, "We are individually members of one another." So we're individuals, but we belong to one another. There is this trend of going off and doing my own little house church by myself, all myself. And sometimes it's because they get offended by other people's spiritual gifts and they have to run off and they go off and they do their own thing, and then they become the hammer that sees the whole world as a nail.
Nonprofits are started in a positive way because of this. Someone has a spiritual gift, and they start a nonprofit ministry to do this, that or the other. And they're given that gift and they go do that, but then they don't realize that they are part of a bigger picture in the body of Christ and they are kind of soloed or they're siloed and they're basically over here doing their thing and they're not being inputted by others who have other spiritual gifts and they kind lose their way or they start resenting how everybody isn't like they are. And there's just that pride thing. And so we need to make sure that we're not... now, some people, they're wounded and there's struggles and there's been bad things that have happened in church. I've had some bad things happen in church, but God still works through the body of Christ, and He works as we are interdependent.
We're better together than we'll ever be by ourselves. We have different gifts. And it says in 1 Corinthians 12:7, "For the common good." Your spiritual gift isn't something for you to profit on by yourself. It's something to be a blessing; not just to you, but to other people as well. We're all in this together, working together blessing one another. In 1 Corinthians 12, it also talks about that each one has gifts, there are different ministries and there are different activities that result from that. Let me just say that maybe you have... like my pastor in the church that I was an intern in Texas would say that he had the gift of servanthood. He just, that was his spiritual gift and yet he's a pastor. Servanthood you would think, oh, he's the janitor, right?
I mean, I'm not saying that are good to say that, well that's how you're the pastor. No, no, no, no. Your giftedness does not necessarily mean what your ministry's going to be. His gift was service. His ministry was calling as a pastor of the church. But then it was God who brought about the activity and the result that was needed in the body of Christ. In that passage, it also says it is the same spirit who gives the gifts. It's the same Lord who gives the ministries and it's the same God who brings about the activity.
And what he would say is that I serve through my motivational gift of servanthood. And he would be the first one in this megachurch of thousands to get up on a Wednesday night dinner. And we had weekly dinners at the church in the family life center. And he would often be getting plates for people and serving. He was also administrating a massive church, but he administrated it as a servant in his spiritual giftedness. And it was God who gave him the gift, who called him into a ministry, who then by the power of the Holy Spirit brought about a result that was honor and glorifying to the one God who brought this all together as interdependent individuals for the common good to do the work together. We all work together to reflect the glory of God. We depend on one another as we all depend on God together. That's what it's all about, because ultimately not only we are we interdependent, but we are united.
How are we united? We who are many are one body in Christ. Our spiritual gifts combine together are meant to display the one Jesus Christ. There is no Jesus Christ superstar in the room. Jesus is the only superstar. And we in our own way, when we blend in unity and He says, "They'll know that you're my disciples if you have love one for another." I pray father that they may be one even as you and I are one," Jesus said. The oneness of the body of Christ is the most powerful witness that God is working and moving in this world. And we must work together to make that happen.
Again, what are the pitfalls? Oftentimes we see things the way we see things and we get a little upset when people don't see things the way we see them. In marriage there's usually an opposite attract, and then after a while opposites rub people the wrong way in a relationship. And yet, it's sort of like - let's just use a simple one, spenders and savers. How many of you live in a household, it's you have both in your home spenders and savers? Yeah, that makes for interesting conversation, doesn't it? Yeah, but if you were both savers, you'd be misers. You might not be generous. Your children would hate you. There's all kinds of things. I don't know. But if you're both spenders, uhoh, I won't ask if anybody's both spenders. You wouldn't have enough money to do anything. I mean, you're always broke because you're spending it all. So that particular, again, that's not a spiritual gift, but the gift of generosity is spiritual gift.
And by the way, people who have the gift of generosity aren't necessarily rich. Some of the most powerful people who have the gift of generosity are some of the poorest people you'll ever meet. And sometimes it aligns with people who have money. But oftentimes the gift of generosity, the gift of giving is possessed by a person who just like the widow give all to the god with faith that God is in control of the right resources. But we come together and as we do that, we sometimes we get upset or offended by the way somebody sees the world with their spiritual gifts. And that's true. Like we have in the benevolence team; we have people that are very merciful and people that are very forth tellers and say how did you get into that situation? And we want to know some more details to be able to kind of help you in a real way. We're not just giving out money. What does the rescue mission say? "Real change, not spare change."
We want to bring real life change. We want discipleship. We are to make disciples not just give out a bunch of money as a church. So if part of the discipleship process is that you help somebody financially, but it also might mean that you help somebody learn how to better manage their resources. And we put both people on the benevolence team and sometimes they fight over what they ought to do. I mean that in a positive way, they have a disagreement, but it works well because they're balancing each other out to represent the body of Christ in a holistic way, not just in one way. We are united for the purpose of glorifying God, fulfilling His purposes in the body of Christ, in the church and in the world. So, that is the explanation in Romans 12.
I want to close this morning with just a couple of thoughts about how to get started. First of all, how do you get started? Consider your shape. Shape - S H A P E. It's a little acronym. It's a word that's an acronym for spiritual gifts, heart abilities, personality experiences. So, what's your "s" your spiritual gifts? And I'll tell you, talk about every one of us has one and I'll talk about how to figure out what that is in just a minute. But consider what you seem to have the most heart passion for doing. Read the list, there's different list in the Bible. I already gave you some passages and if you go online, you'll see those passages on my notes and you can look up all of those.
I some people think that those lists are complete and others think that there's more than what even the lists and the Bible of spiritual gifts that there are. And I would just say be careful to go beyond the Bible, but don't think that you're like locked into, because the Bible never says anywhere. These are the only ones, but it doesn't say you can be creative and do whatever you want either. Yeah, be careful. So there's spiritual gifts, and then what's your heart interest. On Wednesday night we're actually going to have a meeting at 7:30 for anybody who wants to think and talk about how to help the rescue mission, the rescue mission minister team. And so if you are interested and you have a heart passion to help people; think about the rescue mission and the homeless, then come join us. But if you don't, don't feel guilty that you didn't go. That's not your heart passion.
We are a pro-life church. We believe in the life begins at conception. We also believe that we ought not to be practicing euthanasia, right? I mean, you know, we need practice on both sides of the spectrum. But some people are on the front lines of the pro-life movement. Some are out there on the front lines politically to make sure that that people are elected that will protect life and that we will be defeated in public office who don't respect life. Then there are people that they're there to serve and help people who are in crisis and are thinking at the crossroads. They are abortion minded. They're thinking about abortion because the culture says that's your only way out, and they are trying to support ministries. Those are heart desires and we all support life, but some support it in a heart passion that's more than others in the room.
There are people who... anyway, I can just go on and on and on, but those are different ministries, but different heart passions. So what are you interested in? Some people really have a big deal about our children's ministry and others are like, no, not so much. And here's the deal, by the way, let me just be real careful on this. We all ought to be serving that where we're shaped, you know, how God has gifted us to serve. That's our primary thought of where we're serving in the church, but other places we serve where we're needed. And just because you say, "Well, I don't know that I'm gifted to work with children," but you might be one of the safest, best persons to work with children. And we have needs all the time in the children's ministry, so I'm going to ask you right now for thus to have a signup list right here for the children's ministry, and my wife will thank you, and so will all the children and so all the parents of children who depend on our church to help disciple them in their own age appropriate way during our services.
So please don't think, "Well, I'm not so good at that," that doesn't mean you're not qualified to serve. Sometimes the qualify factor is, there's a need; show up, start doing it, come on. And then as we grow and more people come in, then you can hand that off to someone who might need more shaped than you are to serve.
And then we have abilities, we have certain things we're good at, and I mentioned that earlier. Some people are more gifted to do things with their hands. And some people are more right brain, left brain, they can do things. And we have to be careful to know what our abilities are. What are you good at? What do people said you're good at? And your personality; some of you are introverts and some of you are extroverts and somewhere in between. Some of you, you're very logistical minded in your ways of doing things, and some of you, you're all over the map. Wish you could be like me, all over the map anyway.
And then what are your experiences? What have you done? What's happened to you? Some of you come from intact Bible believing homes. Some of you come from good homes that weren't Bible believing. Some of you come from homes that exploded. Some of you are adopted; you that you all come from all different ways of life. You all have are different vocations in this room. You have different hobbies and activities. You've seen things. Some of you been in military, some of you have not. You all have different experiences. And God uses all those experiences for His honor and his glory. And there are some things, there's some things in this room that you've experienced that someone ought never experienced, but you know full well, somebody probably will. And God doesn't waste a hurt. He's going to use your hurt. As He healed you and as you found him in the deeper waters where your feet couldn't touch and you found His strength in the midst of that experience to get through it. And here you are today, victorious because of Jesus Christ, you can be there for someone else who's getting on the journey on that same problem.
God doesn't waste a hurt, consider your shape and then start serving somewhere. Just pick up a towel and start serving. Just get going. Serve where we're needed. There's a lot of entry places here at St. Joe. Just get involved. Ask your connection group leader, what's some things that need to be done? If you're a half decent smiler, we need more people to greet people when they come in. It's like, "thanks for being here. Here's a bulletin." You know, there's all kinds of different ways. If you're in a connection group, you don't have to like do something officially functional in the church life. There are all kinds of other things that we do for and with one another in the body of Christ that's never cataloged as a ministry service project in the church. Just start serving somewhere. And then ask other believers, am I good at this? And be willing to listen to them. Your mom probably thought you were good at everything. You aren't. Just listen to an evaluation. If there's any moms in the house, I'm sorry, your son is the best son in the world. My mom's probably listening to this at some point this week. Thank you, mother. I am the best son anybody could ever have. I'm her favorite son. I'm her only son.
But seriously assess your progress, get people asking you questions, "Am I doing this right? Is am I good at this?" Assess yourself. You know, I really don't get into this. At some point I need to give this away, and then keep it up. Keep it up. Retirement is not a biblical concept. Now, we may slow down, we may retool when we get older. We have seasons of serving in particular areas of the church life, of life in general. We have seasons of serving. We've gone on mission trips and there's things we've done on those mission trips that like... we've done unspeakable things on mission trip. I mean, down and dirty work that just needs to be done. Very hard stuff. And then you come home, you're like, "Man, I don't know if I'll ever do that again." And you're thanking God that you'll never do that again.
And then there's times when you go on that mission trip and you go, "Man!" It unlocks your whole door of like, if I could do this here in this mission field over here, I can do this when I get home. And that's why we take people on mission to do things because it gets you outside of your thinking of where you are just thinking, maybe I'm good at that, maybe I'll do this or that. And we just got to keep it up. Keep going, keep going, keep it up. So my final prayer this morning is that we will glorify Jesus Christ with our lives. And I'm just going to say, you can't do that if you don't know Jesus. You can't do that if you haven't put your life in His hands. You can't go deeper because you don't even have the one that you trust in your life to begin with.
And I pray this morning that if you've been listening on the outside of an inside conversation in our family talk this morning, we invite you to come into the family. We invite you to walk into the presence of the family by putting your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, by just admitting that you don't have the spiritual strength to do what you know is right and wrong. And you know that you've offended a holy God that deserves your allegiance. And you just say, "God, I can't do enough to earn my way into your favor." I can't do enough to earn my way into heaven. I'm a good person, but I'm not a perfect person. And only perfect people get to heaven. You know when you become perfect because you've trusted in Jesus to forgive your sins and you become the righteousness. His righteousness becomes our righteousness. We become like Jesus when we put our faith in Him. And we get in not because of how much good we've done, but because we've trusted in the one who did it all for us when he died on the cross. We trusted Jesus.
And this morning, that's the step you need to take this morning, is to put your faith in Him. Maybe to come forward and say, Pastor, I like to know more about what it means to be a Christian. Or go in the back and we'll have some people in the back praying. And if you want to have some prayer time with them, say I need to know more about this trusting in Christ. I want in on what God's up to in the world. I don't want to miss eternity without Him. And then I pray that we will demonstrate the love and the unity in Christ's name, that we will together display the unity of the body of Christ by the way in which we serve with one another in His name.
The world needs to learn how to get along in their differences. God's given us a prescription, and I think the world and our nation especially needs a better answer than anybody else is giving. We can give it to them by demonstrating our unity in Christ as we serve together. And finally, that we will serve one another with our unique gifts so that God's grace will be experienced.
It says in 1 Peter 4, "Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve others as good stewards of the varied grace of God." My final appeal this morning is that we all have the grace of God if we're a Christian, but we may not be experiencing the grace of God, the unmarried favor of God, the love of God, because somebody in this room is sitting on their gifts and not expressing them in such a way that we all experience the grace of God like we need to.
So I pray in Jesus' name, will you get up and go and start serving in His name, trusting that, yeah, I don't have all the gifts, but I got something. Show up, get going, that others might experience God's grace in their lives. Now let me just give you a little secret. No, it's no secret. The Bible says it is more blessed to give than to receive. You'll go in thinking that you're the blessing; I've gone into many times at Greystone Nursing Home and Cindy listens to us all the time in the live broadcast. And I go in there thinking, and I don't mean it in a prideful way. I say, "I'm going to go in there and try to be a blessing." You just try to go be a blessing and you walk away more blessed than when you thought. You probably gained more than you gave. So, you want to live the best life ever; show up, start serving and trust what God's empowered you to do.
How We Serve Christ Together
October 16, 2022
Christ followers imitate Christ by serving (Matthew 20:28)
Every believer is gifted to serve
1 Corinthians 12
1 Peter 4:10
We are being renewed to serve others in Christ’s name
Romans 12:3 is connected to Romans 12:1-2
Christian Servants Are…
How to get started
Consider your SHAPE: Spiritual Gift, Heart interests, Abilities, Personality, Experiences
Start serving somewhere
-ask other believers
-assess your progress
Keep it up!
-retirement is not a Biblical concept
-we may slow down, retool, etc, but we don’t stop serving!
I don't know where this is, you know, And I remember it being lost in my grandma's neighborhood, but every brick house looked like every other brick house in Dayton, Ohio, West Carrolton. And they all these little ranch style houses. And my mom said, "Just go down the block." She dropped us off, gone. And people one block over didn't know where Schenley Avenue was. I'm like, "What in the world?" 2999 Schenley Avenue. I can still see it to this day. I couldn't find it to save my - I mean, it's awful. Asking directions, we were totally lost. I don't even know how we got to where we ended up, but it took forever, which would've taken three minutes if we'd known how to get there.
But I remember one time when we were really lost; I was a trustee for a seminary out in San Francisco Golden Gate Seminary. And another friend of mine, he was from the East Coast, I'm from Indiana. We were the representatives there. And we had a meeting that evening. When you're on this side of the country, you can fly out there and get there in time. You're dead tired, but you can leave out in the early morning and with all the lag time of the time change, you can be there in time to actually enjoy the afternoon if you're awake. And you can actually then be, even then for a six o'clock meal and then in a meeting. And we were in our business attire after a little bit nicer dress than this actually that day. And I had my street shoes on, my kind of dress shoes with no tread. I'm just giving you a hint here. And we went to go see Mere Woods.
Mere Woods is right up north of the Golden Gate Bridge. And it's just these big cedar, I mean, it's redwood forest, It's just the massive. You can't even take a picture to get the understanding of the grandeur of these. They had one, it had fallen and they cut it and they said, "This is when Columbus came, and this is..." You're like, "That's how old the tree is." It's just huge and it's just so amazing. And we said, "Well, let's walk around. We got time." So Ronnie and I, he's a police officer, retired now from the Capital Police Department in Washington DC and he had his little go bag. He always had a little bag with him. Washington Redskins, I didn't hold it against him that he rooted for the wrong team, but that's okay.
But he would have his little go-bag and I thought his go-bag had all the important stuff in it, which I think it had some things in it, but it didn't have what we needed because by the time we got off the pavement, big mistake. We start walking up into more of a gravel area. And then we start going up and up and up and up and up, and we're talking and we're talking about family and catching up because we don't see each other every six months because we were on this board together. And finally, it dawns on us we're lost. Like where are we? We had the paper map and our GPS wasn't working because in the middle of those woods they didn't have anything set up for us to get any signal and we didn't have any water with us.
I thought the go-bag. I mean, come on dude, you're the officer, you know what's going on. And we didn't have any preparation. Did I tell you we were in our street clothes and at some point we get over this summit and we're too far in to go, go back and we don't have... it's also a time crunch. We got to get to this meeting, right? I told you about that. And so we're like, we got this meeting to get to, but now we got like, we need to survive. We need to like not... And so we're looking at the map and we're trying to figure it out. And pretty soon the Sierra Club - I don't know what they were, we call them the Sierra Club people. And they had ponchos and they had rain gear and they had walking sticks and they had hiking boots and they had a tire that was fitting the trail we were on.
And we're looking at them like, you know, we're sitting there like getting ready to go to a business meeting and they're like, and they frown at us and I'm sure they had names for us when they walked away. Anyway, I won't say them out loud, but they just thought we were the craziest people. And we were. Like, what in the world are we doing? And when we finally find our way out of that, we get down to the ranger at the little information booth and we say, "You know, I think we got off the path that we were supposed to be on. We wanted to do this one." And they said, "Oh no, you were on that one." She says, "Not very many people take that trail." I said, "Yeah, that was crazy." It was a fun thing afterwards. And it's a fun story to talk about, but it's no fun being lost.
It's no fun being lost, especially when our pride gets in the way because we don't want to ask how do we get unlost, if that's the right way to say, it's not, but that's what I'm saying. At some point we got to admit we're lost. At some point we have to say, "I need help." And that's where we find Zacchaeus in this story. And the key verse, I'm going to read it first and then I'm going to read the whole passage, but I'm going to read it first. The whole point of this story is, Luke 29:10 says, "For the son of man has come to seek and save the lost." Jesus, referring to himself, the Son of Man, His favorite term for himself, identifying himself and His humanity; fully God, fully man, but identifying himself and His humanity and His humility to come down to us, to seek and to save the lost.
Now, as you think about the punchline that Luke intended every reader to understand, let's read this story in the context of Jesus being the hero and the subject and the whole point of this story. Yes, Zacchaeus is a part of it. You're important, God's working in your life and you're important to God. But the biggest thing in this world is not your story; it's God's story working in and through to make your story something special. Let's look at the story. "He entered Jericho," Jesus did, "and was passing through. There was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector and he was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but he was not able because of the crowd since he was a short man. So running ahead, he climbed up a sycamore tree to see Jesus since He, Jesus, was about to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, 'Zacchaeus, hurry and come down because today it is necessary for me to stay at your house'. So he quickly came down and welcomed Him joyfully. All who saw it began to complain, 'He's gone to stay with a sinful man.' Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, 'Look, I'll give half my possessions to the poor, Lord. And if I have rent extorted anything from anyone, I'll pay back four times as much.' 'Today salvation has come to this house,' Jesus told him, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost." Jesus came to seek and save the loss. That is the point of this story, and that's the point of our time together this morning.
You see, we know that Jesus is the one who seeks us and we don't see God. He seeks us. He's seeking you, He's seeking me, He's seeking all of us. I stand at the door and I knock, if anyone will open the door, I'll come in, I'll have supper with him. We'll have fellowship together, we'll have a relationship conversation. We will be with one another. Jesus is seeking us. It said He was passing through Jericho. Now in this story, in the life and times of Jesus Christ, Jesus has crossed, He's forded the Jordan River. They don't really describe how and when, but He'd been ministering on the other side of the Jordan. He's now coming across and He comes across the Jordan River to Jericho, which is a town on the outskirts, which was a pretty big town at that time period. I don't know what it's like today, but at that time period, it was a pretty big metropolis little place. And it was on the outskirts of Jerusalem. And it was possible for Him to actually get to Jerusalem from Jericho that day. He didn't have to stop there at Zacchaeus' house.
We don't know if maybe he even spent the night there. We're not sure, We're not told exactly the whole details, but we do know that he said, I got to stay at your house Zacchaeus, but He didn't have to. Logistically, He's also very popular at this moment because this is before he's crucified. So they're all kind looking at Him like the savior, like a military savior. Like He's going to come and he is going to conquer, He's going to bring the Israelite back to their glory, that they're going to get back into the way that they believe that God would want them to be. They would throw off this Roman oppression and there would be this wonderful euphoria. And so this crowd is building - He's a celebrity. And so these people are lining the streets and they're looking at Him and they're coming with Him down. It's this mob of people that are following Him, walking with Him as He goes to Jerusalem, the city. And it's getting close to Passover, so people are already coming that way for the high holy moment of Passover season. And so, the Israelite pilgrims were coming that way.
Jericho was also a, an area where it seems as though the Roman government had set up a tax office there, instead of setting it up in Jerusalem, which would've incited a lot of rebellion and a lot of angst, they put it on the outskirts. And it was very strategic because all of the commerce and all of the stuff had to come through Jericho to get into Jerusalem. And so the Romans who taxed everything and anything there was to tax, whether it be the wheels on your cart, the cart itself, everything in the cart, all the people in the cart and even the clothes on your back. Whatever they could find a way to extort you and take taxes from you they did.
And here is Zacchaeus called the chief tax collector, not just a tax collector like Matthew, who he was at his little booth and Jesus said, "Come follow me." This is the chief tax collector. It looks like he was kind of like in charge of tax collecting in that area. He was a rich man, which is nothing wrong with being rich, but for him to have been a Jew who had been extorted by the Roman government because he's a Jew, he's an occupied nation, and here he is a tax collector, but now he is a chief tax collector. There's some indication possibly by saying that he was a rich man, that he actually had extorted even more than he should have, and he had far more wealth than he deserved to have in any quite a normal occupation that he would've had as Zacchaeus is the Hebrew.
Again, just giving you color to the picture based on exactly what the scriptures are saying here and based on the timeline that all the other scriptures talk about his timeline of where Jesus was going. But it said he was passing through Jericho and he seeks us. What is he saying? We'll look at the story. "He looked up and he spoke to Zacchaeus." Now Zacchaeus had climbed out on this limb, probably might possibly climbed out to the point where he's over the top of the trail where Jesus was coming and he is looking down at Jesus. Or maybe he's to the side and he is looking down at Jesus. We don't know exactly how, but we do know that Jesus looked up, saw Zacchaeus.
Now, of all the people in the crowds, he spoke to Zacchaeus. Of all the places that we see in the scripture where Jesus is with a bunch of people, it seems like he singles out one person, or at least the Holy Spirit inspires the writers to described to us moments in time, snapshots of the life of Jesus where He singled out people by name. How did Jesus know his name? Did people know it? Was he popular? Was this commonly known as the human Jesus or did Jesus supernaturally know it? We're not really told that. All we know is that Jesus saw the man and he called out to him, "Zacchaeus." Jesus seeks us. In fact, it is creation itself that's all around us that declares the glory of God. When you see the sun, when you see the things that we see in nature, it's to point us to the fact that there's a creator behind that, that loves us and cares about us.
When we see the stars that have been flung out into the sky at night and we look at or we see them at night, we see them in the day if we had the eyes to see it. But at nighttime it's when you really see it in the reflection of the sun on those stars, and we see all those stars out there, even beyond our own star being reflected on by other. It, it's amazing all the things, those little stars that are all out there, those suns that are all out there that's just like ours and go, what were they there? They're there far enjoyment, the Bible says. All to point us back to that God is God and that He has a purpose and a plan for our life. He's seeking us in creation, and it's the Holy Spirit that testifies.
Don't think, "Oh man, Greg's talking to me. I do not sit up in my office, look on Facebook and see who needs to be talked to. I just don't. I may look on Facebook, but I don't do my sermons according to, so don't go screaming out of here, "You read my mail." No, I don't think I... I might have read David's mail because if it came through here anyway. No, but seriously, I don't have a plan or an agenda for any one person in this room, but God does. He's seeking you, He's seeking me. He wants, if you don't know him already a relationship with you. And if you have a relationship with Him, He wants to walk with you and help you pursue those purposes and things in life that matter and to pursue a life of meaning that is part of His plan and His purpose for this world.
He seeks us. But not only that, but Jesus saves us. Skipping down to this whole story at the bottom of the story, it says there in verse nine, "'Today, salvation has come to this house because he too is a son of Abraham,' Jesus declares. Zacchaeus became a spiritual descendant of Abraham. He fulfilled the prophecy that God gave Abraham in the Old Testament, "you will have descendants as many as the sands of the seashore, as many as the stars in the sky, you're going to have descendants." And some people thought, "Well, those are just physical descendants." And as time progressed and as we see the New Testament revealing, it's the spiritual descendants of Abraham. We don't have to be blood relatives to Abraham to be related to him, because it's all one story of God's redemptive plan to save the world, to seek and to save the lost.
Now, Luke doesn't explain the details of how Zacchaeus is became a follower of his. We don't see where Jesus got out the Roman road. Now some of you in church, the Roman Road is based on the book of Romans and it wasn't even written yet, okay? He didn't get out the four spiritual laws. Bill Bright that wrote the little pamphlet called the Four Spiritual Laws, he wasn't alive yet, so we didn't have that. I don't know how Jesus did it. I have a favorite way of sharing Jesus called share Jesus without fear, and it goes through the New Testament. Oh yeah, the New Testament hadn't been written yet. We don't know exactly what happened. What we do know is that Zacchaeus gave his allegiance to Jesus Christ. In fact, it seems as though in the scripture's testimony, this was the last publicly identified convert to Jesus Christ before His crucifixion in Jerusalem.
And we know he was saved because of the things that will - and we'll talk about this in just a moment. He stood there and said to the Lord - Zacchaeus at some point, we don't know how he became a Christian. But in verse eight it says here, "He stood there and said to the Lord," it's like everybody was having a party at his house. Jesus is here, the buzz, what's going on here? And we'll talk in a minute about the naysayers of what was going on. But it's just like everybody's having this party and finally Zacchaeus stands up in the middle of the house. Everybody goes, "Zacchaeus going to say something." He says, "My life has changed and I'm going to give half of everything I own to the poor and I'm going to pay back everybody I stole from four times over."
Jesus saved him. There was an evidence of change in his life because again, as I've said this morning, Jesus saves the lost. Jesus himself identified Zacchaeus as a lost person who was found. What is it to be lost? Well, it's what Jesus describes us as before we know him. G Campbell Morgan in his book, "The Great Physician" says, he, Zacchaeus, was lost, was of no value to God, of no value to people, contributing nothing, having purpose and power in the procedures of life, contributing nothing to the wellbeing of his fellow man. And so by the calculations of eternity, he was spiritually lost. He was morally lost. And the tragedy of a lost soul in the last analysis is that God is robbed of His glory.
When we are lost, when we are apart from God, when we have refused or we just don't know and have not yet put our faith in Jesus Christ, we are robbing God of the glory of working through us to make a difference in the world for His name's sake. We're not in on His agenda or His plans. We don't have the Holy Spirit to empower us to do what he's asked us to do. And the kind of life that's fulfilling and meaningful and is a blessing not only to us, but to people around us - we're lost. And Jesus came to save the lost.
Zacchaeus is identified as lost, as a sinner, in three different ways. First of all, he's commonly labeled a sinner because it says he was a chief tax collector. It was synonymous with being a sinner. It is like many times today, and not every person is this way. And I've met many people in public office, but oftentimes when someone is way up in public office, even in a city you might say, "I'm sure they got their hands dirty getting there." We just have a suspicion about people in public office because you don't just get there without a little graft, without a little bit of wheeling and dealing behind the scenes, things that people don't want to talk about. The dirty side of politics. Again, I'm not saying that's true for every politician; I'm just telling you, isn't that kind of what we think about? And so when they said he was the chief tax collector, he wasn't just a trader to his nation taking taxes from his fellow people to give to an occupying nation. He was a tax collector of the worst kind. He was in charge of tax collecting. He was labeled publicly as a sinner.
He was also publicly declared by this crowd as a sinner. What'd they say? He's going to stay, Jesus, with a sinful man. What is that Jesus doing going to Zacchaeus' is house? What's he doing going to that kind of a person's house? Why? What's Pastor Greg talking to that person for? Why? And you just named somebody in our church that you think is really spiritually and godly; what is that person having a relation, a conversation with that person over there? Why would they go talk to that person? This us-them mentality? Dare I say discrimination, which is interesting because aren't we all sinners? Here's what part that I caught me in the middle of this passage as I hadn't seen it this before and it's like, they all said he's gone to a sinful man's house. They all said.
Now who's in the crowd? Friends, people that were on the bandwagon to see change in Israel but not real change the way God wanted. But who else was in the crowd? His disciples, the people that had watched Him reach out to sinners, The woman at the well, they'd heard Jesus say he left the 99 to find the one. The woman found one coin told all her neighbors and friends, "I found my lost coin." They knew the story of Jesus. Take this little child, puts it on his lap and says, "This is the kind of person that enters into the kingdom of heaven, child-like faith." They knew this kind of person; they still didn't get it. The moment we start seeing in us, them, those people out there, let's run to the church and hide from the sinner. Let's just fill the church with people running from sinner and then you'll have a church full of sinners running from sinner.
We're all in the same boat. We're saved by grace, but we're all sinners. And the moment churches get an us-them mentality ingrained in their system, they die. The moment we start thinking the us-them mentality, that we're better than those people at our workplace in the neighborhood, at the coffee shop. And the moment we start breaking a conversations with people who desperately need to know Jesus, the lost people who have not yet found Jesus is the moment we step off the path of the mission God intends for his people to be a part of.
He was commonly labeled, He was publicly declared, but He was also a self-feed center. Because at some point it doesn't matter what people think, we need to take stock in who we are in front of an almighty holy God and admit who we are. He himself said, "If I have extorted anybody, I will repay them back." And the way that Greek actually is written, it's not, "Well if I happen to have offended somebody," no, no, no. If I have and I know I have offended people and stolen from them, I will pay back. That's what Zacchaeus was saying. He wasn't saying. "Well," it's sort of like the person that truly offended you with their words. I mean they like really trampled all on top of you with what they said. And then they come to you and say, "Well, if I offended you, please forgive me." That's like a limp handshake. You know, like if you offended me - you know you did. Those words were like cutting and biting and they hurt and you know you did. Don't do this, "Well if I offended anybody, just ask forgive." No, no, no, no. Get specific. And that's what Zacchaeus is doing. He's like, I've offended people, I extorted them. I'm a sinner and I need to repay back. I get right with God and I got to make restitution with people around me that I've sinned against.
Zacchaeus is himself admitted that he had been lost and now he's found. When did you admit you were lost? When was it? I can remember. I was sitting on a second or third row on a hard pew bench in a church service and Eaton, Ohio on a Sunday morning. And the preacher wasn't talking to anybody else, he was talking to me. I can hear people say, "Oh, I was here." You don't have to know the exact day or time or was it the full moon, half moon. You just need to know there was a moment when you got arrested by the Holy Spirit, stopped in your tracks, the lights came on behind you and you pulled over and you didn't say, "What was I doing officer?" You know what you were doing. You were lost and you needed Jesus. When did you admit you were lost? I didn't ask you when you got wet. I'm asking you when you got right in front of a Holy God.
Now I want to point to a couple more things and then we're going to close this morning. I want to show you in this passage proof that Jesus is seeking and saving. And I want to, by using this story, maybe highlight proof in this room that Jesus is still seeking and saving people today, the lost. First of all, the proof that Jesus is seeking people out. We become curious, we become curious, we want to know more. Isn't this Zacchaeus, three piece suit, Zacchaeus climbing a tree? Is that not bizarre? I mean if you went downtown and in the business sector, they're still wearing suits and ties, especially around the courthouse, and you see these lawyers and business people and you see a big crowd coming through a parade of something special coming through. And then you see this guy that he says, "There's a tree" and he in his three piece suit with his slick shoes goes up into the tree in order to see this celebrity that's driving by or walking by. It's as crazy as two guys walking in Mere Woods in their street clothes. It's unusual.
Zacchaeus was curious. He had no idea that Jesus would call out him by name. Zacchaeus may not have even known that Jesus knew his name, but he was looking for Jesus because Jesus was looking for him. Lost people do whatever it takes to find Jesus. They ask questions, they read the Bible, they attend worship and Bible studies. They pray, they admit their inability to say themselves. They say, "I need help to show me what to do." One of my favorite questions is, I don't know what to do next. And you know what? That's God's favorite question from me.
I can remember when I was at my wits end in a situation and I didn't know what to do. I mean, I had tried everything under the sun to fix whatever the problem was that I was facing. And I remember falling flat on my face night after night after night. I go into our spare bedroom, before you have kids, you have something like that. And after that, it's a storage spare. Anyway, but I had this room and I would just flat on the face go, "God, I am bankrupt. I don't know what to do next." Now, I wasn't lost, I was saved, but I was lost in my moment of what to do next in my life spiritually and things that were going on. And I got to thinking about that earlier this week, that I have less times on my face before God because I don't often want to admit I need help as much as I do. And that's the curse of living a long time in the Lord, is that you get too familiar with God that you forget to talk to God more carefully, more desperately. But a lost person asks questions, reads the Bible, they attend worship. They do whatever it takes to find what they need to find. They're curious. That's got at work in their life. We've become committed.
I have no desire for you to make a decision because I've somehow emotionally manipulated you into coming here. Or I've given you some kind of a logical, it just makes sense to be part of a church because that's the new social club in town that's the most important thing for you to belong to. I'm not here to convince you with my wisdom of words. I'm not here to convince you with my great oratory skills of which there are many people who have much better than I do. We're not here to woo you with the way in which we do things. We're here to see, is God working on your heart so that you would want to commit your life to Jesus Christ. We become committed, we start obeying Jesus. "Zacchaeus, come down from there. I'm coming to your house today." "Okay." He climbs down quickly and follows Jesus and takes Him right to his house. He immediately begins to do what Jesus tells him to do.
We know that Jesus is working in our lives. When we start wanting to do what we might not have ever wanted to do before that, we start wanting to follow Jesus and do what He says. How do we tell the world that we're a Christian? In Romans 10:9-10, it says that we must believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead. And we confess with our mouth, Jesus is Lord. We tell the world that we're Christian. What did it say in Acts 2? I talked about it last week. Repent, turn away from the things you used to do that God says an abomination to himself, things that you ought not ever do. The Bible says it's not about legalism, it's saying that I'm not going to be in charge of me anymore. I'm done being the boss. I want Jesus to be the boss, and get baptized.
That's why on October 23rd for someone that is ready to follow Christ, we want to give you the opportunity to publicly declare your faith in baptism. We get committed to Jesus. And the third thing we know, when Jesus is seeking and saving and lost, our lives change. Zacchaeus made an obvious commitment to change. He publicly stood up, he made a public statement. But not only that, he began to do things that were not just the natural thing to do as a Christian. They were pretty supernatural. When you think about it, he said, "I'm going to give away half of everything I own." That's like radical life change. That's like people selling out and saying, "I'm all in for Jesus. I'm going to live on less so that God can have more. I'm going to do more for God, so I'm going to start increasing what I give my time, my talent, my treasures, so that God is honored and glorified in my life." That's radical transformation of someone's life. That's not someone manipulating them into some kind of a plan so that they have some kind of an earthly thing that everybody says, "Oh, look at that person." It's just saying, "God, I want to live my life with you and everything I have is yours, and so I just want to do the right thing by it."
And you know, the Old Testament would've required him to give one and a half times what he stole from people. So give back and then another half of whatever you stole. That was the legal requirement. And somebody would've said, even if he said, "I'm going to give back two or three times more," nobody would've said, "Oh, you should've given even more than that." Nobody would've expected him to give more than one and a half times what he had stolen. He just prompted by this newfound faith in Jesus said, it's time for me to really do the right thing, and I'm going to give back four times what I stole from people as an extorting chief tax collector. His life was changed.
I have a question to ask you this morning. What is Jesus asking you to do? What is Jesus asking me to do? I'm not asking you what's the easiest thing He's asking you to do? It might be easy in your mind, I don't know. But what's He asking you? I'm not asking you to do the toughest thing. I always thought, if I surrender to the ministry, I'm going to be in Africa or I'm going to be in some nation that I have no idea about. I mean, that's just what you do, right? Following Jesus is following Jesus right where you are. And many people will never leave the places where they have grown up and gone to and are working and living. Some will. But most of us are going to be here and be missionaries in our own hometown. We're going to be sharing Jesus and being on mission for Jesus right here in Northeast Indiana. So what's He asking us to do? What is He asking you to do? What is He asking me to do?
For the new believer, for the person is seeking Jesus, what's He asking you to do? To tell the world you're a Christian? And for those of us that are already Christians, what's he asking you to do to keep moving forward and growing in your faith in Jesus Christ? I already said it and I'm going to say it again, "Jesus came to seek and save the lost." We got to recognize and realize we're lost. We need to recognize and realize that God has the answer. I'm going to ask you a question, a couple more and then we're going to be done. Our team can go ahead and come forward. Where is the place that you found Jesus?
Again, where is that place? Where is it that you can mark, you can reference that you found Jesus because you saw that Jesus was seeking you? I told you where mine was, where was yours? At what spot? I'm not trying to put doubt in your life, that's the last thing I want to do. But we all need to have a moment where we recognized I was lost and Jesus found me. I was in my sins and I realized Jesus was there to forgive me and clean me up so that I didn't have to live in the shame of what I used to do.
Another question is, what's the proof? When you found Jesus and you made a commitment to follow Him, was it real? Are you identifiable by people inside and outside the body of Christ that you are following Jesus and that your life is marked by a life of truly obedience, true obedience to Jesus Christ? What proof shows that Jesus has saved and changed your life? Those are the two questions that I would ask in a room full of people that I don't know everybody's heart. Only the Lord knows our hearts this morning.
I've been in church long enough to know that there's some people that do a pretty good job of hiding into the church as a cultural Christian, but they're not a committed Christian. And so, I just say before it's too late, before you face eternity and you didn't really have a relationship with Jesus, I implore you, I ask you, I beg of you; openly put your faith in Him and let Him begin to change your life the way He has always wanted to, but you've not let Him.
And finally this morning, for those of us that would say, "Well no, I've already done that. And there is change. And while it's not as much change as I'd like, I'm not there yet." Welcome to the club. We're hypocrites in recovery. But the last question I would ask us as believers, are we on mission with Jesus to seek and find the lost? How concerned are we for people who don't know Jesus or have we developed an us-them mentality?
If you're coming here to church to run from the world Jesus is seeking to save, you've come to the wrong place because there's that little... we did this last night at the concert. Here's the church, here's the steeple, open the church, here's all the people. But in about 10, 15 minutes, it's going to look like this - the church and the steeple. Where's all the people? They're out there. They're on mission with Jesus, seeking and saving the lost. What part are you in the mission of God? What names do you know don't know Jesus?
You know when I get serious about seeking and saving the lost, it's when I know the person that I know is not a follower of Jesus and I start praying for him and I start weeping about their lostness. And as much as I want Jesus to come back at any moment, and I hear that a lot lately, "Oh Jesus, come quickly, this world is going crazy." When was the world not crazy? But I mean, there's just people that are ready for just Armageddon to take place and just let the bombs reign and let's go home to Jesus because I'm done with this place. The problem with that for me, is that I know a bunch of people that will not enter into eternity with me. And I really don't want that to happen anytime too soon because I want my loved ones to know Jesus. I just pray that you and I will never forget where God found us as we pursue people who need that story in their life as well.
Jesus Finds Zacchaeus
Ever been lost?
Not fun, humbling to admit, wastes time/energy
-illust: lost in Muir woods with Ronnie Sweetman
Jesus came to seek and save the lost
1. Jesus Seeks Us
-passing through Jericho
-looked up and spoke to Zachaeus
-Jesus singles everyone one of us out in the crowd!
-Creation declares the presence and majesty of God
-The Bible reveals who Jesus is and how to find him
-The Holy Spirit testifies about Jesus and convicts us of our sin
-see John 15:26-16:11
2. Jesus Saves Us
-“Today salvation has come to this house”
-Zacchaeus became a spiritual descendant of Abraham
-Luke doesn’t explain how long or the details of Zacchaeus’s
-vs “But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord…”
-he openly declared his commitment to Jesus with action
-2 Corinthians 5:15 we no longer live for ourselves, but for
him who died and was raised.”
3. Jesus saves the Lost
-Lost = this is how Jesus describes the people he came to save
-quotes from G. Campbell Morgan
-the person most concerned is Jesus, not the sinner!
-Zachaeus is identified as a sinner in three ways:
-commonly labeled: Chief Tax Collector- Hebrew traitor
-publicly declared: the crowd labeled him a sinner
-declared an us/them discrimination, as if they weren’t sinners!
-we may assume Christ’s disciples joined in on this too!
-churches die when members forget they once were lost
-self-confessed: he “extorted”, knew he owed restitution
-great sinners love Jesus greatly
-spiritually sick people seek a spiritual physician
-needy people come to Jesus with childlike faith
When did you admit you were lost?
Proof that Jesus is seeking and saving:
1. We become curious
-Zacchaeus overcame his stature and pride- climbed a tree
-Lost people do whatever it takes to find Jesus
-ask questions, read the Bible, attend worship and Bible
studies, pray, admit their inability to save themselves
2. We become committed
-We start obeying Jesus Christ!
-Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and welcomed Jesus into his
-Romans 10:9-10 Believe and Confess Openly
3. Our lives change
-Zacchaeus made an obviouscommitment to change
-public- he “stood up” ie, made a public statement
-supernatural- wanted to pay back 4 times what he stole
-What is Jesus asking me to do?
Jesus came to seek and to save the lost!
Where is “the place” you found Jesus?
-is it today, right now? Or when?
What’s the proof?
-What proof shows Jesus has saved and changed your life?
Are we on mission with Jesus to seek and find the lost?
-How concerned are we for people who don’t know Jesus?
-Have we developed an us/them discrimination attitude?
G. Campbell Morgan. The Great Physician: The Method of Jesus with Individuals. Tarrytown, NY: Fleming H. Revel Company, 1982.
“He [Zacchaeus] was lost, of no value, I repeat, to God, of no value to man; contributing nothing having purpose and power in the procedure of life, contributing nothing to the well being of his fellow man; and so by the calculations of eternity, he was spiritually lost, morally lost.
“The tragedy of a lost soul in the last analysis, is that God is robbed.”
Hello all, Steve Mante has graciously agreed to lead the small group this Sunday because Becky and I will be in Florida, have a great weekend and see you guys in a week!
Jerry and Becky
In Acts 2, for those of you that have come here for quite a while, you will be familiar with part of what I'm going to read aloud this morning because it is what we would often used to introduce people being baptized and the reason why we baptize people. And we'll be doing that in a couple of weeks. And if you're interested in learning more about that, please put that on your connection card. We'd love to talk with you. We chat with anybody before that happens, to help you solidify and understand and to think through God's word, according to the truth of God's word, your testimony and your faith in Jesus Christ. We actually are going to be describing and talking about baptism today in our members' class. We always share the gospel, the good news of Jesus. And we talk about baptism and Lord Supper and the basics of our church life together.
But this passage is pretty common, commonly read Acts chapter two, verse 37 and following. And as Peter had shared the message of Jesus Christ, that he had come and died, rose again and ascended into heaven. Peter was announcing that a new thing was about, was occurring in this very moment, the people that are in Jerusalem, thousands upon thousands of people had gathered for a high holy moment in the Jewish life, in the Israeli nation's life. People from all over different countries had come. They were Jewish descendants or they were maybe Proselyte. They were people that were not Jews, but they had trusted in the Jewish faith like the Ethiopian Munich that was saved later on. He was from Ethiopia. We know that Philip came and witnessed to him and he gave his life to Jesus Christ. And so, there were all these crush of nationalities and the Holy Spirit fell on the apostles and the believers that had been eyewitnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And they began to speak in other languages. They began to speak in languages that were understandable to all the people, that their heart language was what they were saying and like, how can this possibly be? And other people were looking and saying, how silly those people look, and they must be drunk in the middle of the day. What in the world is going on? And they said, this isn't something that this isn't... they're not drunk. This isn't some aberration that is human made. This is a supernatural moment where God is anointing the people of God to say He is starting a new thing, the church is born - the Day of Pentecost, we call it.
And in this moment, these people are receiving new information about how to live life and how to honor God. And I would suggest to you that new information requires action. How many here love the roundabouts that we have in this? Any roundabouts fans? How many of here are ready to just wipe them off the face of the earth? Anybody here? Back to four way stops where we can really head on crash and side crash and all those things? You see my bias on that one? If you crash, at least it's a side crash instead of a T-bone, right? I mean, that's kind of the theory behind it.
But new information requires action. I need to do something about this. You learn how to do something new. You learn a different pattern of how life is, and you kind of figure it out and you adjust your life accordingly. New information - I don't like it when you do that, honey. That's new information, right? Which means, Tucker, you need to change your habits for your new bride. Just a suggestion. He does a great job of that already, I'm sure, right Anne? Yeah. Anyway, they're saying yes right here. They're doing good. They're teaching our bible study, I get to know them a little bit better this semester, so it's kind of fun.
New information requires action. We have to change. And in this moment, the church is birthed, and those who had practiced the legalistic system and the sacrificial system, Jesus replaced all of that. And now they needed to put their allegiance in God through faith in Jesus Christ, the savior of the world. They needed to join a new team. I brought some props today. Well, I'll start with this one. How many of here have something similar to this - or your own team? Or some of you have been thrifting and you have some cowboys wear. I'm just kidding. Ah, that was so wrong. I set you up for that earlier, right? Yeah, I did. I did.
We have our teams and we put our jerseys on and we go, you know, he's going to win the day for us, right? But we still have the jersey, right? Pretty clean, we haven't used it so much. Anyway, and then I brought another one just so that, you know, equal opportunity person here. I don't know whose jersey this is. This was some high school kids that I won't show his name on tv. But anyway, it was in my daughter's car - my other daughter I think, and her friends or whatever. And he was on a particular team, but he wore the jersey and he didn't wear it anymore. He like threw it away. So we're not using it anymore. Nobody has even asked us for the jersey, I mean, it's been three years and they still don't want it.
I mean, how many people - you know, you see wearing a jersey, being on the team, it's more than just wearing a jersey to be a Christian. It's more than just saying, I'm on the team, to be a Christian. Now, I'm not here to tell you, you work your way into heaven. We are saved by faith alone. There is no works involved because we could boast about how we got into heaven on what we did and how impressive we looked as a Christian.
So, I do believe that once you're saved, you're secure in Christ. The Bible talks about that. But I also believe that once you're saved, a change begins to happen. You begin to look like you're on the team. And I want to use the motif of wearing a jersey and being on a team that again, the illustration can break down. And you've already stopped listening to me if you're a Bears fan or if you're a Baltimore's fan, you hate the Colts, right? And I won't tell you I went to the OSU football game yesterday. Oh, I just did. And so those of you from Michigan, I'm so sorry for your loss. No, you won yesterday. Oh, I'm so sorry. I mean, or maybe Notre Dame fans. I mean, I don't know what you are this morning, I'll offend everybody and anybody, and I'm offended sometimes, you know, that's just the way it is. It's games.
But we don't play games when it comes to Christianity, so I'm using the motif, but it does break down a little bit because no illustration is complete. The best illustrations are biblical illustrations, but I thought I can bring it into the real world with the jersey this morning. So what should we do when we hear about the good news of Jesus Christ? Well, let me give you an example. Let me give you a model of what Peter said they ought to do when they learned that Jesus was the Savior of the world. Verse 37, "When they heard this, they were pierced to their heart. And they said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Brothers, what should we do?'" And I hope that's what you're asking this morning. What do we do to follow Jesus? And Peter replied, Verse 38, "Repent and be baptized, each of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call. With many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, 'Be saved from this corrupt generation.'"
And verse 41, which I read oftentimes when we baptized, "So those who accepted his message we're baptized. And that day, about 3000 people were added to them. They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe. And many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. Now, all the believers were together and held all things in common. They sold their possessions in property and distributed the proceeds to all as any had need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved."
What's going on here? What should we do? Peter tells them what to do. And then we see the evidence of how they did this and what God continued to do in their midst, to bless and to bring more people to faith in Jesus Christ. What should we do? The first thing we need to do is go public. We got to go public. Repent and be baptized. Repent! That means I'm going to turn away from doing this life and I'm going to go towards this life.
The young man that said, "Coach, I want to join the high school football team." He says, "Great, we've got practice every day this week. You can come get your jersey and you can start playing." All week long he never shows up. On the following Monday at lunchtime, he sees coach and says, "Coach, I really want to be on the team." He says, "Great, come get your jerseys, come get onto the team and practice with us and belong to the team, and you will be part of the football team at the high school." This goes on for several weeks, to which finally the coach says, "You want to, but you are not a part of the football team." You've never changed your behavior from not being a part of the team to being part of the team, to not committing, to not going to practice, and to doing whatever you want to do, to pledging your allegiance and living under the authority of Jesus Christ and choosing to turn from a life of not committed to Jesus, to a life of being committed to Jesus Christ.
And you've not even put on a jersey, you've never even said that you're part of the team. You don't wear the colors. You're not on the team young man, you just have dreams of being on the team, but you will never participate in, nor you enjoy the victory of our team because you've not joined. We go public by turning away from living a life of our own, doing by our own selfish ambition, or whatever the world is telling us to do, that we enjoy doing more than honoring God. And we say, "I'm no longer going to do that, and I'm going to start following Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior." I'm going to start submitting to what Jesus wants me to do instead of doing whatever I want to do. And I'm going to show the world I'm a Christian by putting on the jersey, I'm going to get baptized.
Baptism is like a wedding ring. Done three weddings in three weekends, two of which were brand new weddings. One was a renewal. But during those weddings and even during, during the renewal, there were some wedding rings. Now, I don't know about you, but we never trust the little tiny ring bearers with the rings. You know, they're going to toss them, throw them in the sand, eat them. I don't know what they're going to do, but we want to make sure they make it down here, so we usually give them to the best man. So I get it from the best man and I start talking about the ring. But what if the best man forgets the ring? Well, we wait in the cold like we did for one wedding for a long time to go back to the hotel and go get it and bring it back. But what if we didn't even have that option available?
If a couple's up here and they pledged their lives, they pledged their allegiance to one another for life, I'm going to sign that document and they're going to be married, even without the wedding ring because the wedding ring doesn't make them married. The wedding ring shows the world that they are. It's a symbol, an outward symbol of an inward commitment and a lifelong commitment to one another in marriage. And that's what baptism is. Baptism doesn't make us a Christian. You can go in a wet rebellious center that doesn't want to follow Jesus and come out a wet... a dry and come out wet and not be any more changed than if you went to a swimming pool.
Our trust in Jesus Christ is saying, "I'm wearing the jersey and I'm for real. I'm going to live for Jesus Christ." They accept the message and they're baptized and they're brought into the body of Christ. They're added. The Lord added to their number - 3000 people. When you come into baptism, you are added to publicly declared, marked off. You're a part of the body of Christ when you get baptized. Whenever somebody says they're on a football team, you're marked off as a person who is a part of the football team. You are on a roster. You are a member of the football team. You're a member of the body of Christ when you become baptized. True Christians will want to obey Jesus and openly commit to Him. But what's the next thing that they do? Well, and then they devoted themselves to a few things.
Well, first thing we devote ourselves is we need to study the Bible. We need to learn the playbook. We need to practice the playbook. Now, there's this football quarterback, is it Matt Ryan now? Is it the Colts? Some of you don't care, but those that might follow these things, his first game, what they say? He doesn't know the system very well, they don't know him very well. He's still learning the system. He's still learning the playbook. They're still learning the playbook, the way he runs the playbook as the quarterback. And then the next game they tied. It's like kissing your sister, but they win, they win. You know, that was just wrong, I shouldn't have said that out. Can you bleep that out on the online version? And then they win against a formidable team last week. And what they say? He's in the groove. He's learned the system better.
Isn't that true with Christian life? You don't just show up and be a Christian. You learn what it means to grow. It's called discipleship. Being discipled or under the discipline of the Bible. And this was a Bible that was not just something they tucked away and did by themselves; it was the apostles teachings. It was under the authority of the local church. Now, none of us needs one person to tell the other person what to do about what the Bible says. We all had the Holy Spirit within us. That's another whole Bible study in itself. We're all equal when it comes to knowing the word of God. But we all need one another to be stronger in knowing how to apply and live out the Bible together. And that's why it's through the local church that we learn, and that's why the church is called to go make disciples, baptizing them in the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I've said to you. It's the church's responsibility to help. It's just like parenting. As parents, we are responsible to teach our kids how to live life and hopefully move away and be self-sustaining and all that fun. But our job is to raise our kids up and to teach them what is right and wrong, just as the church is responsible to teach and help the body of Christ know what it is.
Now, Bible study here was mostly apostles, the eyewitnesses of Jesus Christ, the leaders, because they only had the Old Testament, and they didn't call it the Old Testament. Until they had the New Testament, then we start calling it Old and New Testament. They only had the testament. They had the law. They had the word of God, and they used the word of God to explain this new thing that was going on as they lifted out. And from spiritual eyes and the Holy Spirit living within them, and the Holy Spirit giving them an unction that was unusually special because we see inspired scripture coming along later on that we don't see today. And they were explaining the Bible to this new group of believers, and they started to get together. They were replacing what they knew what was wrong with what was right.
When we study the Bible, we figure out that we have a lot of what you might kindly say, are thinking errors. There's a counselor here in town, trained doctor counselor, who wrote a manual for the penal system here in the state of Indiana. And it was kind of nickname, or it might have been on the title, "Thinking errors: How to replace thinking errors with what is right errors." And it was used throughout the whole system, and that manual when it was taught well, the men and women who went through replacing their thinking errors with the right kind of thinking and the right kind of living and making decisions in their lives, were less likely to go back to prison. And if you know anything about prison life, it just seems like people, that's like a revolving door. They get out, they go back in, they go out, go back in, because they don't replace what they're thinking. They don't change their behavior, they don't change their lifestyle; they go right back to their old ways.
Christianity is about replacing our human selfishness with what God wants us to do. We need to get the playbook in our hearts and minds. And we come to the people of God to make that happen. We not only studied the Bible, but it says here, they devoted themselves to the fellowship. We need to develop Christian friendships. We need to bond with the team, build loyalty, build trust, know who the teams are. A quarterback that comes into a new system doesn't say, "Okay, receiver number three, I'll throw that to you." No, they know who they are. A good leader of a team will oftentimes gift the team. When they win a game and all the accolades go usually to the superstars on the team, they usually spread the wealth and they go out and they're benefiting, the rest of the team. Even the second and third strings know that they're part of a group of people that we're moving forward and winning. They know each other. That's why teams take retreats and they get away from one another.
They go to training camp every year. They get away in a locker room and they kind of work together. They have practices together. They spend time with one another. And oftentimes, they hang out with one another. We need to develop Christian friendships. In verse 44-45, it says they shared their possessions with one another. They made sure everyone was properly provided for. And by the way, they were working through the local church to make that happen. We have started a... we have always had a benevolence team, but it's been a team of like two or three people. But now we have a team that is much broader, much more diverse and the different personalities of people and their spiritual gifts so that they can carefully and adequately assess the basic needs of people when they come to us asking for help.
And so, we want to make sure that we're doing this responsibly. That we're not just haphazardly throwing stuff out to help people or completely missing people who truly have needs. And we just don't have the capacity to properly process their situation. And this was happening in the church. This isn't communism or socialism where everybody sold everything and everybody just, they all had this common. It just said that they basically, and it seems like the pattern of the New Testament continues to show throughout the other letters, that they did what they could to take care of who they needed to take care of when the time came to take care of them.
Paul, he organized an offering to give to the Jewish community, the church in Jerusalem, because a great famine had had come out. And so the people in Macedonia, they were absolutely broke, totally broke, and yet they gave out of their poverty to help people in need in Jerusalem. And so this isn't about - this is the church just being the church. When food is all you need, nothing else will do. They need to be taken care of. Developing Christian friendships is also about accountability. It's a about saying, I'm going to do what I say I'm going to do and I've got someone around me to help me say, "Hey, I don't know that that was the right thing to do."
If you're working on your language a little bit, like you have vocabulary that you don't want to use anymore, get around Christians more than you're not around Christians because the Bible is pretty clear. And I think you've learned this before in your own lives probably, that bad company corrupts good morals - 1 Corinthians 15:33. That's why oftentimes I would ask our kids, "So, who you sitting around with at the lunch table? Who's on the bus sitting with you? Well, okay, you join that club, who's in the club with you?" I went to parent teacher conferences. Yeah, I wanted to know the teacher. I wanted to know some of the parents. I wanted to know who these families were that my kids knew. In fact, they didn't go to a house that I didn't know who the family was.
It's important that we know who our kids are around. Why? Because we want them to be successful, and the only way you're successful is if you're around people who are trying to do the right thing. It's important for us to develop Christian friendships, that our closest friends ought to be people who are following God in their own personal lives as well. It doesn't mean that we aren't friends with people who aren't Christians. It just means that we are gaining our strength from and getting encouraged by the people who are following God. And by the way, I'm really excited that we've had this semester of connection groups. We have the highest percentage of people comparatively to like our average attendance on Sunday. And then the average attendance of people coming to our connection groups; we have the highest percentage of participation this semester than we've had in a long, long time. And so in fact, probably the highest we've had in the last 15 to 20 years, at least 15 years at least. We're not even quite 20 years old. And so, I'm just excited about that and seeing that you have that built in opportunity to live life with other people.
And we can't guarantee that you're going to make a friend in a connection group. Nobody can make friends happen. But I guarantee you, you will not make friends with our church family if you don't go to a connection group. It just harder to do. You might on the outskirts here in the parking lot on Sunday mornings, but the best way to build Christian friendships is not just in rows on Sundays, but in circles when we're together in a smaller group to know and to be known by other people.
What's another thing that devoted themselves? Well, they devoted themselves to worship with other Christians. It says here, they devoted themselves to the breaking of bread into prayer. That seems to indicate that they were practicing the Lord's Supper together. At least they were eating together, but breaking bread was a symbolism for the Lord's Supper. And in verse 46 it says, "They went from in the temple courts and from house to house." They were identifying with the team all the time. They were always wearing their jerseys, constantly. Every day it said they were worshiping. You see, every day is game day for the Christian. It isn't just on hype day, the day that's scheduled on the day of event. We just from a crass point, you know, we got to go to see Ohio State play yesterday and we got off into a suburb of Columbus to eat dinner before we parted our ways.
We went back to Fort Wayne and Grant went back to Munsey, and we all had our Red Jerseys on and had our hats and all that stuff, and then we'd see other people walk in. And it's like 20 minutes away from the game, but you could see, "Oh, they were at the game too. Oh, they were at the game too." And you'd see these people and like if you go to the Colts game, you see people or on our way to Purdue last year we saw all these Michigan State Green going down Highway 25 to get to the campus. And then they went slower back home because they lost. But anyway, you see gold and black and you see green and you see blue for the Colts and you see red for whatever team you're on.
And all this Jersey stuff shows up, but then, you know, Jena didn't wear a jersey today. She didn't want to offend everybody. YI didn't wear my stuff today. No, because we're fair weather. You know, we don't wear the jersey all the time. In fact, it's not even my team, right? I mean, you say, ""How are our Colts doing?" "Oh really? Do you own the Colts? Do you have stock in the Colts? Are you Jim Irsay's like cousin or something? No, I don't own anything to do with the team. I just own some stuff that they put their logos on, right? I didn't even go to Ohio State. I went to Ball State. I just want to root for a team that won more often.
You know, they're doing the amateur and all that, it was homecoming, and I'm like, "I'm not homecoming anything. I'm a Buckeye because I grew up there." You know, a Christian is on the team for keeps all the time 24/7. You're always flying the colors. You're not just a fair weather friend; you're worshiping God all the time, not just occasionally. Well, I'll worship him at church and then Monday I turn on whatever I want to turn on. I want to do whatever I want to do. I'll listen to whatever I want to listen to. And you're thinking that by just coming here one hour on a Sunday and maybe another hour in a connection group, you're actually going to figure that out. No! Worship is a 24 / all in moment in life for the believer.
We worship with other Christians. We celebrate when we find another believer at work. Not because, "Oh, we're in and they're out." No, because we got, we got a teammate, we're walking alongside, we're getting some help from. And finally this morning as we look at this passage, and this is an inherent thing, this isn't something that you can do; it's just that when you do these things, when you are going public, when you're studying the Bible, when you're developing Christian friends and when you're worshiping with Christians, you're going to show evidence of changed lives. Team members look like they belong on the team. They keep getting stronger, they remain more loyal. Their jerseys are dirty.
I was in the marching band at Ball State and Sean and Allison, that play on our team, Sean and I played at least one year together at the same time. And they used to position us behind the visiting team, which was a mistake because we get in trouble taunting the visiting team. And we would pick out a jersey in the third quarter that was completely clean, which, what does that mean? They were in a game. And this is back when we had a grassfield. So, if you're in the game, at least for a little bit, you got your jersey dirty, and they didn't have anything on them. And so we'd pick them out and we'd start saying, "Hey, put in number 32, put in number 32. He hasn't played a second today. He's feeling lonely on the bench. It's kind of cold. The bench isn't that warm. He's warming it, but it's not where..." you know, we would just taunt number 33, put number 33 and put number, whatever number it was, that the guy Jersey was completely clean.
He's not getting any play time. And one day when the middle of all this, the whole band is in, we're in the visiting section in the middle, but then the visitors are kind of on both sides. And finally this mom goes, "Hey, that's my son. Quit picking on him." How many guys would just love it if your mom said that? So what does the band kindly say after that? "Oh, we're so sorry." No, no, no. "Mama's boy! Mama's boy!" It was horrible. If she's listening today, I'm sorry. I was part of a mass movement that was wrong. It's all part of the game, right?
If you're a Christian, you're going to show like you've been living for Jesus. You're going to get persecuted. People aren't going to like you because you're a Christian. You're going to do things that are look weird to other people. They're not weird. They just different than the steps of the world. You're going to show evidence. They were publicly added to the church in verse 41 through 47, you're going to belong somewhere, not just be a freelancer. "They were devoted, openly committed," verse 42, "to these things I already mentioned." And in verse 43, it shows there that everyone was filled with awe and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles." There was something special going on. There was supernatural activity. There were miracles being performed. And I want to say to you, that we don't need some supernatural miracle of people falling backwards and somebody go... I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about that your life looks different and nobody can explain it other than there's something going on inside of you because you have a want to that you never had before.
You start walking away from addiction instead of towards it. You start walking away from the temptations instead of towards it. You start doing what God wants you to do instead of what you want to do or what the world says you ought to do to be popular and powerful and pleasured. You find more pleasure in honoring God than the pleasure you had in anything that didn't honor God in your life. That's the evidence that God's working in and through you. It starts with putting on the jersey and saying, "I want to follow Jesus." It continues as you study the playbook and you say, "God, I want to know what you want me to do with my life." It continues when you hang around other Christians and you get in a group and say, "Hey guys, I don't want to do this anymore. Can you help me not do that anymore?" And you have people in your life that encourage you and egg you on and help you to do the right things instead of the wrong things. You and I have all been in a crowd somewhere, where you ended up doing something you shouldn't have done because the crowd encouraged you to do it.
Am I the only one in the house oh me, say, "Oh me!" If that was you. Oh me! Oh me! We've all been there. But you've also, I hope there's a few of us in the room that have others in our lives that have encouraged us to do the right thing, and we've been victorious because God put those people in our lives to help us, say amen if that's someone like you. And those people egg you on, and as that happens and as God's spirit begins to work inside of you and you start to understand the system, not just from a mental but from a heart standpoint. You start to wear this jersey and it gets dirty and gets tattered, it gets ripped up, but you're on a team. I always find it funny when we call it the World Series Baseball, right? When you talk about the Super Bowl, and they're the world champions, the national, the champions of the world, and the rest of the world just laughs.
First of all, football for most of the world is actually something that you don't touch with your hands - soccer. We're not world champions in America. You know who the world champions are? The champion - we are the champions. Who's that? Christians. Because we have a victor, Jesus Christ, who has been victorious over everything we struggle with, including death. And we are on a team that in the end, wins, has already won and it's just waiting for the coronation, waiting for the trophy. When someday we will be receiving our crowns, our trophies of what we have done to honor and glorify God, and we're going to throw it right back at the feet of Jesus and say it was all because of you that this was even possible. And all of that difficulty, and all of that blood, sweat and tears, and all of that way in which we've lived that was so counterculture, but we knew was right and was much more enjoyable than not, will have all been for everything. Because we're not just on a team that comes and goes; we're on a team that lasts forever.
I pray this morning that you and I will show up and be counted on the team of Jesus Christ. That will show up not just to get wet in a pool, but to actually start doing something about what he said we ought to do; living with people who are trying to do the same thing and openly worshiping Him, not just on Sunday morning, but every day of our life. I hope this hits somebody somewhere this morning and I pray that if it did that you will do something about it. What should we do? Well, that's a good question. What is God telling you to do? What is your step that you must take to move forward and to be counted on the team that lasts forever? It might be to declare your faith in Jesus for the very first time. It might be to sign up and tell the world you're Christian by getting baptized. It might mean to go to this class in a couple of minutes that we're going to have and learn what it means to truly belong to the body of Christ here at St. Joe and in general, some good principles for wherever you land in a city and learn what it means to follow Jesus in a church. I don't know what God wants you to do, but I pray you will not hesitate to step forward and be counted.
What should we do?
New information requires action!
-We often change what we do when we learn new info
-Peter explained that Jesus was the Savior that the Old
Testament had prophesied would come
-they needed to trust in Jesus, not the sacrificial system
What should we do? …to follow Jesus Christ?
-vs 38 Repent- turn from living a sinful life apart from Jesus
-vs 41 Accept the message that Jesus provides forgiveness
-vs 41 Get baptized into the church (…added to them)
-baptism is like a wedding ring- it symbolizes our commitment
-True Christians want to obey Jesus, openly commit to Him
Study the Bible
-Apostle’s teaching- the full Bible was still being inspired
-the early church depended primarily on the Old Testament
-Bible study is a community activity- not a solo activity
-Every believer is equally able to know and do God’s will
-Every believer needs other believers to do this well!
-we must replace our thinking errors with God’s truth
Develop Christian friendships
-vs 44-45 they shared their possessions with one another
-made sure everyone was properly provided for
-they worked through the church leadership to do this
-many were likely shunned by family, employers
-this pattern is more descriptive than prescriptive
-bad company corrupts good character
Worship with Christians
-breaking bread- likely the Lord’s Supper
-vs 46 in the temple and from house to house
Show evidence of changed lives!
-vs 41, 47 publicly added to the church
-vs 42 devoted: openly commited to the church
-vs 43 spiritual freedom
-signs and wonders happed through the apostles
-God announced to the world he was now working through
-Missionaries report this type of supernatural activity where
The gospel is introduced for the first time.
-Today we see the supernatural power of God working in
people: freedom from addictions, relationship
reconciliations, and more!
What should we do?
What must you do right now to obey the message of Jesus?
How are you openly committed to the church of Jesus Christ?
What must you do to grow spiritually?
Connection Card, Prayer Team, online contact form
B: Bible book