Risk Week 2: Why Am I Here?
Many people, many Christians, live a normal, routine life, and most Christians are happy with that life. They don’t have to face adversity. They don’t have to live in guilt. They don’t have to deal with being rejected. It’s safe. It’s within the box. Play it cool and never cross the street to the other side. How’s your life? Somewhere inside, don’t you feel you were made for something more; something greater? What if you could shed the normal, mundane life? What if God wants us to live radical, invitational lives? What if just securing our eternity isn’t enough? What would it be like to get outside of the normal? What if God called us all to a life of risk? Would you take it? Can you imagine a seat on the front row of God’s amazing work? What if we are all called to reach out to others and live the invitational life? Would you take the risk? Would you jump?
Who’s ready to go swimming? Good morning to everybody and, also, welcome to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. We’re in a series called “Risk.” This is the second week of the series. I like to bring everybody back up to speed just in case this is your first time or maybe you missed last week. But, what we’re talking about is living an invitational life. We’re talking about sharing our faith. How do we do that? What are some tools that we could learn to help us share our faith?
Because, here’s the reality: When Jesus rose from the dead, we actually have some of the things that He shared to His disciples. Matthew 28, He took them up on a mountain. This is after He’s resurrected and these are some of the last words that we have of Jesus. He says, “Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to go into all the world and I want you to make disciples.”
That’s a pretty big deal, these words that we have. His departing words were, “Hey, make sure you go share your faith.”
In Acts 1, right before He’s taken up in Acts 1:11, He shares with His disciples once again: “I want you to be my witnesses. I want you to do that. That’s the thing that’s the main thing.”
Oftentimes, it’s really easy, in church, to get distracted from the main thing, which is to share our faith. So, in this series, what I’ve been trying to do and what I want to do is to try to keep the main thing the main thing, because sometimes we forget what that is or we lose sight of it. It’s easy, sometimes, to get distracted from doing what God has called you and me to do.
And let me say this up front: I know why it’s easy to get distracted and I know why it’s difficult at times to not keep the main thing the main thing. It’s a struggle because many of us feel inadequate. And let’s be honest, even here in the sanctuary and those who watch via the internet and the mobile app: When somebody gets up and starts talking about sharing our faith, that’s like, of all the sermons – the only one that makes you go “ugh” a little bit more is when the pastor gets up and talks about giving, right?
You know? You feel like, “Aww, man. I don’t share my faith enough. I don’t even really feel like I can.”
And we all know that one person that maybe does it right and is really good at it. And we’re like, “Man, I could never be that.”
So, it’s easy for us to sort of put it on the back burner, because many of us feel that it’s difficult. And what I want to make sure that everybody hears from me this morning is I am not sharing anything with you all this weekend, in any way, shape or form, that is going to burden you or is going to make you feel guilty or anything like that. I’m up here to inspire you and motivate you and encourage you to understand a simple truth. You can be dangerous for Jesus no matter where you’re at right now in your Christian life, and I want to give you the tools for your toolbox to do that and I want you to leave out of here really knowing that, “Man, you know what? He’s right. I can share my faith.”
What I’ve done is I’ve looked at what maybe I’m not. Maybe I need to learn to live where I’m at. And let me explain how I got to where I got to this weekend. A couple of years ago, I was asked by Southeastern to teach a class on multi-staffed ministry. Now, that’s not my wheelhouse. My wheelhouse is like theology, hermeneutics and things of that nature. So, they said, “Chip, will you teach a class on multi-staff ministry?”
I said I would, but I didn’t have a class that I could go back to. Because, what they wanted me to do is to teach these young men and women that when they graduate from college and they go to work on a church staff where there’s multiple people, how do you get along, how does that work, how’s that going to effect your life and whatever? And I’m a teacher that doesn’t want to just inform people; I want to give something that changes their life.
So, I started thinking, “What can I do to help these young men and women?”
Because, the first church I worked at was a church of about 1,400, and the music pastor really cared about music and the youth pastor cared about youth and the Christian education director cared about Christian education. Whenever it was something that came together, they all were territorial and you’re in the middle of it trying to figure out how can we all come together and do the Jesus thing when everybody’s sort of doing their thing? And sometimes it’s difficult to work in a multi-staffed environment when you’re a larger church, because everybody’s sort of doing their own thing and you’ve got all these moving parts going on.
So, I said, “What can I do to help them? How can I help them understand what they’re going to get involved in when they graduate?”
So, I started thinking, “You know what I can do? If I could show them how they’ll progress as leaders in the Kingdom of God and I can help them locate where they are and where they’ve come from and where they’re going, I can then get them in a snapshot of where they’re at currently in their life and I can help them understand, at that point in their life, what they’ll learn by being in a multi-staffed ministry, what they’re going to encounter, what God’s going to use to help them grow and all of those things.”
Instead of them thinking, “Where am I at in the midst of all of this stuff?” what I did is I read a book by a guy named Robert Clinton called The Making of a Leader. I went back and got it. What he had done is he’d taken about 10 or 12 Christian ministers’ lives – people that you would know; people that had significant ministries throughout the history of the Church – and he went back and looked at their timelines and looked at their life and he found all kinds of commonalities that God did in people’s lives as He progressed them to the point of where He used them for great things. So, I took that as my skeleton and I was able to show them a leadership development and then I was able to take each stage where each of them were at in their leadership development and tell them what they would learn and how they would progress in a multi-staffed ministry environment, and also to teach them what’s next and what’s down the road.
And the felt like, “Man, this is great,” and I felt like I had equipped them to go into ministry once they had graduated from college. Well, as I started thinking about how do I help people understand that when we talk about sharing our faith, they don’t have to cringe and go, “I could never do that. I could never be that person. I’ve seen the person that shares their faith. I just don’t know that I could do that.”
What if I could give everybody in the church some categories where you all could figure out, “Hey, that’s sort of where I’m at right now in my development in my Christianity. This is what I can do in that particular stage so I’m congruent with who I am. I’m not doing something that I’m not.”
And then give everybody some tools for their toolbox in those different areas so that you could walk out of here going, “I can do this,” rather than feeling burdened or guilty. So, that’s what I’m hoping to do. I’m hoping that this sounds like something that you’re interested in, because I do believe God wants us to live an invitational life, but I don’t want to do it in a way that makes you feel burdened or guilty or whatever, because I genuinely love you and I don’t believe good Gospel preaching puts people in chains; I believe good Gospel preaching sets people free.
So, that’s what I want to do here and I hope that you will listen in. So, here’s what I did. I came up with four categories. We probably could debate that there might be more, but I don’t think there’s any less. So, the categories that I came up with were the belief stage, the battle stage, the broken stage and the bold stage.
We’re going to talk about each one of these. What I’m hoping is that you will find yourself in one of these stages and you’ll go, “That’s where I’m at right now,” and then I’m going to give you some tools in that stage to be able to share your faith. Not only that, but you’re going to also know what’s coming next so that you can be prepared for that. Typically, though, when we preach on stuff like this, we’re all the way down here and we’re trying to make everybody look like they need to be the Apostle Paul and everybody’s like, “I’m not the Apostle Paul, so I don’t feel like I can do this,” and most people walk out of a sermon like this feeling sort of downtrodden and with their shoulders slumped over.
That’s not going to happen. Everybody’s going to walk out of here going, “Man, I can do this.”
So, that being said, if you are a note taker, this is the cue now that I’m giving you to get out a sheet of paper or your phone and take notes. If you’re not a note taker, this might be the time that God has appointed for you to learn to become a note taker. I’m just throwing that out there for you. If you don’t want to take notes, that’s fine. But anyway, I’m hoping that you will take notes and we’re going to work through these stages and I’m going to give you some tools, and I hope that this will make sense to everybody. And I hope you leave here going, “Man, that was fantastic. I learned something today.”
So, the first stage is the belief stage. This is sort of like a self-intuitive type of situation. At some point, we were not believers. At some point, we were not Christians. That’s just where we were. And then, at some point, we decided “I need to believe in Jesus.” And for every single one of us, there was a universal truth about coming to Jesus. Now, how we came to Jesus was completely different. Some of you may say, “I was an addict and I knew I needed something in my life and I reached out to God.”
Some of you may say, “Hey, I just wanted to settle the eternity thing, and I reached out to God.”
Some of you may say, “Hey, I was going through a lot of struggle, and I reached out to God.”
“Might have been going through a divorce or a marital problem, and I reached out to God.”
But, every single one of us – and you see it all throughout the Gospels. You see people coming to Jesus because they saw that Jesus could help them out in their life, that there was something about serving Jesus that was really a good idea at that particular point. So, all of us came because serving Jesus at some level was a beautiful idea. I’ve never heard anybody go, “Man, somebody grabbed me by the back of my head and drug me down the alter and made me say something and then I was like, ‘Man, I love Jesus.’”
It doesn’t work that way. We see the need for Jesus. And the need that we see for Jesus is different in all of our lives, but, at some level, we were like, “Hey, this is a beautiful idea and this is something that I want to do and I want to follow Jesus.”
Not only that, but in this stage your faith hasn’t really been tested. You’re new. It’s great. You’re enthusiastic. God’s good. You love God. Everything’s fantastic. It’s all good. God’s love is so great. All of the things are good. Not only that, but in this particular stage, difficulties are usually seen as problems. In other words, God’s so good, it’s such a beautiful idea that when bad things start happening it’s either the devil, it’s a lack of faith or it’s something else. You know? You haven’t understood how God can use the difficulties of life at this point. When you see a difficulty, it’s usually just a bad deal.
It reminds me of the lady that went down to UTC Mall. She went into Dillard’s and went into the lady’s section and found a beautiful dress. She tried it on and she’s like, “I’ve got to get this.” So, she bought it, but she didn’t tell her husband. So, a couple of weeks later, her husband’s going through the credit card bill. He looks and he sees this big purchase at Dillard’s.
“Honey? Can you come here for a second?”
She’s like, “Yeah.”
He’s like, “Did you buy something at Dillard’s? This is a lot of money. I don’t know that we can afford this.”
She’s like, “Yeah. I did. I got a dress, but the devil made me do it.”
He’s like, “Well, honey, what do you mean?”
She goes, “Listen: I got in front of the mirror and the devil whispered in my ear and said, ‘Man, that dress is smoking hot. You need to get it.’ So, I did.”
He’s like, “Honey, we’re Christians. When the devil tempts you, you say, ‘I rebuke you in the name of Jesus. Get behind me, Satan.’”
She said, “I did that. He said that it looked even better from back there.”
Don’t blame the devil for everything. But, the point that I’m trying to make is it’s a beautiful idea, life is good, all is fantastic. You sort of are trying to figure out God’s good and when difficulties come, it can’t be God because He’s so good. And here’s the reality at this stage: You appreciate the cross, but you’ve yet to pick it up. See, there really is – listen, so nobody’s mistaking this. Jesus has done everything that you need for salvation, but that doesn’t mean that you and I don’t have anything that we’re asked to do by God. And sometimes, when we’re in this stage, what we don’t want to do is we don’t want to then start following God. We just love God. It’s just a great thing. We’re excited about God.
In fact, there’s a lot of teaching in America that wants to keep people in this stage. There’s a development that people have throughout Scripture that we need to be aware of. But, if this is where you’re at and you’re like, “I really don’t know much about my faith. It’s not been tested that much. I just love Jesus right now and all of that. So, tell me, Chip. What could I say? Because, I don’t really know a whole lot.”
Well, hold on. I’m going to tell you what you can do. I’m going to help you out. I’m going to give you some tools for your toolbox. You’re at Carrabba’s with your buddy. Maybe you’re at the YMCA. Maybe you’re at the movies. It’s normal human interaction.
“How are you doing, man?”
“I’m doing good, man.”
“How’s your wife and family?”
“What are you currently doing?”
“Ah, man. I’m doing this. How about you?”
“Man, you know, I’m doing pretty good. The wife is pretty good and everything. But, let me tell you something, man. This is what God has recently done in my life.”
And you say, “Well, what is the ‘this’?”
Hold on. I’m going to get there. There’s some things you can seriously share at this point in your Christian development. You can say, “Man, recently I’ve become a Christian. I’m a Christian now. I’ve got a sense of worth that I never had before, man. I mean, it’s just really significant to me.”
Or, “Man, I’ve got a newfound freedom. I was always living in guilt and it felt like I never measured up or whatever. Man, Jesus has really come into my life and I feel free.”
“Man, I’ve got a purpose right now in my life that I’d never had before, man. I mean, God’s really doing some cool stuff in my life.”
“Man, I’ve got a peace that is just unbelievable. I can’t explain it to you. It’s just incredible.”
“Man, I’ve found this great community. They’ve got this really good-looking pastor with glasses.”
I’m just kidding. Don’t say that. Anyway, “I’ve found this community. I’ve got joy in my heart, man. Just some great joy.”
All of this stuff. So, here’s the way it works: You’re hanging out with somebody. You don’t really have a whole lot to draw on. You don’t really know a whole love of Bible verses or anything. It’s just simply, “Hey, man. How are you doing?”
“I’m doing great.”
“Man, great. Me too, man. Let me tell you something, man. God’s recently done some really cool things in my life. This is what it is.”
They’re like, “Wow. Man, that’s really cool.”
“I know. Why don’t you come to church with me this weekend?”
Did you know, if you’re not weird, 83% of the people that you ask to come to church will come to church with you? Did you know that? Now, if you walk up with a Bible in a cubicle: “Bam! Jesus wants you to know that you’re going to hell. Do you want to come to church?”
0% are coming. They’re not coming. Like, “We handle snakes at our church services.”
They’re not coming. They’re not coming. If you’re new here, we don’t handle snakes here at this church. Okay?
“I knew that was a strange building. I knew the snakes were coming out.”
They’re not coming out.
But, the point is this is easy. You can do this. This isn’t like you’ve got to know all the presuppositional apologetics of Greg Bahnsen. You know? You go, “Well, I’m going to tell you about the Ontological Argument for God’s Existence, the Cosmological Argument for God’s Existence, the Teleological Argument for God’s Existence...”
You don’t need to know any of that stuff. You say, “I don’t know that stuff.”
You don’t need to know that stuff. That’s not where you’re at. You have to be you. You have to be what you are. You can’t be something that you’re not. And I know what you’re thinking right now. You’re going, “Okay. I can probably do that.”
But, what happens if they go, “I’ll go to church with you, but I want to settle this right now.”
Okay. Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered. I’m helping you out here. You just need to know this: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will never perish but have eternal life. It goes simply like this: Do you want to settle eternity? Listen: God loved you with a love you couldn’t even imagine. Maybe somebody came along and told you He didn’t love you. Man, He loves you. He loves you so much that He sent Jesus to die on a cross and raise again on the third day so that you and me could come back and everything could be cool. If we believe in Him and trust Him, we’re never going to perish, man. We’re going to have eternal life.
That’s it. That’s it. Can I be honest with you all here for a second? So often, I go out and I’m just doing Chip at the mall or at Chili’s or wherever. You know? I’m not trying to be Pastor Chip. I’m just trying to be Chip. I’m not trying to be anything other than Chip. And, striking up conversations, I’ll end up talking to somebody about God. And they’ll tell me why they’re not a Christian. And I’m sitting there going, “I wouldn’t be a Christian either if that’s what I thought God was all about.”
They have an inauthentic view of Jesus. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked up to somebody and they said, “You know, I’d be a Christian, but I was told that if I don’t believe that the world was created in seven days of twenty-four hours that I couldn’t be a Christian. And I’m just not at that place in my life right now.”
I’m like, “There’s nowhere in the Bible that says you have to believe that.”
That’s a hermeneutical question. That is a not a salvific question. And we lead with that stuff all the time. People say, “Well, you know, I don’t know if I could be a Christian because I don’t see this political thing this way.”
I’m like, “Dude. That’s not what gets you into heaven. What Jesus did gets you into heaven.”
And I’ve even talked to people that go, “Well, I thought about being a Christian, but somebody told me I’m not a Christian if I don’t read the King James Version of the Bible.”
I’m like, “You’ve got to be kidding me. Seriously? Where is that? In Obadiah? Come on.”
Obadiah really is a book. Hezekiah is not, though. And First Opinions is not. So, anyway, this is the Gospel. You know that. And I know what you’re thinking, too. You’re thinking, “Okay. Well, that’s great. What if we do that and they’re like, ‘I’m in,’ and then they start asking me more questions?”
I’ve got your back. I’m your pastor. I’ve got your back. Here’s what you do. You go, “I don’t know everything that there is to know, but I do know that Jesus has changed my life and I know He can change yours too. Why don’t you come to church with me?”
That’s it. At that point in your life, at this stage in your life, that’s all you know. You don’t know anything more than that, and that’s all you have to do to be dangerous for Jesus. And let me show you this. You say, “Well, why would you want to invite people to church?”
Okay. Here’s what I want you to do: If you come to Grace Community Church and you’ve either found Jesus, you have grown in Jesus or you feel like this church has made an impact in your Christian life, would you put your hand up? I want you to look around the room. Okay. Why would I want to get them here? Because, Jesus resides in HIs church. He resides in His people. And if we can’t argue people into the Kingdom of God or we don’t know enough about the Kingdom of God, let’s get them to church and hopefully, at that point, God will do the things that God does.
And that’s all you can do at that stage. What’s the next stage? The next stage is what I call the battle stage. This is the stage where many people just tap out because they don’t want to do this and it’s tough on them. This, right here, is the fight of the will. This is where you start going, “Okay, I’m serving Jesus. I’m loving Jesus. I’m trying to do the Jesus thing.”
And now you open up your Bible and, all of a sudden, Jesus says, “Hey, turn the other cheek.”
You’re like, “I ain’t turning the other cheek.”
You open up your Bible and it says, “Hey, you need to love your wife like Christ loved the church.”
“I’m not doing that. Oh, you ain’t getting none of my money, honey. That’s not going to work at all.”
And, all of a sudden, you start realizing, “Man, hold on. God’s got a word. I don’t like a lot of what it says. It’s sort of rubbing me wrong. It’s cramping my style.”
You find yourself in the fight for the will. You’re in the ring, boxing with God. Not only that, but clichés stop working at this point because trials start coming in, doubt starts coming in, you start questioning your Christianity, you start questioning God’s love, you start questioning all of this stuff. And that deal before where you were all enthusiastic – “Man, God is good all the time. All the time, God is good.” Now you’re starting to go, “I don’t know if He’s really that good anymore, because it ain’t working the way it’s supposed to work. I’m not quite sure.”
And you just sort of are following through the adversity of life. You’re in a battle stage. This is where you realize what Paul said, that it’s necessary to pass through many troubles on our way into the Kingdom of God. You start to realize that in this stage, this is where your faith moves from just a beautiful idea to a struggle. And if you’re going to be a Christian long enough, you’re going to go here. And a lot of people just tap out. They’re like, “I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to go through that. I’m going to try to go back to the first stage or I’m just out of Christianity completely.”
But, if you’re in that stage, the thing that you can do is where in the leaf stage you can share your enthusiasm in, in this stage you’ve just got to be real. So, you’re at Carrabba’s. You’re with your friends. You’re doing your thing.
“How’s it going, man? How’s the wife?”
“How are your kids?”
“They’re doing great, man. They’re not as bad as Pastor Chip’s kids, thank God.”
All this stuff. You’re doing the things that you’re doing and all of this. And you say, “Hey, you know what, man? This is what God has done and is currently doing in my life. Man, I’ve got some real examples.”
“Really? What’s He doing?”
“Right now, man, I’m going through a lot of trials. I’m trying to figure out this God thing. Man, I’ve got some doubts, man. I’ve been reading some stuff and I’m trying to reconcile what I read with what I’m reading in the Bible, man. This is what I’m going through. I’ve got a lot of adversity going on in my life.”
And you say, “Man, you would share this?”
Yes. Because, that’s where you are. You don’t put on a big smile and act like everything’s okay. I know that’s what they tell you to do in church. Not here. Did you know that God doesn’t need your eloquence and God doesn’t need your smile? God just needs you to just be open to be used by Him, and He’ll do the thing in the life of the other person. And sometimes, just being honest and real about your struggles is something that person needs to hear. You’d be surprised how God will have you in stages with your friends to reach them in the stages that you are at. Just share your honesty. You know?
Listen: I know it’s rainy outside. I know it’s dark. But, it’s okay to clap. It is. It’s really okay. People online were like, “Yeah!”
They probably weren’t. They’re probably asleep.
But, you’re sitting there and you say, “Look, this is what God’s doing in my life. I’m having some doubts and some struggles and whatever else, man. This is what’s going on. Hey, let me ask you a question: Why don’t you come to church with me this weekend?”
That’s it. You want to be an invitational Christian? That’s it. And you go, “Alright, now. But, what if they say I want to land the plane right now?”
You already know the answer. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. You already know the answer. And you go, “Well, what if they want to know more?”
You already know the answer.
“I don’t know everything there is to know, but I know that Jesus has walked with me through some difficulties in a real way. Why don’t you come to church with me?”
You say, “Man, I could do that.”
Yeah. And you know what? When you do that and your friend comes to church and they end up finding Jesus and getting saved and we go out there with the horse trough and we baptize them, do you know what you’re going to do? You’re going to be more pumped than at any time in your Christian life. Because, you go, “Man, God used me. Man, I didn’t have to know all the answers. I didn’t have to have it all together.”
You can’t. Let me give you some calm-down here. Let me give you some real good feel-good. You can’t be something that you’re not. Just be who you are in whatever stage you are and let God use you.
What’s the next stage? Well, the next stage is what I call the broken stage. This is where God really wants to get us anyway. He wants us to get away from all the trappings of all the things that we cling to, and He wants it to just be me and Him. He wants it to be you and Him. Just you and Jesus. That’s where He’s trying to get us all to, where we’re just clinging to Jesus.
The broken stage is where you truly realize now that God is God. You’ve done the title fight. You’ve tried to win. You’ve realized that God’s ways are better than your ways and you’ve said “uncle.” I’m done. God, You’re God. I’m not. You’ve recognized your gifts and talents are to be stewarded. You’ve got to the place in your life where you’re like, “You know what? The things that I have, God gave to me, and I’m to steward them. They’re not for me to show God how awesome I am. They’re things He gave to me to use for His kingdom, and now I’m going to steward them for His glory.”
And doing God’s will now brings you freedom. In the past, you looked at what God would say to do and you go, “Man, I can’t do that or I don’t want to do that,” or whatever it may be. Now you’re going, “Man, I want to do what God wants me to do. And the reason I want to do what God wants me to do is because, man, God shows up when I do it the way He wants me to do it.”
He is a faithful God. And can I tell you this? God’s Word is something that you can stand on. He will deliver what He says He will deliver. Every time. All the time. It may not be on your time or my time, but He will deliver. In this stage, your faith has now truly been tested. You’ve gone through the ringer. Not only that, but you’ve come out the other side. You’ve come out and you’re a different and changed person at this point, and it’s no longer theories and ideas. It’s no longer just something that you think about or talk about. You know this. This is where your faith has moved from a struggle to sacred. Your faith is yours now. It is your faith. You’ve walked through.
And listen to me: You don’t get to these stages in a month. These are developments that take place over years for God to do in your life. But, when you’re there – and some of you have come through some rough things in your life. When you’ve come through some rough things, you’re forever changed. I mean, you’re just a different person. It reminds me of the time where the church service was getting ready to start and a big thunder hit. And, all of a sudden, the devil appeared behind the pulpit and everybody in the church just took off running, yelling and screaming out the door. They were knocking people over and getting out the chairs. The devil was sitting there with this glee on his face. He looks over here on the front row and there’s a lady sitting there. The only person in the church.
He’s like, “Do you know who I am?”
She’s like, “Yep.”
“You’re not scared of me?”
“Yeah. Why would I be? I’ve been married to your brother for 30 years.”
See, when you’ve gone through difficulty, it changes you. It does. It changes you. So, in this stage where you’re broken, you even read Scriptures differently. You even look at things differently. Like you read James and when it says “Consider it joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance,” you don’t read that anymore and go, “What does that mean? How does that work? It doesn’t seem like that would be the way God would be.”
See, you read that now and you’re like, “Man, I totally understand. God can use it all. He can use the good and the bad.”
The beautiful idea of God is still there, but the idea of what beautiful means has changed. You understand more of who God is. You own your faith now. You know who your God is, and things have changed. You read passages like this: “That I may know Him,” I want to know Him.
“And the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.”
You read that and you go, “I know what that means. I know how God uses both in my life. I’m different.”
In this stage, your scars have become your testimony. You lead with your vulnerabilities now. You lead with your weaknesses now. You can stand in front of somebody and say, “Let me tell you all of the things God has done in my life. Let me tell you about my faithlessness and let me tell you about God’s faithfulness. Let me tell you how God has walked me through things that I was running and turning from.”
And you can say that now without feeling like people will look at you like you’re not a Christian, that you’re not doing the right things, because you’ve been broken. You’re just a different person at this point. So, the way you share your faith and the way you talk about things is you share your scars. And everybody’s going to have a different one. Everybody’s going to have something different that they talk about. But, you can be vulnerable.
And the last stage is what I call the bold stage. The bold stage is simply this: Settling eternity now, for you, is not enough. You’re not wondering about whether or not you’re going to heaven. You’re not worried about any of that stuff. You’re done with all of that. You know God. God knows you. You’ve locked in and now it’s not about you, it’s about settling eternity for others. It’s about the fact that you’re willing to abandon everything at this point in your life for the Gospel. You don’t want anybody to not know the authentic Jesus. That is what gets you up in the morning. That is what focuses you in the morning. You want to let people know about who Jesus is. You are fully committed to the mission. You sound like Paul when he’s in prison and he’s writing to the church at Philippi.
Here’s what he says. Listen.
He says, “I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances...”
What are his circumstances? He’s in prison.
“...my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the Gospel.”
“I don’t care that I’m in prison. I don’t care that I’m in the palace. I don’t care where I’m at. What I care is that the Gospel is going forth and reaching people’s lives.”
Listen to what he says:
“So that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ...”
He’s like, “Rome doesn’t have me here. God has me here. I’m in prison for Jesus. I’m here because what’s happened is the whole Praetorian Guard and everybody else here in the prison system has heard about Jesus, and I’m okay with that. I’m okay that God has me in the prison cell, because what I know is that God is using that to reach people that might not get reached unless I was here.”
And then he says, “According to my earnest expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in anything, but with all boldness, Christ will, even now as always, be exalted in my body whether by life or by death.”
“I am sold out to making sure that the Gospel goes forward.”
That’s the ultimate stage to be there. Some of us may never get there in our lives. But, that’s the trajectory of where we’re going, and each one of us can sort of relate to where we’re at in a certain stage. And what you don’t want to do is convince yourself that you’re in a stage that you’re really not. Be honest with your self. And in those stages, now you have some tools that you can use to be invitational and intentional in your life. And you don’t have to walk out of here feeling like you can’t do this. You can actually walk out of here going, “I can. I can do this.”
And the reason we can do this is because, right before Jesus was taken into heaven, this is what He said to His followers: “You’re going to receive power.”
The Greek word for power is “dunamis.” I grew up in a Pentecostal church, and they would always say, “It’s dynamite!”
And I’m thinking, “Why in the world would God want me to be a piece of dynamite, come down front and blow up?”
It doesn’t mean that at all. It has nothing to do with that at all. The word “dunamis” means that you have the ability or the capability to do that which you’ve been asked to do. Jesus is saying, “You’re going to have the capability to do what I want you to do when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. You will be my witnesses, both in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
As Jesus left, he said to all of us, by way of His disciples, “Listen, allow the Holy Spirit to clothe you in power so that you can do what I’ve called you to do. I’ll give you the ability; you go do it. I’ve just given you the tools.”
What I want us to do is I want us to pray and believe that God will fill us with His Spirit to do something great as a church. Now, I’m not trying to be weird and I’m not trying to put you into something you don’t want to do. You don’t have to do this at all. I’m totally fine with it. I just really feel strongly, as a pastor, that this is what we need to do. In a minute, I’m going to ask you if you’d stand up with me, because we’re going to say a prayer. We’re not going to say a prayer for the person on our left or for our right. At this particular moment, we’re going to pray for our self.
I’d like for you to do this. You don’t have to do this. I’d like for you to, at a minimum, just take your hands like this in a way of surrender. If that feels uncomfortable to you, put your hands in your pocket and turn them that way and surrender that way. I mean, I’m not trying to make you feel uncomfortable, okay? Or back like this if you need to. Okay? Whatever. If you feel uncomfortable, that’s okay.
But, just say, “God, I’m surrendering.”
Some of you may be, “God, I’m surrendering.”
Some of you may be, “God, I’m surrendering.”
The height of your hands makes no difference to me. I’m just saying to physically say, “God, I am surrendering to You. I want You to fill me with Your Spirit and with Your power so that I can go do the things You’ve called me to do.”
Because, listen: We came up here about four years ago to Lakewood Ranch with about fifty people. We probably have thirteen or fourteen hundred people that come to our church regularly now. That’s not anything I’ve done or anything you’ve done. That’s just a genuine work of God. Which means we’re going to be responsible – we can give God a hand.
But, as a church, when God does a work, we’re responsible for the way we respond to that work. I think we have an opportunity to make a magnificent difference, a monumental difference, in this town and in this community. I believe God has called you and me together to do something great, and I want to make sure that nobody in Lakewood Ranch goes to hell on our watch because we’re going to be people that live intentional lives and tell people about the Gospel and about Jesus.
What I want to do is I just want us to pray. God, fill us. Fill this church with Your Spirit. Help us to be the people that You’ve called us to be.
So, listen, if it’s uncomfortable for you, just remain seated. Nobody’s going to think bad about you. That’s not the way this church rolls. We’re not a judgmental church. I just don’t want anybody to feel uncomfortable. But, if you would, I want you to stand with me and I want you to just take your hands and, just in a surrender, and just pray with me and say, “God, just fill me. Dump on me all the Spirit of God so that I can be that witness that You’ve called me to be.”
Let’s pray together.
Dear Heavenly Father, I come to You right now and I believe, Lord, that You have put us together as a church for such a time as this. Lord, I believe that the callings and the gifting that You’ve put together here at Grace Community Church are not just so that we can have a church with a lot of people. Lord, it’s because You have called and marshaled people together to make a difference in a community, Lord, right now. So, Lord, I pray, as we all pray – Lord, we all pray together – that You will fill us anew with the power of the Holy Spirit, God. Fill us anew with Your presence and Your power. God, drop all of You into us so that we can do the things that You have called us to do. Lord, we realize that we need Your capable power. We need Your Spirit in us. Lord, we want to be those witnesses that You’ve called us to be.
And Lord, we’ve got tools now, we’ve heard what we can do. Lord, what we need is for You to fill us anew and afresh so we can walk out of this place and become the witnesses that You’ve called us to be, Lord, so that we can reach our neighbors, we can reach our family members, we can reach this community for Jesus, Lord, for Your glory and for Your honor. So, Lord, fill this church with the Holy Spirit of God. Lord, fill this church with such a presence that people drive by on Professional Parkway and just drive in here and want to come in here because they feel the presence of God in this building.
Lord, help us to lift Jesus up so that everyone can be drawn to Him for Your glory and for Your glory alone. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “amen.”
Can we give the Lord a big hand clap? Amen. Don’t be surprised when you walk out of here and somebody walks up to you and says, “Hey, can you tell me about your church? Can you tell me about Jesus?”
You’ll be like, “Oh, I didn’t say anything.”
That’s when you go, “Hold on. Hold on. That’s right. Hey, umm, worth. Value. Do you want to come to church?”
It’s okay. And when they go, “Yeah, I do,” you’ll go, “How’d that happen?”
Listen: All God needs you to do is to just be obedient. He will surprise you. Listen to me: Some of you are going to see your friends and your family come to Jesus, and it’s going to revolutionize your life in a massive way. It’s going to happen.
Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You for this time. I thank You for this church. I thank You, Lord, for the honor of being able to be a part of what You’re doing. I pray, Lord, that You would continue to lead, guide and direct us in everything that we do. Lord, I pray that this church would never go to the left or to the right, but we would keep our eyes solely focused on Your Son, Jesus Christ. I pray that as we leave here, we would leave here differently than when we came in. Lord, no guilt and no shame, but motivated and inspired to go be the witnesses that You’ve called us to be.
We love You and thank You for it. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “amen.”
Give the Lord a big hand clap. God bless everybody. Have a great day.