(un)Apologetic Week 3: Playing Chess

Sermon Transcript

[Video]

Did the Jesus as described in the Bible actually exist? How can a loving God send people to hell? How is it possible that God has no beginning and no end? Why would God create the devil if He knew he’d rebel? What really makes Christianity better than all the other religions? Does the Bible really decide ethics and morals in your daily life? If God is real, why is there so much war, sickness, death? Christianity is exclusive and judgmental. Everyone should determine truth for themselves.

So, why was God okay with slavery? Why does He seemingly allow wars? Where was God when I needed Him? If God is loving and all powerful, why is there evil?

[Garbled/overlapping questions]

[End Video]

Well, good morning to everybody, and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. We're in a current series called “Unapologetic,” and this is week three of that series. And we didn't put it end date. We're going to continue to go until we feel like we've done what we wanted to do in doing this series. And one of the things that we wanted to do is answer questions that people have about God that sometimes can be a stumbling block, but we also wanted to give everybody equipment so that you could share your faith better. So, at the beginning of every series, when I sit down, I try to put together what I call a big idea. And that big idea sort of helps me stay focused on each of the sermons during the different weeks of the series, and to stay on task with what's going on.

It also helps, when we come together as a church, to go back every week to that big idea so that we can remember what we're doing. And it also serves a great thing for maybe new visitors or those that have missed a couple of weeks. It brings you back into what we're doing and makes everybody feel like they're a part of what's going on.

So, the big idea in this particular series is for us to get equipped so we're not afraid to share and defend our faith. One of the big deals here at Grace Community Church, and it's part of who I am, it's part of what we believe here at this church — and there's many different ways to do church, it's just this is the way we do it. We believe that when Christians gather on the weekends, on Saturdays and Sundays, that what should happen is that they should be equipped to live out the life that God has called them to live, and to live it in a way that's pleasing to God, and also shows God in their life. I call it sort of putting tools in people's toolboxes so that they're able to do the things that God's called them to do.

Well in this particular series, we want to equip everybody at Grace that calls Grace home — we want to be able to equip you in such a way that you're not afraid. Because if you have knowledge, you'll probably have confidence. We don't want anybody to be afraid to share and defend our faith. And a lot of Christians, believe it or not, have a difficult time sharing their faith, and they have a much more difficult time defending their faith, which is why we wanted to spend a lot of time in this series making sure that you have answers to those questions.

But we also knew that one of the problems that could happen in doing this is that it could become real intellectual and real heady quickly. So, what I decided was that every two or three weeks, or maybe every four weeks, what I'll do is throw in a real practical message where I take somebody in the Bible that shared their faith, and what we'll do is we'll try to figure out how they did it so that we can get some practical help, once again, on us sharing our faith. And then we'll go back to learning things, questioning things and all of that. And Mark Mittelberg, obviously, will do that when he comes in.

But before I get into what I'm going to talk about specifically this weekend, I want to tell you something that happened in my life that sort of got me thinking about this particular message. My youngest boy, his name is Luke, is six years old. He'll be seven in July. For whatever reason, and I think it's pretty cool cause he's young, has taken up playing chess. That's his deal. He likes to play chess.

So, he's got this nice chessboard and wants to play chess. And so, it was an afternoon. He said to me, “Hey, Daddy, before I go to bed tonight, will you play chess with me?” I said, “Absolutely.”

So, I was outside and I knew I was going to play chess with him and a little bit, and all of a sudden, Jack, who's 12 years old, one of my sons, comes running out with Luke and they're yelling at each other. They're fighting. They're ready to go at it. My kids do that. I'm sure yours never do. That's okay. Just judge me. But they came running out, and Luke's yelling at Jack going, “You didn't win. You didn't win because you didn't take my queen.”

And Jack Goes, “I did win cause I took your king and that's the way you win.” And I realized neither one of them fully understood the rules of chess, so we had to have a chess moment in the driveway where I said, “Okay, guys, let's talk here for a second. I guess somebody had told Luke that what you want to do is you want to take somebody queen if you want to win in chess, which I understand that point, but that's not the way you win in chess.”

But for him, I had explained to him that's not what you do. And then Jack, I had explained to him we're not playing checkers. We don't take kings. He just actually got his king and pulled it off the board, which sent Luke into a tizzy. So, anyway — hey, look, you know, I understand pastor's kids are supposed to get it right. We're still working on the “get it right” part.

So anyway, I explained it to them. And what I realized was, you know, chess is a complex game, and all of the parts move differently and all that. But it really is, at the end of the day, it's simple what you're trying to accomplish. You're trying to checkmate the other person's king. You're not taking them like Jack was. And it's not about the queen. It's about checkmating the king. And I started thinking, you know, in our lives, as Christians, when we try to share our faith, for those that do share our faith, a lot of times we get bogged down in all of the other things rather than just sort of focusing on the main thing that we're supposed to be doing.

We need to understand some of the complexities, which is what we're trying to do by being equipped, but we also need to know sort of what the goal is and what the endgame is, and keep the main thing the main thing. And so, what we're going to do is we're going to look at a wonderful sharing of someone's faith today out of scripture, and it comes out of Acts 17. It's the Apostle Paul. And I can't go into a whole detail about Luke, but if you read Luke, the first part of Luke is about the ministry of Peter. You'll see that everything is dealing with Peter as it goes through. And then you'll find that the second part of Acts deals with Paul and his ministry.

So, there's sort of that separation as we move to Paul. But what Luke is showing us is that whether it is Peter or whether it's Paul, or whoever it may be, the Gospel's gone to the Jewish people, it's gone to the gentiles, it’s gone to women, it's gone to blind people, lame people and poor people, and Ethiopian people, but the one group that it's not gone to until we get to Acts 17 is the intellectual elite. And Paul finds himself in Athens waiting for Silas and Timothy to come, and we've got this wonderful passage of Scripture that we're going to go through.

Now listen, we're going to go through a lot of scripture today, so we'll get out of here at about 2:00. You all get to have lunch and everything. Happy Mother's Day and all that good stuff. No. But since we're going to go through such a large section, I'm not going to be able to deep dive into every single verse, but we're still going to get some great stuff out of it. And then, at the end, we're going to do some real practical take homes. And my hope is that this weekend you're just going to get some really good practical things on how to share your faith, seeing how Paul shares his faith. So, let's pick up an Acts 17, and let's work through this story. It's a really, really cool story here, and a great speech by Paul.

It says, “Now while Paul was waiting for them [Silas and Timothy] at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.”

Paul had a burden on the inside. Something moved him when he saw, “Man, this is like a learned city. This is Athens.” I mean 400 years before Paul, Athens was the elitist intellectual hub of the whole world. It had waned a little bit by the time of Paul, but it was still an intellectually elite city. And he's probably shocked that these people that really want to know things and reason things would worship idols. They have all these idols. He's probably also thinking, “Man, the synagogue that's here in Athens, it hasn't done anything to dissuade the worship of all kinds of idols.” So, he's provoked.

“So he reasoned...”

This idea of reasoning is “to talk through.”

“So he [talks through] in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons,”

He goes in and starts talking with them, and one of the things I'm sure he's thinking is, “Man, the synagogue has not had any effect on the culture around it.” And let me just say this: One of the things that the church in every generation will struggle with is this: Culture is either going to influence the Church or Church is going to influence the culture. And I can tell you, as long as I'm the pastor here, we're going to do the latter rather than the former. And hopefully, at 10:15, that's still worth an amen. Right? Amen? Okay. So, let's continue on here.

“So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and devout persons, and in the marketplace...” — and in the Greek, that's Publix. It's not, it's ”agora.”

“...And in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.”

And not only that, “Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him.”

This is interesting. Paul's waiting in Athens, and what is he doing? He's talking with everybody about Jesus. That's what he's doing. He's talking in the synagogues, he's talking in the marketplace, he's talking with the philosophers. I mean, he is a man that is sharing his faith. And we're going to figure it out, in just a minute, what he is sharing. So, we're told in the next verse that some — and that “some” are the philosophers. It goes back to them. Some of these philosophers.

“Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, ‘What does this babbler wish to say?’”

This word “babbler” is beautiful in the Greek. It comes from an English translation of the Greek word. Literally, it's a seed picker. It's like a bird that's got the seeds and it goes and picks different seeds. And the idea here is that a seed picker is someone who sort of just picks and chooses certain things and then acts like they're in authority on a particular subject. I know none of us would ever do that, but that's what they're saying about Paul.

He says, “‘What does this Babbler wish to say?’ Others said, ‘He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities...”

These strange gods. Now, this is interesting because, if you know, about 400 years before this, Socrates, the great philosopher, was arrested and taken in front of the Areopagus and tried for preaching strange divinities. And so, Luke has literarily put this whole thing together that Paul is the greater Socrates with the greater God, with the great — it's really great. I don't have time to develop it, but it's really cool the way Luke has written. I'm telling you, these biblical stories are so cool. Read your Bibles. Really cool stuff. So here's the deal. They're questioning, “Well, what's he saying? What's this babbler saying? What’s he trying to do? He’s preaching these foreign divinities.”

So, we probably should be asking the question, “What's he telling them? Is he correcting their philosophy?” Maybe that's what you would think he should be doing. “Is he telling them what they should be doing politically?” Maybe that's what you think he should be doing. “Is he telling them how to live? Is he saying, ‘Hey, your lifestyle's wrong?’ Is he combating all this stuff?”

No. I think what you're going to find is Paul, who is the ultimate chess player, who understands all the complexities of rhetoric and argument and all this stuff, he is so laser focused because these people are questioning what he's saying because Luke tells us exactly what Paul was saying to everybody, and it's focused. Here's what it is: Because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.

Listen to me. And I know I step on this all the time, but I say this because I have a passion and a burden for this. Church, we cannot afford to get bogged down in all the other junk. That's not going to save people. The message that we need to be giving people, as Christians, all the time, is Jesus and the resurrection because that changes people’s lives. That changes people's eternities. And it's so easy to get bogged down in all the other stuff.

So, Paul's preaching Jesus and the resurrection. In fact, they're misunderstanding him. The reason they say “foreign divinities” is because they think Jesus is one God and the resurrection is another God because this is a polytheistic world and people tend to interpret things through the lens of which they see. Paul's preaching one God, but they're seeing two. And I will tell you this: If you go out and tell people about Jesus, there will be people that misunderstand you.

In fact, sometimes you'll preach Jesus and you'll even misunderstand yourself. Can I get an amen on that one? Right? It just happens. So, Paul is preaching Jesus and the resurrection, and then here's what happens. It's really cool.

It says, “And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus.”

The Areopagus was this really big rock in the middle of the Agora and the Acropolis where the people would come and meet, and the intellectual elite would have trials there and question stuff. So, they want to bring Paul in front of the Areopagus because they want to hear what he has to say. And if you want to look at what the area Areopagus looks like, it looks like this. Now, this isn't the first century. They didn't have all these hotels and houses back when Paul was there. But, this as a picture of the Areopagus.

So, they go up on top of here and they talk about things and whatever. And so, what we're told is this: They said, “We want to know what this new teaching is that you're presenting.”

They want to know. They're like, “We want to hear what you have to say.” Because what's really going on is they're thinking, “We need to bring Paul up here. We'll listen to what he has to say. Maybe we can add his God to all the other gods that we have here.” That's what they're sort of thinking. “I mean, if he's got a good enough God, let's put him in the mix of all the gods that we have.”

So, “‘What's this new teaching that you're presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.’”

They're very inquisitive. They really want to know what Paul is talking about it. They think he's crazy, but they want to hear it because maybe they're missing out on something because these are people that want to know. They’re people that have intellect. They really want to know what's going on. And then Luke inserts a snarky little statement. It's funny. The Bible actually has some snarky things every once in a while. He inserts this snarky statement.

He says, “Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.”

And he's really doing is if you understand from Plato, Aristotle and forward, one of the critiques of democracy  — and Athens was a great democracy at this particular time — was that the democracies, because they told everybody that they were equal, which is not true because everybody's not equal, gave everybody the rights to an opinion. Because my opinions is equal to yours. You know, in the video, where one of the young men says, “Christianity's judgmental. We have to search truth for themselves,” that is one of the knocks the ancients would say about a democracy is that everybody starts to feel like they have their own thinking, their own things.

Shame on us as a church, too, because we fell into that trap many years ago, about 20 years ago. We allowed ourselves to be called value voters. Value is something I have, and you can have a different value. Listen, there's not values. There are virtues and vices. There are rights and wrongs. We've even allowed ourselves to fall into culture thinking that there's value. There's not. There's truth and there's right and wrong, and that's the bottom line.

It's easy, at times, to slide into stuff. And so, what he says is, because everybody wants something new and everybody likes to do their own thing and all this stuff, they're always looking for something to new. Now, I know the good thing is, in our democracy, everybody's content with what they have and nobody's looking for something new.

Anyway, let’s continue on here. So, Paul, now, here in the Areopagus, ready to speak, does this incredible speech. If you understand first century rhetoric — maybe we'll do an academic series on that at some point — you'll understand what he's doing, but I want to point out some things in this speech that he does because it's really cool and it should help you and me in the way that we think about God and in the way we think about sharing God.

“So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said:”

Maybe you think that he was going to say, “You bunch of sinners, you people that are so far from God, you all are living wrong. Let me tell you what you should've done.”

No. He addresses them honorably in this speech.

“‘Men of Athens,’”

It’s an honoring of these people.

He says, “‘Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious.’”

Now, you may read that and think that he's sort of poking at them. He's not. What he's doing is he’s saying exactly what his speech is going to be about. He's an ultimate chess player here. You're not talking about philosophy. You’re not talking about politics. You're not talking about lifestyles. None of it. He is focused on one thing. “I want to talk to you about religion,” which means that they know, because they've been trained in rhetoric, this is an elite place, Paul’s been trained in rhetoric. He's honored them and he says, “Here is what we're going to talk about: We're going to talk about religion.”

He's laser focused. He says, “The reason I want to talk about this is because as I sort of was passing along in Athens, as I was walking through, I observed the objects of your worship. I saw all these statues that you guys are worshiping and all these altars of gods that you worship. And I also found an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’”

Sort of humorous here. The people that know everything are worshiping a god that they have no idea about. He says, “I found this inscription.” They're probably thinking, “Really? Do we have an inscription to an unknown god?”

“Yeah. You guys are worshiping — along with all the other things you're worshiping, you're worshiping a god that's unknown. Like, you don't know who he is, but you're just honoring him in case he's out there somewhere and you want to make sure that you get him in on all this stuff, too, so that you don't miss out on everything.

He said, “So I found this inscription to the unknown God.”

“‘What therefore you worship as unknown,’” — “You're worshiping it.” — “‘this I proclaim to you.’”

“I'm going to tell you about the unknown god. I'm going to tell you about this God that you're worshiping, that you don't know anything about. I'm going to make Him known to you now.

He says, “The God who made the world...”

Well, that immediately would be a little different because the people in Athens were polytheistic. They believed in many gods. So, he's saying there's one God that made the world. He says, “There’s this God that made the world and everything in it. So, your tomato god, your corn god and your water god, they didn't really make those things. This one God, who made heaven and earth, made everything in it; being Lord of heaven and earth. In case maybe you didn't realize that the one God who made everything was the one God, He's also the Lord of Heaven and earth. Just so that you get that point. He doesn't live in temples made by man.”

I can almost see him with his hand pointing over to the Acropolis as he says this. He says, “He doesn't live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands. I know you guys do a lot of worshiping and altar stuff and giving things to the gods, but this God that you're worshiping that's the unknown God, I mean, you're already worshiping Him. You have no problem worshiping Him, you just don't know who He is. I want to tell you who He is. He’s not served with hands and He doesn't need anything. He's self-sufficient within Himself. It's not like some transaction that He needs a little bit of you and He needs you to love on Him a little bit so that He can love on you a little bit, or anything. No. This God is self-sufficient. He doesn't need anything since He Himself gives to all mankind life, breath and everything. In other words, it's this unknown God that you all don't know. You're worshiping amongst all these other things that you’re worshipping. This is the God that stands above it all and He has given breath and life and everything to all of us.

“And he made from one man [Adam] every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth.”

I can imagine there probably was a little bit of a tweak in some of these people when he said that because they were Athenians and they were proud. They thought they were better than other people and that their thinking was better than all these other pagan nations and all these other people that were different. There’s a little bit of a tweak to think, “Man, we're sort of all in this together.”

Let me ask you a question. Just a question here. I'm going to meddle a little bit at 10:15 service. I'm not trying to meddle to get you mad at me, but I am meddling to get you to think because I see it. I see it in pastors, I see it in Christians, I see it all across social media, the things that we'll say about others, people from different countries, people from different religions or people of different color or whatever it may be. What if you realized that every single person that you talking about comes from the same family, and we're all in this thing together? Might treat people a little bit differently. Might think about them a little bit differently. Let me continue on.

He says, “...having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,”

Interesting. God that doesn't need anything, that is sovereign above all, has determined — He did — the allotted periods. In other words, all the times and the boundaries of their dwelling place. We’re going back to the people here. All these people, all mankind, He's determined their periods. So, in other words, every single person that’s been born ever, God determined the time that they would be born. Not only that, but He determined the boundaries of their dwelling place; where you were born, exactly. The place you were born, and where you walked and what you did during your life.

“...that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him.”

Check this out: God has created every single one of us at the time that we were born, at the place that we were born and the places that we've traveled in the most optimal way, that we would be able to seek Him and find Him. What does that say about how much of a relationship God wants to have with you and me? This is great. When you hear these stories, you're like, “I really should be reading my Bible.” Right? Come on. This is good stuff. I mean, that stuff we watch is terrible. Just stick to the Bible. I'm telling you it'll change your life.

So, he continues on. He goes, “Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,”

So, he's talked about how great God is, how sovereign God is, how big He is. He's this transcendent God. But, mind blown, not only is He so big and transcendent, He's also imminent. He's also here with us. He's not that far from us.

In fact, “‘In Him we live and move and have our being.’”

He quotes a philosopher. That's a philosopher that he's quoting.

He says, “As even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’”

Your own poets, guys, have said this. And if we're God's offspring, “We ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone.”

“I mean, you guys got all these statues and all this stuff. I mean, if we really are his offspring, do you think that if we're making images and forming them with our own imagination, do you think that the gods that we’re forming are really gods? They just really are our own creations?”

He says, “The times of ignorance God overlooked,”

“Hey, you know what? No harm. No foul. Y'all were worshiping an unknown God that you didn't know about. It's good, but now you know about this God and I'm telling you about this God.”

“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,”

“To change their mind about the way they're going, and to honor Him because He's fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He appointed.”

“Really? Who's this man? Hey, I'm going to be judged one day? This God that controlled everything? Whoa, man. You’re tell me about this new God. I didn't know about this God, but this God seems to be pretty big. It means one day I'm going to be judged in righteousness by some man?”

He says, “Yes, and of this He has given assurance to all — like, we know this is going to happen — by raising him from the dead.”

And, of course, he's telling them about Jesus and the resurrection. And then Luke tells us what happened. You might think that everybody came to the altar or everybody got saved. No. He actually says some of them mocked him. Some of them said, “You know what? We'll listen to you again. Not right now. Not really convinced. But we'll give you another shot.” And then a few believed, which is great because it just shows you how honest Scripture is. Because if you're making this thing up, you just had everybody in Athens getting saved and coming to Jesus and all of this stuff, and that's not what happens. It's not what happens at all.

And then, we're off to something else. Like, what can we — I mean, there's so much that we could glean from this, but I've just got a few things. I’ve got 52 points that I want to make it. I'm just joking. Three. Three of what I call take-homes. And if you would, would you just really think about this with me? Would you open up your heart and mind to this? Because these are, really, three powerful things for us to think about.

The first one is this: I didn't say to share. I said to authentically share our faith it must flow from a sincere burden. And I want to explain this because it's really important. Paul is provoked. When he sees what's going on, he's provoked. There's something on the inside. See, listen to me. This is so important. So many Christians share their faith, and they don't realize it, but all they're doing is making themselves feel better because they're letting other people know that they're wrong — or at least they think they're wrong. See, you treat people differently when you have a burden for people.

A burden changes the way you and I talk about Jesus. See, we can talk about those people, rip those people and they go, “Yeah, but I got the truth. Let me tell you about Jesus.” Whatever. Okay. There's a certain arrogance and pride in that that needs to go. We need to have a burden. See, Paul's burden leads him to find common ground. See, this isn't about, “You’re wrong. Let me tell you about your lifestyle. Let me tell you about this.”

It's not that that. That's not the way God wants you and me to go out and share His faith. What He wants us to do is have a burden for people. Like, a burden because a burden will help you to see that person as a person. And what you're going to want to do is you're going to want to find out what's important to them. You're going to want to find out what they think. You're going to want to find out what's going on in their life. Because what Paul does is he finds common ground. He says, “Hey, you had this inscription to the unknown God. Let me quote a philosopher. Let me quote some poets of yours.”

He's speaking to them in a way that's honoring to them. There's a burden. Do you have a burden for the lost. Do you have a burden for people? Do you have a burden for the people around the world? If you don't, this would be a great time to let God sort of start speaking to you.

“God, I really need to get a burden.” I was shaped — in my life, shaped massively when I was in college. I worked at a church called Westmore Church of God, and the pastor there, his name was Floyd McClung. Every day, in the afternoon, you could go in the sanctuary, and in the balcony you would hear Pastor McClung. I'm not talking about praying, I'm talking about wailing in prayer for God to bring the lost to him. You could go up after he had prayed and there was a whole place that was completely wet from the tears that he had cried. That forever marked me as a Christian. A burden.

See, a burden helped me find common ground. In finding common ground, we don't necessarily have to start with Scripture. You ever noticed how we do that? We’ve got somebody who doesn't believe in God, and we start telling them what Scripture says. Well, why would you think they would believe that? Like they’re going to go, “Yeah, that's right. The Bible says it. I'm in.”

They're not going to do that. So often, we’re like, “No, but let me tell you what the Bible says.”

They don't care. People don't care about what you care about. They care what they care about. You meet them where they are. You talk to them about things that matter to them. And not only that, but we can't afford to be so arrogant to conclude that people who aren't Christians aren't seeking the truth. These people, in this passage, wanted to know what Paul had to say. They were curious. They were looking for something. Just because somebody doesn't believe in Christianity doesn't mean they don't want to know the truth. That doesn't mean that they just want to go do whatever they want to do. There are many people out there that are looking, but what they're not looking for is an arrogant Christian that wants to tell them how to live and how wrong they are. They want to find a Christian that looks like Jesus, that meets them where they are, finds common ground with them, and loves them in a way where then they want to listen to what you have to say.

The second thing is the effectiveness of our message. See, we’re Westerners. We want the bottom line. You know? You business guys are like, “What’s the bottom line?” And we want to know the bottom line. The effectiveness of our message — like, if we're being effective; are we really being effective? — isn’t proven by the reception of it. Like, that’s we think. We think, “I did a good job if I convince somebody about Jesus.”

No. Your job is not to save people. That's God's job. Your job is just to preach the message. We water and we plant. It's God who gives the increase. Matthew 16. He says, “I'll build my Church.”

Not Chip Bennett. Not Grace Community Church. He'll build His church. My job is to preach the message. So, the effectiveness is not proven by how people receive. The effectiveness is, “Are we willing to share it?” We're being effective to God if we're just willing to share the Jesus that we know. And here's what I would tell you: We don't have to prove God, we just have to give a reasonable defense. Nobody can prove to you God doesn't exist. You don't have to prove God. We can sometimes get in these arguments, like, “I want to prove to you.”

No. You just have to be able to show that, “Hey, it's very reasonable for me to believe in God because here is the data of why I believe, and it's a reasonable. But, at the end of the day, you have to have faith that Jesus is who He says He was, and He rose again from the grave.”

Don't put yourself in this position where you're only doing a good job if people are converting. I can tell you this: Noah was a preacher of righteousness and he preached for 120 years and nobody listened to him. But he was faithful. And as we share, our faith will grow. I decided a long time ago as a pastor here at Grace that we were not going to do the typical church scenario, which is bring everybody in, do small groups, do the country club, pour on everybody. Which we're not against. We're not against small groups and we’re not against coming in here. None of those things. But we just said, “The primary thing that we're going to do is focus on the unchurched. We're going to focus on the outside.”

Because what Jesus didn't do is He didn't get His disciples all ready to go before He sent them out. He sent them out before they were ready to go. You don't believe that? Read it. They’d come back and He'd say, “How'd you do in the city?”

“Oh, man. They didn't listen to us. We were going to call down fire on their kids.”

And Jesus is like, “No, man. That's not what you do, guys. No. No.”

But what He knew was this: When you're out there doing it, and you come back in, that is a great time for you to be taught, a great time for you to learn, a great time for you to grow. When you're out there sharing Jesus and you get bloodied up out there in the world, you're going to run back into here, saying, “I need prayer. I need education. I need some help.”

That is when we grow. So, we focus, here, on going out first, and then we do all the interior stuff so that we're equipped to go back out and do it again. I promise you, as you share your faith, you will grow. It's impossible for you not to grow.

The third thing is we should see everyone and everywhere as places to talk about Jesus. Which is sort of a radical thing for most of us because we sort of think, “Well, there’s a time and place. I don't want to do this here.”

No. Paul is reasoning in the synagogues. He's at Publix. He's everywhere talking about Jesus because there's no place that Paul says isn’t sacred. “Every place is a place that I can talk about Jesus.”

Because here's the reality: We have a life-changing and world-changing message that must be shared. Listen to me, if you don't hear anything else that I have to say. All of your opinions and all of your thoughts about the world and everything else are not going to change people's lives. What changes people's lives, what changes communities and what will change our world is a person, and His name is Jesus Christ. He is the one that changes lives. Don't get caught up in the garbage and the minutia. Stay focused. Stay vigilant on preaching Jesus and the resurrection.

Because here's the thing too: Sharing Jesus isn’t optional ministry for those of us who follow Him. People sometimes say, “I don't feel called to share Jesus.” It don't make a difference what you feel. We're all called to share Jesus, and there's no Scripture that says, “Go by your feelings.” We go by what Scripture says. Jesus said, “I want every one of you that are followers, I want you to go share me to everybody that you come in contact with.” It's not optional ministry, which is why we're doing this series so that we're equipped to do the things that God's called us to do.

And the last thing I want to say is that anything less than Jesus and the resurrection is a “less than” message. We do it. We do it as a church. It’s Jesus and then these 16 other things that you’ve got to do. It's Jesus and all this. Listen, when the Philippian Jailer came to Jesus in Acts 16 and said, “What have I got to do to be saved?”

We almost act like Paul said, “Well, you’ve  got to read this translation, and you've got to be a part of this party, and you've got to do this thing here, and you got to go to this church, and you've got to believe this thing here, and you got to believe...”

He didn’t say any of that you. Do you know what he said? He said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you'll be saved.”

We need to figure that out right now. Do we really believe that's the message or do we want to concoct the message with all of our other junk that we want to put into it so that we feel comfortable with what we've got? Stay focused. Jesus and the resurrection is the message we should be preaching. It is the message that people need to hear. And if we can get focused on that — laser focused — I promise you you’re going to see all kinds of people come to faith because that is the message God uses to bring people into the Kingdom of God. It’s Jesus, crucified and risen from the grave on the third day. Are you in? That's the message. That's the message.

Alright? I think some of y'all are like, “I think I need to clap because it's about lunchtime, and let’s get him done.”

So, here's what I want to do. And I also want to say, if you're watching via online or the internet as well, I hope you'll pray with us as well. I want to pray two things with you. I want to pray that God in our church, as individuals and as a church, will give us a real burden for those outside, and will give us a passion to want to share Jesus with everybody that we come in contact with. Would you bow your heads and let's pray?

Dear Heavenly Father, I come to You right now and I ask, for Your glory, and for Your glory alone, that You would instill within us, as individuals and as a church, a burden for the lost, a burden for those that don't go to church, a burden for those that were burned by religion, a burden for those that used to go to church and no longer go to church, a burden for those that used to call themselves Christians and no longer do. Not to see it as some sort of fight to win or some sort of rally that we need to charge everybody up with or whatever. That we see it for what it is: That these are people that You care about passionately enough to send Your Son to die for. Give us a burden for people.

And, on top of that, give us a passion to share Jesus with everyone and everywhere that we go. Lord, let that be something that happens in our hearts as individuals, and in the life of our church. Because, God, I believe that You have called us to something great. I believe You've called us to be a church that changes this community. And Lord, the only way we're going to do that is if we stay laser focused and we are chess players that understand the complexities, understand the arguments, but understand that there is a main thing that we are trying to do, and that is to preach Your Son and His resurrection to everyone that we come in contact with. Lord, let that be a reality in our lives and in our church.

So, Lord, as we walk out of here today, I pray that You would continue to lead, guide and direct us. I pray that You'd watch over us and protect us. And I pray that You'd bring us back safely to when we meet again, for Your glory and for Your honor. And help us to stay focused here at Grace as to what You’ve called us to be: A church that reaches the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ.

Lord, we love You, we thank You and we praise You. In Jesus' name, and everybody said, “Amen.” Give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon.

Chris Pedro