June 24, 2018
Pastor Jeff Struecker
We’re starting a brand-new sermon series today. This sermon series is designed to help you get comfortable going deep. And if you’ve been around our church for several months, we put a goal out to our church months ago of this year: Would you ask God to bring 3 people into your life, and would you, if you are a sincere follower of Jesus, would you help those 3 people understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus? In other words, would you reach 3 people this year? So, I’m going to use an analogy today about swimming as a way of describing, what does it looks like to really reach 3 people? But this whole sermon series over the next several weeks, it’s not really about swimming. It’s about going to a coffee shop; it’s about going to the gym; it’s about going to hang around after work or after class and talk to somebody who God is already putting in your life but they may not know Jesus Christ personally.
So, let me ask you, when you first learned how to swim, did your parents take you to swim lessons? When somebody taught you how to swim, did a friend or a family member lovingly bring you out of the shallow end and take you into the deep end of the pool, or did you have one of those kinds of families where in order to teach you how to swim, they just threw you over the edge in the deep end, and they made sure you’d figure this one out on your own?
Hey, learning to share your faith, it can be scary. I’m just going to be honest with you; if you’ve never done it before, if it’s been a long time since you’ve ever shared your faith in Jesus, especially if you’re sharing your faith with somebody you’re really, really close to, this can be very intimidating. It’s a lot like going into the deep end of the pool for the first time, and what I want you to understand today before we even get started is that all of us have some shallow relationships. These are the relationships where you’re just splashing around in the shallow end of the pool.
Here’s who I’m talking about. These are the people you see at the grocery store, the lady in the checkout line when you go to the grocery store, and you see her again and again. Or it’s the lady in the spin class next to you, and you know each other by first name, but you really don’t know a whole lot more than that. Maybe it’s somebody you go to school with, or it’s somebody you work with, and you have some really casual, shallow-water relationships with, but you really don’t know a whole lot about them. Most of us have 20, 30, 50 people in our lives like that right now.
The challenge that we’re placing before you in this Reach Deeper sermons series is, would you take just 2 or 3 of those 20 or 30 or 50 people into the deep water with you? Would you find an opportunity to not just talk about the gym or about the ball game or about the boss, but would you find a way to have a really eternal conversation? -a deep conversation about life and death and Heaven and Hell and the stuff that’s going to matter 10,000 years from now?
That’s what we’re calling today a “gospel friendship”. All of us (I do. You do.) have 20, 30, 50 casual relationships. Would you take just 2 or 3 of them this year and turn them into gospel friendships? I promise you, if you’re going to move just a couple of those people into gospel friendships, you’re going to have to take them into the deep end of the pool with you. You see, making gospel friendships doesn’t happen in the shallow end of the pool. It happens in the deep end, and you’re going to have to be comfortable in the deep end of the pool if you’re going to help other people get comfortable in the deep end of the pool.
So, let’s just be honest; some of you out here are really good at sharing your faith. Much of what you’re going to hear over the next few weeks is just reinforcing what you already know. But some of you out here would say, “Man, I am totally uncomfortable with this because I’m really just not that practiced at it. I haven’t done this very often, so I’m not sure how comfortable I am going deep with somebody.”
Others of you in this room would be willing to say, “You know what? I’m not that comfortable. I’m kind of uninformed. I don’t know how to do this because nobody has ever showed me. How do you have gospel conversations? How do you develop gospel friendships?” That’s what this whole sermon series is designed to do.
And then there are some (and I know because you’ve already said this to me in the hallways of our church), you are unable to do it because you don’t know anybody who doesn’t know Jesus. So, you don’t know how to help get in touch with somebody who doesn’t know Jesus, needs to hear about Jesus, needs to go into the deep end of the pool with you. All of those things, we’re going to talk about, we’re going to address over the next few weeks during this sermon series, and what you’re going to hear today is just an overview of where we’re going over the next few weeks.
I. We are compelled by love
So, let me show you what it looks like to make gospel friendships, to develop these kinds of deep relationships with just 2 or 3 people out of the 20 or 30 or 50 casual acquaintances that you have. Here’s the first thing that I’d like for you to know. We’re going to look at a couple of different passages of Scripture, but the first thing that you need to understand about this whole sermon series is that: We are compelled to do this out of love. God loved us, and because God loved us and he changed us, now we love God. And because we love God, we love people like God loves people. The love of God started in us, and the love for God developed through us, and now we love like God.
I’m telling you this because if you’re not careful, you could develop this very unloving, very utilitarian view of people, like you’re just using people to put a little notch on your gospel belt. That’s not what we want from you in this sermon series. We want you to love like Jesus loved. We want you to look at people like Jesus looked at people in Matthew chapter 9. Listen to this description of Jesus’s heart for people who need to hear about what God has done for them. Matthew 9, starting in verse 35:
Jesus continued going around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”
Jesus is thinking, This is not how it’s supposed to be. This is not the world that I created, and people who are suffering right now are suffering because they are my sheep, but they don’t know the great shepherd. They don’t know the one who God has sent to rescue them from their pain and from their suffering.
Look at what Jesus does next when he is heartbroken over the pain and the suffering going on around him, like if it was Columbus, Georgia and he was reading the murder statistics or he was reading about molestations. If he was seeing the sickness and the sin in our city, he would be as heartbroken today as he was over Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, and here’s his solution to this problem: He turned to his disciples and then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few.” -like the fruit is just hanging on the tree ready to be picked, but it’s not being picked because there are not enough workers picking the fruit. “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest or to send out workers into his field.”
Jesus is expecting out of love that we would be compelled to go to people who need to hear about him. Can I remind you there is a Grand Canyon-wide gap between the holy, perfect God and sinful people, and God closes that gap by sending his son, Jesus, to leave Heaven and come to Earth? Here’s what I’m trying to say to you: If you want to talk about people who are different, no one was more different than the people he was trying to reach than Jesus, which means you’re going to end up going to people who don’t share your same political party. They’re Republican, your Democrat. You don’t even agree eye to eye on politics.
Or you’re going to go to people who are a generation different from you. They’re old; you’re young. You’ve got to figure out how to close that gap. Maybe they don’t share your ethnicity. They’re African American, Hispanic, Asian; you’re not. You go to them. You’re compelled out of love to go to them and to close that gap and to meet them right where they are. The perfect example of it is Brad and Tracy, who were willing to sell everything, pack up, and go to the other side of the world to minister to people who need to hear about our Savior.
Loving people, compelled to go to people is doing what Jesus does in Matthew chapter 9. He first ministers to their needs. He meets them where they’re hurting. But it doesn’t stop there. He knows the real solution to crime and poverty and suffering and sickness is a soul-level solution, so he gives them what they need most. He gives them the antidote to sin. He gives them a solution to death and to the grave, and the lord is already placing in your life 20 or 30 people who you kind of see on a pretty regular basis. Maybe you know them by first name, but that’s all you know.
Here’s what I want you to do. On the tables outside of our worship center is a little card. It’s a blank card. This card is an invitation card. It’s your chance to talk at a coffee shop or a restaurant, not a swimming pool, but a coffee shop or a restaurant or a chance to get together after work or after class. Would you just simply write down, “Hey, can we meet at this place at this time? I’ve got something really important that I want to talk to you about.” You put the place and the time on the back of this card and just hand it to him. If they hear it in your voice, they can tell about your heart that you care, and most of them, if they’re free, they’ll meet you where you ask them to meet you.
This is just a simple way of taking those 20 or 30 casual acquaintances, narrowing down to 2 or 3, and moving those 2 or 3 to the people God is placing on your heart to try to reach. Ask God to give you wisdom, to give you a burden, to get you to put those people on your mind who you are supposed to go deeper with. Take them into the deep end of the pool with you.
II. We are commanded to go
You see, we’re compelled by the love of Jesus to go to people, but we’re not just compelled to do it. We’re commanded to do this. There’s a Boston college professor, a Roman Catholic theologian by the name of Peter Kreeft, and Peter says it this way: “Jesus commands his church to keep doing what Jesus came to do until he comes back again.” And here’s how Peter Kreeft puts it (I agree completely). He says, “The church is [listen to this] a conspiracy of love for a dying world. It’s a spy mission. The church is a spy mission into enemy-occupied territory fueled by powers of evil. The church is a prophet from God with the greatest news the world has ever heard. -the most life changing, most revolutionary institution that has ever existed on Planet Earth.”
That’s what the church of Jesus Christ is, because the church offers something that no institution that’s ever existed on Planet Earth offers. It offers an eternal relationship with the creator of the universe, an eternal relationship with God the Father, through the death of his son.
When Jesus was getting ready to leave Earth and to go back to the Father, when he was wrapping up his mission on Earth, Jesus gave one final instruction to his church. If you’ve been around here for more than a day, you heard this a lot at this church because Jesus says, “This is what my church is supposed to be about.” Matthew chapter, 28 and the back story starts in verse 16.
The eleven disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped, but some doubted. 18 Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Jesus came near and he said to them: “All authority has been given to me in Heaven and on Earth…” Go, therefore, to a coffee shop and have a conversation about their marriage. No, go, therefore, after work and talk to them about their boss and the troubles that they’re having in life. No, maybe Jesus was saying to go, therefore, and teach their children in school, or go, therefore, and take care of their parents or their grandparents. Go, therefore, and offer them a meal and give them some clothes because they’re hungry and they’re naked…
No, Jesus’s instruction is, “Go, therefore, and [say it out loud] make disciples.” And here, if you’re not sure how to make disciples, I’m going to tell you what it looks like. “Go, therefore, and make disciples, and don’t stop until every tribe, every nation, every language, every tongue has heard about me.” You want to know how to do it? We use 3 words around here. These 3 words summarize what Jesus says next. We use the words reach, build and send. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations [reach] baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit [build] teaching them to observe everything that I’ve commanded you, and do it [send] until all nations have heard this.” And by the way, “I want you to remember this: You’re not alone. I am with you always even to the ends of the earth.”
This isn’t a command that we just endure. This is a command that God’s people are supposed to enjoy like, I get the privilege of being part of the greatest message in the greatest institution on Planet Earth. I get the privilege of helping take part in the mission of God. God is the missionary, and his church is built to finish his mission on Planet Earth, and when his church has done what he has called his church to do, then God comes back and ends human history as we know and takes his church to be with him in Heaven forever.
And if you’re freaking out about this a little bit right now, like you’ve never really shared your faith with somebody who doesn’t know Jesus, I want you to see, he’s with you. -not just right next to you. If you’re a follower of Jesus, he’s inside of you in the form of his Holy Spirit, giving you the power and the wisdom and the right words at the right time to say. You see, most people really don’t care about your story; they don’t care what you know until they know that you really care about them, and if you’re going to be able to be very effective, we’re not going to teach you some slick gospel presentation over the next few weeks. We’re just going to teach you how to effectively share your heart with people and share what Jesus has already done for you.
And if you’re saying, “I don’t know how to do that, Jeff. Nobody’s ever showed me how,” we’ll show you how. But keep this in mind: You’re not on your own. The Holy Spirit is right there with you. If you’re out of practice and it’s been a long time since you’ve done this, you’re not on your own. If you don’t know the right words to say, you’re not on your own. He says, “I didn’t leave you alone. I’ve sent my Spirit, and he will give you the right words at the right time in the perfect place. He will be with you. You’re not on your own.
III. We are compassionate to everyone, but called to someone
We’re compelled by the love of God to go. We’re commanded to go. We’re not just asking people to come to us. We’re going to them and to everyone in the Chattahoochee Valley, even those who don’t look like us. You see, we’re trying to be compassionate to everyone, but called to just reach 2 or 3 people, called to just a couple of people this year, and the greatest example of this in the New Testament apart from Jesus Christ himself and probably John the Baptist, the other greatest example of this was a Palestinian terrorist, a guy by the name of Saul, who God radically changed, and he became the Apostle Paul, one of the greatest spokesmen for Christianity in the New Testament.
Paul tells us, “Let me show you my method of sharing my faith.” Here it is,1st Corinthians chapter nine. Here’s Paul’s method of sharing his faith with other people:
1 Corinthians 9:19-23
Although I am free from all and not anyone’s slave, I have made myself a slave to everyone, in order to win more people. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win Jews; to those under the law, like one under the law—though I myself am not under the law—to win those under the law. 21 To those who are without the law, like one without the law—though I am not without God’s law but under the law of Christ—to win those without the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some. 23 Now I do all this because of the gospel, so that I may share in the blessings.
You’re going to have to be very careful with the way that you understand these verses because if you’re not careful, they’re dangerous. They could cause you to believe that everybody ends up in Heaven. That’s not what Paul is teaching. They could cause you to believe that you’re supposed to win everybody. That’s also not what Paul is teaching. Paul is just simply saying, “There is no limit, there is no one I am not willing to go to and to share what Jesus has done for me.”
If you’re going to properly understand these verses, there are really a couple of words that you need to properly understand. One is the word all, and the word all doesn’t mean every person on Earth, because Paul never went to every person on Earth. He went pretty far and pretty wide, but he didn’t talk to everyone. This word means the people God is placing in my life, I will use those opportunities. I will take those opportunities to make a few gospel friendships, and I will share Jesus with them.
He uses the word win, and frankly, you’ve got to be careful with this word win. In the New Testament, it literally means to gain somebody to Christ. I want you think about it this way. I want you to think about it like you make an investment, a financial investment, and that investment starts to earn interest, and the interest starts to be credited to your bank account. Your bank account is gaining; you are winning interest or gaining interest in your bank account. Or perhaps a better way to understand this is you go to the gym, you work out really hard, and you start to make gains in strength or in fitness because you’re doing some work.
But here’s the danger: Eight times in this passage, Paul uses the word I (I do this. I do this. I do this. I do this…), but he does not say, “I am the reason why they become a Christian.” He does not say, “They are saved because of me.” Paul makes it very clear, “It’s the Gospel of Jesus Christ that changes people, and I have a very small role to play, but I do have a role to play in this, and because I’m doing what the Holy Spirit is asking me to do, God is using me [Paul would say], and people are coming to faith in Christ.”
And that method is the same today as it was when this verse was written thousands of years ago. God just simply wants me or you to get really good, really comfortable at sharing your faith. We showed a video at the beginning of the service. This kid is shaking, he’s terrified about jumping off of the diving board into the deep end, and eventually he starts to practice it. Eventually he gets good at it. Pretty soon when he’s a little bit older, jumping off of that board into the deep end is no big deal for him because he’s practiced it. He’s become really comfortable with it.
Our goal is to help you practice and get comfortable sharing your faith because it can be really, really intimidating. But once you practice that once, you become comfortable with it, you (like Paul) can say, “No matter what the circumstance, I’m ready, I’m comfortable telling people about what I believe because I’ve learned how to do it. I’ve learned how to do it well.”
But here’s the truth: I don’t know if you remember this, but I remember it vividly. How many of you remember what it was like to be without Jesus? -because I do. I remember exactly what it felt like to be totally aware of my sin and unable to figure out what to do about it. I remember the fear of thinking about dying and the terror of facing eternity and not knowing what happens to you. And then God sent a Christian couple to my door who sat down at my dining room table and who talked to me about Jesus, and they were terrified. I’ll tell you the story about it in a few weeks. They were scared to death and stumbling all over themselves, and that night, I heard for the first time in my life who Jesus was and what he did for me, and it radically changed me.
That night, later on, I knelt by the side of my bed. I surrendered my soul to Jesus Christ, and I remember to this day what it felt like to be changed and made into a new person, and I want that for everyone in the Chattahoochee Valley. I want them to experience what I experienced, and for those of you out there who remember what it was like to be lost without Jesus, I’m convinced you want your friends and your neighbors, those casual acquaintances to experience what you experienced. Maybe you just never had the tools to share it with them.
Over the next few weeks, we’re going to give you some tools, and we’re going to ask you to do something with those tools. Would you take a few shallow relationships, and would you turn them into gospel friendships? Would you take them into the deep end of the pool with you?
• Today, I surrendered my soul to Jesus for the first time. Please contact me about what to do next.
– I’m not really comfortable sharing my faith right now. I’m asking God to help me understand the Gospel and how to share it with others during this series.
+ I am going deep with 3 people right now.
- Why are new Christians sometimes the most active in sharing their faith? What does this say about people who have known Jesus for many years?
- It can often be scary to share your faith for the first time. Where does that fear come from?
- What is the worst possible outcome that could happen to you if you invited someone you know to become a Christian today?
- On a scale of 1 -10, how comfortable do you feel about explaining how to become a Christian with someone today?
- Read Ephesians 4:11-16. In your opinion, are “evangelists” the only people who should be sharing their faith? Explain your answer.
- Is it okay to just be a friend and do nice things for my neighbors, but never tell them about Jesus? Explain your answer using Scripture.
- Pray for the names of the three people God is placing on your heart to share your faith with this year.