WE ARE AFRAID TO SHARE OUR FAITH
We are only 7 days away from our big event “Culver’s & Characters”
(Culver’s & Characters Slide)
After both of our services next Sunday, we’re going to have Free Culver’s Custard for everyone…
AND…kids can get their picture taken with some Paw Patrol Characters, Spiderman, and Captain America.
We’re not doing this simply because it’s fun or cute.
We’re doing this because there are thousands of people…even just in Blaine…that are looking to find God again, but they don’t know where to start.
This gives us an easy opportunity to invite them into trying church, to bring them with to a service, and let them hear about Jesus, and then spend some fun and quality time with them as well!
And I’m telling you, we are going to see people’s lives transformed…saved…changed forever…7 days from now.
(Switch to Lost & Found Series slide)
This all sounds amazing and perfect…except for the part where we’d actually have to invite someone or talk to someone about God ☺
Or at least that’s how many of us hear it
Barna Research released a fascinating study just this week on evangelism.
Here’s what they found…of those who are actually practicing Christians…96% say that “part of their faith means witnessing for Jesus”
94-97% (depending on age) say that the best thing that could ever happen to someone is for them to come to Jesus.
It seems like all of these practicing Christians LOVE evangelism!
But then Barna asked how many agreed with the following statement:
“It is wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith”
Around 20% of practicing Christians in the Gen X or Boomer generations agreed with that statement
And 47% of practicing Christian Millennials agree with that statement!
This is the fascinating (or perhaps tragic) phase of Christianity we are currently in right now in America.
We love Jesus! We want people to know about Him! We say that it would be the BEST THING EVER if they found out about Him!
But the last thing we want to do, in our culture, is offend someone or tell them their viewpoint is wrong…so we say nothing.
And yet we cannot escape the fact in the Bible that Jesus commands us, in his very last words, to GO and make disciples.
And in our passage today in Luke…we’re going to see the first example of Jesus doing this: sending his disciples out to go and tell people the Good News.
Up until this point, Jesus has been doing most of the ministry while His disciples have been watching and learning.
Now, it’s their turn.
(Luke 9:1-6) – NIV
When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. 3 He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. 4 Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. 5 If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” 6 So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.
THE OFFENSIVE TRUTH
(Start using Attractively Offensive Title Slide)
Let’s start with asking this question: How do YOU know about Jesus?
You know…because someone dared to tell you about Him…even though you might have felt a little bit offended at first hearing that you were a sinner in need of saving
Or perhaps in your family, someone told your parents, or grandparents.
Some Christian actually believed Jesus when he said:
(John 14:6b) – NIV
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
They didn’t avoid making you uncomfortable.
They risked it...because they were hopeful you could find joyful forgiveness in Jesus.
Forgiveness that you can’t find anywhere else.
And honestly, although we don’t talk like this anymore, we share the Gospel (that if you believe Jesus died for you…you can be saved) because we know that the fire of judgment is coming for those who don’t believe Jesus died for their sins.
But there is a way to be saved!
And more than that, we can be, not just saved from eternal judgment, but we have a loving, amazing, supernatural relationship with God right here on EARTH too!
If judgment is real…if hell is real… (and I assume that most of you believe that it is…otherwise what did Jesus even SAVE you from…but hell?)…
However awkward or difficult it might be to bring the subject up…in actuality, the most offensive and non-loving thing we could do as Christians…would be to not tell people about hell…and that Jesus can save them from it.
No one who is suffering in hell is going to say, “I’m so thankful my friends and family didn’t make me uncomfortable by telling me about Jesus for 45 minutes back in 2019!”
Sin and hell are part of the story…but they’re just the hard beginning of the story…
JESUS SENDS US TO BE ATTRACTIVE & LIFE CHANGING
Now, before you think I’m advocating for all of us to go out, yell at our neighbors in their sin and walk down Radisson with the end-is-near signs…let’s look deeper at the passage.
Jesus knows that even though this is good news (goodness, He’s offering to save you from this!)
The disciples don’t go out merely to do some truth-telling!
Jesus sends them out to heal people!
Just like He was doing.
Jesus didn’t just teach the truth…
He heals a woman of her chronic disease
He raises a little girl from the dead
In the very next story in Luke, he feeds the hungry.
We’re supposed to be unbelievably compassionate as a Christian people.
We’re supposed to be the ones caring for the sick in society
We’re supposed to bring food to the hungry
Is someone hurting at your office…we should be the first one in line to listen, to pray, to bring them meals if they need it.
People need to SEE the work of God in our lives…not just hear us saying we have the answers
The Christian, therefore, is a fascinating paradox.
The Christian, is to be “attractively offensive.”
Timothy Keller says it this way:
“So here’s what Jesus is saying (to the disciples): “You should be incredibly attractive. You should go out loving people. You should go out sacrificially giving to people, serving people, healing the sick, and exorcising demons. In that sense, you’re going to be incredibly attractive, but on the other hand, you’re still going to be telling people I am the only Lord and Savior of the world, and that’s going to be very offensive.” - Timothy Keller
So think about the Book of Acts in the Bible: The Apostle Paul went into, at the time, the pagan and Gentile regions of Turkey, Greece, and Italy…and told the people that they were wrong.
That their idols and their gods of Roman & Greek mythology weren’t actually God at all.
Was that offensive?
Of course it was!
Why do you think they murdered so many of the early Christians?
This is why Christians have been persecuted for 2,000 years.
But, was Paul right that the statues the people were bowing down to and worshipping weren’t actually God, and couldn’t actually save them?
So Paul, and Peter, Timothy, and others come along and say, “No, you guys don’t have the truth. These are myths. Jesus is actually God’s Son…and He’s the only way you can be saved”
This was the most offensive and exclusive message that these people had ever heard!
But this apparently “offensive” movement swept the Roman Empire…causing it to basically drop to its knees and bow to Jesus is a little over 300 years.
Well, for one, because it’s true! And it’s real!
And secondly, because the love of God in these Christians was so evident!
Let’s look to Keller, whom I’m indebted to on this, regarding how Christianity spread
“Christians were the most exclusive sounding people they had ever heard, but they were the most inclusive-acting people they had ever seen. Christians cared for the poor in the way the pagan world didn’t do. Christianity included the different races. It brought the races together. And it brought the classes together in a way the pagans just thought was completely improper.” - Timothy Keller
There’s a great book by Rodney Stark
(Show Rodney Stark – Rise of Christianity Cover)
It’s called Rise of Christianity
In it, Stark chronicles, historically, how Christianity went from an obscure movement to become the dominant force in the Western World in just a few centuries.
And it’s a sociological book, not a spiritual one.
Because as a pastor, I would spiritually answer that question by saying, “It happened because the power of God!”
But Starks answers the question by saying that in history:
It was the Christians that elevated and honored women…and thus the faith was so attractive to them
It was the Christians who started to move beyond racism and classism
It was the Christians that stayed to care for the dying in the plagues when everyone else deserted their families and communities
The message of the early Christians was clearly different than everyone else who said, “It doesn’t matter what you believe…just choose the god that’s right for you”
But the masses were so struck by the early Christians’ faith that Jesus WAS the ONLY way
AND they were so struck by how these Christians actually seemed to live out that faith.
That people starting converting to Christianity en masse
The Christians were this fascinating combination of “attractively offensive”…and it worked.
It’s kind of like, if I go to the doctor, and the doctor tells me, “David, you need to just lay off the Culver’s a bit, and maybe actually get to work on rehabbing your IT Band on your leg, get exercising again…
…and if you do that, you be 25 pounds lighter…and healthier”
There’s something attractively offensive about that..is there not??
Sure it’s hard to hear…but I’m attracted to the possibility of what could be, right??
Now, sure, part of me wishes he would just say nothing.
That’s our culture.
We’re hyper-sensitive to any sort of criticism, to any sort of suggestions that we are wrong.
That’s partly why the Gospel feels more and more offensive in our culture…
But we have to let ourselves be challenged.
If every doctor in America stops telling us we’re unhealthy because they don’t want to offend us…we’re in trouble.
And if every Christian stops telling people the Gospel because it might make people a teensy bit uncomfortable at first…we’re in trouble.
THE TWO ERRORS
So what does this mean for us?
It means that we, as Christians, must hold those two things of “attractively offensive” in tension.
Meaning that there are two errors we can make as we go out to bring the good news to others.
The first error is that we come in with offense, but no attraction.
This would be like Jesus’ disciples coming to town, but with no deeds…no healing…no love.
“I think…in many ways, our passage in Luke 9, and the early Christian history we just talked about, should be an indictment to the modern-day American church.
For how does the culture think of most Christians today?
If you went asked random people on the street or on Facebook to describe “what a Christian is like,” what would they say?
I’m not sure they would identify Christians as attractively compassionate and loving.
I think they’re more apt to know Christians by their exclusive claims.
And honestly, it’s not even our exclusive claims about the cross and salvation that we’re known by anymore…
Many just think all we do is talk about moral issues and how we’re right on them, and others are wrong.
So many claiming the name of Christ have lost focus!
If you’re constantly clashing with people over your beliefs, and people can’t stand you, or they think you’re unbearable at work…or for many of you…you’re unbearable on social media…as you tell everybody that they’re wrong…
Chances are that you’re not being persecuted because you’re a Christian…but because you’re just offensive…and there’s nothing attractive about it.
You don’t look like the disciples…you don’t look like Jesus
If people can’t see your love for them while you bring the truth, you’re not doing it right.
The second error is that we just want to be attractional to people, so we hide the truth…because we’re afraid it might feel offensive.
If I had to collectively peg our church into one camp, I think most of us are more apt to error here than the first error.
But the truth is…in this camp, we ALSO don’t look much like Christ or his disciples either
Many of us are the type of person that is super nice around the office, we’re the type that pays for your food in the drive thru, we mow your lawn, we snowblow your driveway, we try and be good people…but you’d never know that deep inside, we believe that without a saving faith in Jesus, you’re going to hell.
What is that??!
To me…that error of “attraction with no offense” (no truth)…is just as bad, if not a worse level of hypocrisy than the first error.
A generation ago, I’m not even sure how it happened, but millions of Christians bought into the lie that if we just live good lives, and stay relevant by keeping up with the latest shows on Netflix, people will think we are so culturally relevant, AND so nice, that one day, they will look at us, and say, “Please, tell me how to be saved?”
That’s never happened to me once in my 19 years of following Christ…and I’ve never even a heard of story of that happening.
Everyone I’ve seen in my life come to Christ was because someone told them about Jesus Christ.
A person cannot have their lives changed unless someone firsts risks telling them about the “attractively offensive” gospel.
I look at my own life…I sat in a church…(granted a mainline church that didn’t preach the Gospel), but a church…heard the teachings of Jesus on and off for the first 18 years of my life
I wasn’t even remotely a follower of Jesus.
It wasn’t until I heard the “attractively offensive” Gospel…that I was saved.
The truth was, up until that point, I 100% believed that I could save myself.
I was a nice guy, valedictorian of my class, president of the student council…in my mind, I was “leading the pack” on the way to heaven with my good deeds
Sometimes I think…What if someone never had the guts to tell me that, in my sin, that I couldn’t save myself…I couldn’t earn my way to heaven??
What if…instead, you, the Christian community had decided that it would be better to not bother me …or to make me uncomfortable…
I think about this sometimes…and I shudder to think where I would be now, 19 years later, without Jesus.
I know enough of my sinful heart to see where I was going.
THE DISCIPLES WENT BECAUSE IT WAS GOOD NEWS
We can’t just be attractional and kind and nice…and hope people are going to get it.
There are thousands of people in this city alone that are waiting for you to TELL them about Jesus.
How will they know without you telling them?
If you are a believer in Jesus…He has sent you out…to proclaim the Good News to the people around you.
Just like the disciples in Luke 9, now he’s sending you!
Are you going? You’ve been sent!
What an odd thing to be sent but not be moving!
If you’re shaking in your boots right now, but while you’re shaking, going, “Lord, I want to do this for you”
Think again of our passage today in Luke 9…
Do you think the disciples were scared to go out for the first time?
Of course they were!
They had never done this themselves!
So how did they get themselves to go?
They went because it said, in verses 1 and 2, that…
JESUS sent them.
And…that He gave them POWER and AUTHORITY
They didn’t even have money, or a bag, or food.
They had to go just relying on God .
Talk about being thrown into the deep end!
And Jesus is sending you in the same way!
And when you go, God will be with you!
That’s why they could go…and that’s why we can go!
And not everyone is going to respond favorably to you when you share...
They didn’t even to the disciples who were doing miracles along the way!
Some will be just offended.
Some will be attractively offended. Intrigued.
And some, because of what God’s already doing in their live…will just be attracted to the message.
Don’t give up no matter what happens!
Believe that even if just one person comes with you next week…or even one person hears you out as you start talking about God…that the change can be truly exponential.
Let me give you an example of that…
The house group that I’m in does a “guys-cabin-weekend” every summer, and while we were hanging out this past summer, I was talking to one of my friends there, Bjorn Hanson.
Bjorn has a REALLY Christian family.
His parents, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents…everyone seems to follow Christ in that family.
And they’re all doing all sorts of stuff for Christ.
Amazing Christian family
And as we were talking this summer, I said to him, “Bjorn, when did it all begin for your family? Like at some point, somewhere, somebody in your family came to Christ, right?”
And we started talking about it…and he knew some details…and then I ended up talking to his mom, whom I know, and got to hear the rest of the story
It started back in 1936.
In 1936, Albert Benson, Bjorn’s Great-Grandfather was not a great man.
He was abusive to his wife and children…played cards in the woods…smoked liked a chimney and drank like a fish.
But in 1936, in his town, a Sunday school union had decided to organize “a revival meeting” at the “old country school house”
Even though, 80 years ago, there were far less people to reach for Christ than certainly are today…Christians back then felt that they needed to do whatever was possible to reach everyone w/ the Gospel.
SO they held revival meetings, tent meetings, whatever it took.
And there would be great music, food, it was attractive to go to.
Think Culver’s and Characters, but 83 years ago.
And at every single one of these meetings, they would share the Gospel, and give people a chance to come forward and surrender their lives to Christ.
Well, by God’s sovereignty, Bjorn’s great-grandfather, Albert Benson ended up at that meeting that night in 1936.
And this man, who was making an absolute wreck of his life…heard the Good News…and it stirred something deep in his soul.
And that night, Albert Benson, the guy that probably nobody in the whole town thought was going forward…got out of his chair…walked forward and surrendered his life to Jesus Christ.
His family says that it was so obvious that the Holy Spirit came into Albert’s life…because there was seriously an instantaneous change that happened..
He literally threw all of his old life in the woods and down the drain the same day.
He started to care for his wife…told her he loved her for the very first time.
He started to care for his children.
Because here’s the thing…when you invite someone to hear the Gospel, or better yet, you share it with them yourself.
It’s not just that person that will be changed…but their children too.
Nothing moves my heart more than seeing all of our new believers here now teaching their children about Jesus.
2 of Albert Benson’s kids got saved at the Revival meeting the very next night.
And wouldn’t you after seeing that happen in your dad?!?
And the rest of the kids got saved in the years to come, including Bjorn’s grandma…who got saved at a TENT revival out in the woods…
When churches used to tell people the Gospel! Back when their strategy was more than “just be nice and hope people figured it out!” ☺
And so Bjorn’s grandma then raised her 4 children (which included Bjorn’s mom) to know and follow Jesus, and they raised their kids, like Bjorn to follow Jesus…
And as best they can tell, there are now over 100 followers of Jesus in their family because Albert Benson went to an outreach…
And someone challenged him about his life (that’s the offense), but the promise of forgiveness and change and salvation was so attractive…that he decided he would give his life to Christ.
Listen, when you share the Gospel with someone…when you invite someone to hear it…God’s going to use you to not just change a life…but generations of lives!!
Let’s pray God does that next week!
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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