We’re in a sermon series talking about our name Freshwater and the vision of the church. The first week we talked about the vision from Ezekiel 47 and the picture of transformation God has in mind when His people live for Him. It’s a picture of water, which is a metaphor of His presence, filling the temple (us) and once we’re filled and transformed, His presence flows out of us like a river. Wherever the freshwater, His presence, flows it brings life – transformation – healing.
The second week we talked about what this practically looks like and how it is rooted in the first greatest commandment, which is to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. The second is to love our neighbor as ourselves. How we get to this place where that transforming presence of God flows in us and through us is first LIVING UP – us connecting with God. Up. It’s rooted in relating to our transcendent eternal unlimited God and all the other things that are essentially Him along with connecting to Him as God the Father, The Son, and the Spirit.
Last week, the third week, we talked about Living IN. When God said love others. Jesus broke this into two groups of people. The first group is us, the church, and the call to be connected to the Family of God. Christ laid a new commandment for those who follow Christ – our love for each other should be famous. In fact, we should be known for our love for each other. So as we move towards discipleship, fellowship, and serving it’s our love that should be driving all of these contexts.
This fourth and final week we’re going to be talking about Living OUT – Being connected to God’s mission and loving those who are not part of the family of God. Now lest anyone think that our love here is lesser than our love for the family of God remember Christ’s love. He modeled this love to us by making Himself nothing, taking the very nature of servant, being made in appearance as a man, becoming obedient to death on a cross. Laying down his life for his enemies. That kind of love. Jesus even stated emphatically what is arguably the most famous verse in America, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that who ever believes on Him shall not die but have ever lasting life.” His last words to us recorded several different places was a commission to go and reach this world with His love. Let’s read Acts 1:8. LIVING OUT. LIVING OUT.
This mission is simple. It’s not complex. It is living a life that is connecting with God’s mission to love this world and reach them with the Good News of salvation through Jesus. Now let me just clarify something about our motive in this. It’s critical we understand this because people will pick up on our motives. Eric Swanson and Sam Williams are authors of a book called To Transform a City and what I’m about to say comes from that book. I’ve mentioned this before but it’s critical we understand this.
“Conversion is our ultimate motive but not our ulterior motive in longing and serving others. ‘Ultimate motive’ means that we absolutely want every person on earth to be in right relationship with God through Jesus, in the same way God does not desire any to perish but all to come to repentance. But ‘ulterior motive’ means that do acts of love and service toward others so that they become Christians (which could signify that if they don’t become Christians. We stop loving and serving). It is important to remember that we don’t engage in the needs, dreams, and pains of our communities so that they will become Christians; rather we engage the community because we are Christians.” (58)
God’s mission is very simple. If you have ever heard this word Gospel. It’s profound. Simple yet deep. Simply put it is the message that God so loved the world and wanted us to be connected to Him as it was always meant to be. Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God and desire to be like God and call the shots in life destroyed our connection to God. We lost out on what it means to live in true love, peace, joy, and fulfillment. Instead the human race through Adam and Eve received a cursed world with sickness and death, a sinful nature like theirs, a spiritual battle against the demonic realm, and ultimately separation from God himself. So He gave His son Jesus to be a living sacrifice for us and save us from our sins. Jesus was crucified on the cross and His death paid the death-penalty for our sins. His blood that was spilled on the cross covers all of our sins and washes us clean. There is no limit to what His death and blood can do for us. No limits. His resurrection from the dead is God the Father’s acceptance of Christ’s innocent and righteous life and death and guarantees us all the promises of God. They are “Yes” in Christ. So if we believe in our hearts – like really believe this and if we surrender our lives to His control as our Lord and confess this with our mouth we are saved and take on this new identity as Christians – Christ followers. With that salvation, we our brought into the Kingdom of God and begin to experience Heaven now. Freedom. Love. Peace. Fulfillment. Joy. Healing. Life to it’s fullest. That’s the essence of the gospel.
We get all this and then to top it off Christ gives us the authority and right to call down the power and authority of the kingdom of God and bless people, and release people, and bind up sickness, the demonic kingdom, and destroy strongholds of sin. You have the authority in Christ’s name to bless people with God’s peace and love. It sounds weird to some of us in this room.
When JD and I went to Charlotte two weeks ago we prayed that God would send people our way to minister to. Sure enough we were at breakfast on Monday morning and this woman came into the room crying. Still in her pj’s. Makeup a mess. Trying to hold it together. JD and I looked at each other – we had to be at the loading dock at 8 am and if we spoke to this woman we wouldn’t make it. We walked over and I asked her, if she was okay. She said no. I said, “We are from Ohio and moving my friend but we have been praying for God to send us people we could minister to. It was no accident you walked into this room and God wanted you to know that He cares for you. Would you mind if we prayed for you?” We got around her and prayed for her. We only got to pray for a couple of minutes because some people came in and we wanted to protect her dignity. God met her in those moments and she encountered the love of God. We didn’t get to share very much truth but in that moment that’s all God seemed to want us to do. That’s what it’s about. We’re sent to do what God wants us to do. No more and no less.
Folks we are sent ones. I think sometimes we Christians forget or maybe don’t even know that we don’t just go with truth and principles. We go with the power and authority of the kingdom of God. If we are living OUT we are literally sent ones to go and bring the Kingdom of God into the lives of people.
This past year our church started a partnership with the Junior High school. 12 people from our church signed up to mentor 12 students. I want to invite Mr. Jackson, the Junior High principal, up here for a moment so you can hear from him about the impact these 12 people made. Also, my wife and I talked with the counselor who helped do the matchmaking. This mentoring wasn’t simply about grades. She said she chose kids who had no one cheering them on. No one believing in them. Filled with fear. She told us you could a tell a huge difference in the kids. Their esteem. Their confidence. And yes their grades improved. But it was because someone loved them. That is living OUT.
Living Out is complex. We wrestle with Christ’s promise that this world will hate and persecute us because of Christ’s name. The struggle we have is when should we share something and risk persecution however that looks and when should we exercise discernment and hold off? Living Out is complex because we do this in relationship and in places where we work and live there and people want to know that we love them before they will ever listen us. That takes time. But how often do we never get around to sharing the truth because we’re scared of risking the relationship? Folks, it’s complex and we can get all bogged down in all of this and other things I haven’t mentioned. I’ve done it. I’ve seen others do it. The reality at the end of the day is there is no hard and fast rule except this: We are called to love people and ask Jesus to help us and make it simple for us. God wants this to happen more than we can ever know. Love and pray to Jesus while you’re at it. If you’re stumped, stuck, confused – start praying. This whole thing is a spiritual act. It’s not of this world.
Are you living out? Ask God right now. Am I living out? Do you have any relationships with people where they would say, “I think they really do love me” and they aren’t part of the family of God? Because of the complexities as a church, we are always seeking to provide contexts for us to Live Out. Some are all about planting relational seeds with no truth. Others jump to the other side and are strong on both truth and relationship. If you’re looking for a simple way to jump in, the Matchstick Race is coming up and Freshwater Church is the main sponsor. We need about 40 people to help serve at the race. It’s simple: love people. That’s all it is. It’s a couple of hours on one night. Who knows what seeds God will plant?
Another opportunity to partner with the Church is our VBS coming up next week. It is by far the most effective outreach. We have 7-10 different teams that all work together to reach kids and see them say as much they can understand at their age “ Yes” to Jesus. Food team, game team, crew leaders, decorating team, clean up team, registration teams. Give up 5 nights of your summer to be part of changing the life of kids. Dads, we do this at night so you can be involved. Seeing men is huge for these kids. They need to men acting like men and living for Christ in manly ways.
Two final thoughts about living out: A few weeks ago we were challenged to pray for three people that we know who need Christ. And to pray for them and pray that God would give us opportunities to tell them about Christ. Do you have those names still in your mind? What if as a Church we started to pray for these three people everyday over the summer. Would you join me in doing this? Put the names in your car – in your bathroom. And just pray God opens a door. Open a way to talk to them. You do it.
Last thought. In the Fall we are going to be starting ALPHA. We’ve done Alpha here before but stopped it. What is ALPHA? It’s the first letter in the Greek Alphabet and it simply means that. It’s a beginning place for people seeking answers and trying to figure out what they believe. It’s a place where every question is welcome and encouraged. The whole point is to help people process NOT to win the argument. I am personally going to be leading this ministry. Here’s what I want you to think about. With those three people on your list, would pray over the summer see if God would have you invite them to Alpha? It will be on Tuesday nights in the Fall. This ministry has a phenomenal track record of helping people cross that line of faith. These past 13 years I’ve been here I’ve seen it become more and more difficult to see people respond and rather than sit and wring our hands we need to be more intentional and deliberate in LIVING OUT. Please pray through this. I’m going to be praying through it too.