Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Vision Series, Week 4 of Life - Preparing a Procession

When I was 15 years old my parents were able to save enough money to take our family to Hawaii. That same year, I got in major trouble and missed out on that trip. But, two years later I had redeemed myself with my parents and for my graduation from high school, they took our family to Hawaii again.
We had a fantastic time. We went to three islands, the Big Island of Hawaii, Maui, and Kauai. On each one we had a great time, but by far the Big Island was the best. Not because it had the best beach accesses, but because of the stories that came from it. While we were there two things happened. First, we got to ride horses at one of the oldest ranches in the US, where I have an amazing picture of me sitting on my horse as it relieved itself. And second, on the island of Hawaii, there is an active volcano. While we were there, they were still allowing tourists to walk near the lava flow. And being dumb tourists, we went off the beaten path to within feet of the flow as it waterfalled into a hole. It was an amazing experience having the heat from the flow surrounding you, and just when it seemed way to hot, it started to rain. My mom has a picture on her fridge of her and my sister with the flow behind them.

But here’s the thing, why was it so easy for me to tell you about this amazing moment in  my life, but it is so hard to talk about a God who came to earth, and died for me? For us, sharing memories of vacations, or good times gone by, and times that brought us great joy are easy, because there’s no sense of dread in sharing those memories. We can share those things, because they don’t seem to need a response from a person. I mean, how many of you felt like you had to make a life altering decision because of that story? When we share our memories, they don’t seem to bring with them judgement. How many of you felt like I was trying judge you for not experiencing what I had?
When God is brought up, life altering decisions seem to be the end goal; judgment seems to like it’s being passed. And it’s because of that, it can be hard and a little discouraging to share anything about God. Because we don’t want to be people who are trying to make others do something, or make people think we’re better than they are.

These past several weeks we have been talking about the last aspect of the vision that God has given us here at the Alliance Church. This last aspect is life. To point people back to the life that God has for them. But the very notion of even bringing up God can make us stop dead in our tracts
Now, we’ve talked about how this life that God has for people is his life. That it is rooted in the very person of God. God desires that life happens, fights for life to happen, because he is the source of which all life comes from.
We talked about how Jesus, being God himself, came to earth to live God’s life out in front of humanity. Jesus taught what God’s life looked like. Then Jesus showed us how that teaching worked out in real examples, and told us to do the same as he did. Jesus showed us that God’s life is meant to be lived with God’s people. So we may grow and teach each other. And that God’s life is meant to be lived every step in him, with him, and through him. 
And then last week we talked about how we can put each of these aspects of God’s life into action. So that we are not simply saying we want the life God has for us, we are actually living it.

Today we’re going to finish off this Life series by answering this question, how do we point people back to God’s life? These first three weeks were all about understanding God’s life, and making sure that we are living it out ourselves. Because you can’t point someone back to something that you yourself haven’t experienced.
So today, I want us to look at the pages of Scripture and see three ways we can point people back to the life of God as if we are pointing them back to a good memory. And I want us to be able to do this without seeming like we’re asking them to make a decision on our time table, and without it seeming like we’re personally judging them.

Now a quick disclaimer, I’m not one of those that think people shouldn’t feel convicted, or that they shouldn’t make a decision. But I want us to realize, that neither of those are our jobs. See in the Gospel of John, chapter 16, verse 8, Jesus says, “8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment:”
So it is the Spirit’s job to convict people of sin, not ours.  
And as Jesus says in the Gospel of Mark chapter 4, starting in verse 26, "26 He also said, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.’”
It is God’s work to bring a person to repentance and a decision to put their trust in him; our job is to share the gospel. Putting these two things together, we must realize that we are to share, it is God’s job to work on the inner workings of a person. So in the end, we are not trying to make them make a decision, or passing judgement. Instead, we are to be sharing God’s life.  
By understanding those two things about sharing with someone else, let’s look at three ways to share God’s life with someone without judgment and without forcing them to make a decision in the moment. 

We’re going to look at the life of the Apostle Paul for these three ways of sharing, because Paul had many approaches in sharing the life of God. All of which we can see in the fifth book of the New Testament, the book of Acts.

So if you have your Bibles, we’re going to be in the book of Acts chapter 13, starting in verse 16. Here, Paul is standing with people he can relate to. People that are Jews just like him. People that honor God, just as he does. To them, Paul shares a common ground; and on this ground Paul meets them.

“16 Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: ‘Fellow Israelites and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me! 17 The God of the people of Israel chose our ancestors; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt; with mighty power he led them out of that country; 18 for about forty years he endured their conduct in the wilderness; 19 and he overthrew seven nations in Canaan, giving their land to his people as their inheritance. 20 All this took about 450 years.
‘After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. 21 Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. 22 After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’
23 ‘From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised.’”
Paul looked back in time and pinpointed what God had done throughout the course of history to bring the Israelites to this point. So can’t we do the same? Can we ask people what their thoughts on how we got where we are today? Can we ask if there are any defining moments in history that if taken out would mean the complete shift of what we experience today?
Because I can tell you one thing, without Jesus, there would be no United States of America. Without Jesus, and the love he told people to have for others, war would be more egregious. The founding of hospitals would be effected. Cast systems would still be in place. The world as we know it today, would be vastly altered without the life of God in Jesus. Let us talk with people about the history we share, and help them see the life of God through it.
All that we would need to do is start a conversation by asking a simple question, What do you think is the most significant event or person in history? This simple, opened ended question, can lead to a lot of conversation. And it’s a way to share God’s life with people without being judgmental.
Second, let’s flip a few pages over to Acts chapter 17, starting in verse 24. Here, Paul is roaming around the city of Athens waiting to share Jesus with the great Greek philosophers of his day. Paul has spent many hours looking around the city and seeing the many statues that have been erected in the name of the pantheon of gods. It is here that we pick up what he says to these philosophers.

 “24 The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.”

The second way we can share God’s life is sharing how God is the creator. In Quartzsite, with it’s amazing sunrises and sunsets, it’s view of the stars, and the endless exploration of it’s desert; how can we not look on all of it and question why is it here? And this is how we can point people back to God, by simply asking what do you think? How do you think it all got here?
And if given the chance, we can share how we believe it was created by a loving God. See Paul observed and waited for the opportunity to be given to him. And when given the chance he talked about the God who creates. He does this because creation was the only common ground he had with the Greek philosophers. We are living the experience of this desert with a lot of people. It gives us the perfect opportunity to open a conversation up.
So let us point other people back to the creation and ask, where did it come from? Then, wait for our opportunity to share how it came from God. That will open up doors to many more questions and answers.

Finally, in the book of Acts, chapter 22, verse 1-21 Paul is coming to the end of his life and shares how he’s gotten to this place. In 22 verses Paul says “I,” again and again. He shares what Jesus had done for him. What Jesus had brought him out of, and what Jesus sent him into. And this is the final way we can point people back to God’s life, by simply sharing what God has done in our lives.
By sharing our testimony, our story, our relationship with God. This is why it is so important that we experience God’s life ourselves. Because anyone can talk about the creation. Anyone can talk about history. But few can point to their lives, and say I know God’s life is real, because this is how his life looks in me.

We can point people back to the life of God, by asking them questions about the creation that surrounds us, about the history we experience, and the life that God has given us. The question is are we willing to take that step out and do it?
My challenge this week is to ask one of these questions to someone you know is not a believer: Where do you think all this came from? What one event in history do you think is the most important? What is the most important event that has ever happened to you? I challenge you to ask one of those questions this week.

Now, I want to leave you with this last thought as we close out this series on pointing people back to God’s life.
In his book, The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis wrote this image of heaven that has stuck with me throughout the years. It is of a person who shared the life of God with others while on earth, and what happens to them in heaven. Listen to what he writes,

Some kind of procession was approaching us, and the light came from the persons who composed it.
First came bright Spirits, not the Spirits of men, who danced and scattered flowers-soundlessly falling, lightly drifting flowers, though by the standards of the ghost-world each petal would have weighed a hundred-weight and their fall would have been like the crashing of boulders. Then, on the left and right, at each side of the forest avenue, came youthful shapes, boys upon one hand, and girls upon the other. If I could remember their singing and write down the notes, no man who read that score would ever grow sick or old. Between them went musicians: and after these a lady in whose honor all this was being done.
"Is it? ... is it?" I whispered to my guide.
"Not at all," said he. "It's someone ye'll never have heard of. Her name on earth was Sarah Smith and she lived at Golders Green."
"She seems to be ... well, a person of particular importance?"
"Aye. She is one of the great ones. Ye have heard that fame in this country and fame on Earth are two quite different things."
"And who are these gigantic people . . . look! They're like emeralds . . . who are dancing and throwing flowers before her?"
"Haven't ye read your Milton? A thousand livened angels lackey her,"
"And who are all these young men and women on each side?"
"They are her sons and daughters." 
"She must have had a very large family, Sir." 
"Every young man or boy that met her became her son-even if it was only the boy that brought the meat to her back door. Every girl that met her was her daughter."
"Isn't that a bit hard on their own parents?" 
"No. There are those that steal other people's children. But her motherhood was of a different kind. Those on whom it fell went back to their natural parents loving them more. Few men looked on her without becoming, in a certain fashion, her lovers. But it was the kind of love that made them not less true, but truer, to their own wives.”
And now the abundance of life she has in Christ from the Father flows over into them." 
I looked at my Teacher in amazement. 
"Yes," he said. "It is like when you throw a stone into a pool, and the concentric waves spread out further and further. Who knows where it will end?

Now, when we arrive in heaven, will there be those who line up for our procession, because they are there because we decided to point them back to God’s life. My prayer for you this week, is that you would be worthy of a procession in heaven, by being willing to point people back to God today.
        Now may the Lord who has called you to share with others the greatness of who he is, given you the strength by his Holy Spirit to bring life to others by your actions and words. Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment