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FOLLOWING CHRIST: Rolled Up Sleeves

Rolled Up Sleeves: Living authentic Christfollowing Lives! 

Today we are talking about rolling up your sleeves. Last week we talked about worn out knees and the week before that we talked about dusty shoes. 

You may not believe it but Christfollowers have always been world changers and our influence has shaped society for two thousand years. 

In his book, Signs of Life, David Jeremiah writes the following story.
Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852) was the son of a Lutheran pastor who often helped his dad in the family garden. When he was a young man, his Christian beliefs convinced him that children need to learn about God and His world at an early age. One day while hiking in the mountains, Friedrich imagined a school for young children that would allow their minds to be cultivated by a teacher like a horticulturist cultivates a garden. He called the idea a child’s garden. Because of him, children have been going to kindergarten for the last one hundred and fifty years. 

Historically it is Christians who have established hospitals, started schools, begun orphanages, reformed prisons, emancipated women, abolished slavery, clothed the naked, fed the hungry, treated the diseased, encouraged the addicted and housed the homeless. 

We declare Christ’s love with our mouths bur we demonstrate it with our muscles. Effective Christianity should never be defined by what happens in a church on a Sunday but by how many people have rolled up their sleeves and been deployed in serving. 

Today we are going to talk about rolling up our sleeves and living authentic lives.
Today I want to talk to you about what it means to be “the church.” In the book, Churches that Make a Difference, the authors describe a holistic church and ministry:

 “There is an indescribable quality about a church committed to living out the gospel that whispers to your spirit: Yes, this is how Christ meant his followers to live together. The church may not be perfect –come to think of it, no church is!—and the vision may not be fully realized, but the active presence of the Spirit can be felt, bringing renewal, growth, and transformation both within the church and in the community. A Christian community that is spiritually dynamic, sacrificially caring, boldly prophetic, and lovingly nurturing is God’s chosen vessel for authentic change in persons and in society. 

A church that genuinely cares for people will practice both evangelism and the social ministry of outreach. It will balance spiritual nurturing and outreach. It will know and love its community. It will clearly communicate its theology and specific mission. .  . (it will) build its ministry on a base of spiritual maturity and healthy, loving relationships; and calls and equips its members to action.”

Rev. Tom Theriault is Mission Pastor at a wonderful holistic congregation, Solana Beach Presbyterian Church. He writes about the tension between “in-reach” and
“outreach”:

I’ve gotten a lot of mileage from my M & M soap box . . . the “More and More for Me
and Mine Syndrome,” the “What-can-you-do-for-me-today,-God gospel.” As in the
time of Jesus, many are looking for an M & M Messiah, a savior who will deliver us
from all manner of oppressions (and depressions and repressions and dysfunctions). As with Jesus’ contemporaries, we are frustrated, if not infuriated (Luke 4:30f), by a savior who is for the world. When He turns the “M & M’s” right-side-up and into “W-W’s” . . . a “We are for the World,” gospel, we have trouble.

To be sure, ours is a delivering God. But He delivers for a purpose. He delivers us
out of our dead-end obsession with self and into the mainstream of His life-giving
water that is destined for the nations (Rev 22:2). We want a “sit-and-soak Savior,”
One who fills our little hot tubs up with all kinds of soothing blessings. What we really have is a “Get up and GO God,” One who soothes and saves so that He can launch us out (the root of the word for “mission” is the same as for “missile”) into His Kingdom purposes to sooth and save the world. Hot tubs are great, but if you spend too much time in one you shrivel up and get sick. Same is true for the bath of blessings that our wonderful Savior provides for us. The blessings are meant to be fuel in our little rockets, rockets that have a trajectory set by the Word of God (Luke 

4). If we stop with merely basking in the blessings of salvation, we, our families, our churches, will shrivel up and get sick. A body needs exercise, and so does the Body of Christ. The mission of Christ is the exercise regimen prescribed by the Ultimate Personal Trainer.

Continuing Tom’s metaphor, to prescribe the proper exercise for a human body,
trainers have to know what the body is designed to do. Internally focused churches are busily doing an incomplete set of exercises, because they have a flawed understanding of what the church body is designed to do. An inward-focused congregation must be led to examine the question: What is the church designed to do? What is the church’s mission? Say “mission,” and many think of what some Christians do “over there.” The word has come to be identified with special projects and trips. But mission has more to do with the church’s purpose than its programs. 

As theologian David Bosch explains, “Mission is not primarily an activity of the church, but an attribute of God. God is a missionary God. .. . There is church because there is mission, not vice versa.” Holistic ministry is part of the answer to the question, “How are God’s character and saving actions expressed through our church in the world?”

Overcoming an inward focus means changing the paradigm from “going to church”
to “being the church” in mission. “Going to church” is only part of the purpose for the
church’s existence. A church cannot be a witness, agent, and sign of the gospel only by filling its seats or pews for worship services. 

I want to suggest very strongly today that a church is only as healthy as the people who are a part of it. For that reason I want to call upon each one of you that considers yourself to be a follower of Jesus Christ to consider your role in His Kingdom. 

Jesus was teaching one day shortly before leaving this earth and after expressing His appreciation for those who had comforted Him when He was cold and thirsty and in prison He explained to His disciples what He meant. 

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ Matthew 25:40 NLT

At another time Jesus is quoted encouraging His disciples to love and care for one another. 

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:34-35 NLT

The love that characterizes the Christfollower, according to Jesus is not primarily affectionate, familial love, as important as that kind of love might be, but it is not what Jesus most often talked about. He instructed His followers to build into their lives the same kind of love that God the Father has toward the world when He sent His Son to die for our sins. It is agape love, the self-sacrificing love that motivates one person to sacrifice their all for others. Jesus said there was no greater love than this. (John  15:13) 

Five portraits of love: 

A. Words:

 Words either build up or tear down but a follower of Christ should always have words that build up. The bible says, “always be with grace, seasoned with salt” – “like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.” (Colossians 4:6, Proverbs 16:24)

Martin Luther: When I have nothing to say I stop talking. Can we commit to only speak words of love to each other? Can you imagine what would happen if we only spoke loving words to our spouses? Can you imagine how motivating it would be when we do have to have those tough conversations if the words were spoken with love instead of anger? 

B. Deeds:  

In 1 Corinthians 13, the writer mentions sixteen ways by which we love is manifested in our life. It is critical that we not only speak words of love but that we actually do deeds of love. We find reasons to roll up our sleeves and help someone else. 

C. Thoughts:  

Our private thoughts are the foundation for the people we become. In Proverbs the wise King Solomon observed that as we think in our hearts, so we become. (Pro. 23:7) There is a prayer that I try to pray often and sometimes even from this platform. King David the father of Solomon prayed these words: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14) 

D. Gifts:  

God gives every person three things to manage for His glory and honor: time, talent and treasure. In the Apostle Paul’s farewell speech to the elders of the church at Ephesus he spoke about giving to others: “I have never coveted anyone’s silver or gold or fine clothes. 34 You know that these hands of mine have worked to supply my own needs and even the needs of those who were with me. 35 And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts: 20:33-35 NLT  

There really is nothing like giving something away to others that has meaning for you. This is a little discipline that I have tried to build into my life and while I don’t do this every day when it happens I know that I have done something Jesus would do. 

E. Steps: 

Every step we take in the this life is taken in pursuit of something; everywhere we go we are following something or someone. While it is not wrong to pursue things for ourselves, if we only follow our own dreams, our lives become self-centered instead of God centered. The Apostle Paul wrote that we should be using our steps to “pursue the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14) 
Where are your steps taking you? 

I want to share four observations about opportunities to serve and show love with you. 

Four observations: 

1. Opportunities are often disguised as problems 

Many times we look at life situations and focus on the problems they present and not the opportunities they really are. Generally when God allows us to have the sensation of being overwhelmed it is our opportunity to see beyond the problem and rely on God’s help. 

2. Opportunities are often time sensitive 

 When the opportunity comes to serve others and we hesitate and procrastinate I believe we will lose those opportunities in the future. When God knows that He can trust us to respond we become the hands and feet of Christ on this earth. 

3. Opportunities are often tested by opposition

More often than not when we try to serve others or start something to serve others there will be opposition. When you read the stories of people who have done or lead great things for God they are always stories full of opposition and events that might lead you to think that God wasn’t on their side. 

4. Opportunities are usually missed because of fear

When God opens doors of opportunity they are often circumstances that will take the greatest of faith and fortitude. He generally does not call us to do things we can do in our own strength. When we look toward future opportunities we can either walk by faith or fear. God loves to put us in circumstances that allow us to see how small and inadequate our strength is and how much we need His mighty power.
Consider Charles Colson, the aide to Richard Nixon who was sent to jail for Watergate. As a result of his experience as a convicted felon, Colson founded Prison Fellowship, now the world’s largest Christian outreach to prisoners and their families. Prison Fellowship has more than 50,000 volunteers working in hundreds of prisons in 88 countries around the world. A ministry that has blessed millions of people got started twenty-five years ago because Charles Colson committed a crime. God’s eternal purposes for that man included even the sin that sent him to prison. It was a part of God’s plan from the very beginning. But the story that matters most to you isn’t Peter’s, or Paul’s, or even Charles Colson’s. It’s yours. And what I want to say to you today is that the story of your life has not been ruined, not by your sin or anyone else’s. God’s good plan for your life is not buried under the mistakes of the past. God has a plan for your life, a good plan, a wise plan, a loving plan, a sovereign plan, and that plan is still in effect. You haven’t missed it. He is working out that plan in your life right now, today. Will you believe that? And will you renew your commitment this morning to seeking God, and following Him, and serving Him with your whole heart; free of the past, no longer weighed down by regret? 

As we bring this message to a close I want to talk to you about how our acts of service and kindness affect others. It is called the Ripple Factor. 

The Ripple Factor

At 5:16 p.m. on November 9, 1965, events were set in motion that brought one of the richest, most industrialized, and highly populated areas of the Western world to a complete standstill. A back-up electrical relay switch was tripped at the Sir Adam Beck Power Station in Niagara Falls, Ontario Canada. The switch had not been updated to keep pace with the increasing power transmission, and in less than three seconds the entire northeastern power grid, affecting both Canada and the United States, went down. 

The results were unimaginable. There was no electrical energy to heat, to light to communicate, to power any kind of machine, to operate pumps that move sewage, water, and gas, or to run life-support systems at many hospitals. An estimated 800,000 people were trapped in subways. Only half the hospitals had emergency power systems available. The 250 flights arriving at JFK Airport had to be diverted—and some planes were landing right as the runway lights went out. Without any light, heat or phone systems, 30 million people found themselves in a dark, silent, and frightening world. All because a spindle on a little metal cup in a small box touched a metal contact. 

Not all ripples are negative. This past week many of hopefully remembered what happened on September 11, 2001.  While the devastation and loss of life was unthinkable the ripple effect continues to this day. Can you say TSA? We can’t even remember what security in airports was like before 9/11. Law enforcement agencies have laid aside their competitive tendencies and worked to collaborate in keeping our country safe. 

You and I have the opportunity to do things with our lives that will have a ripple effect on those in our spheres of influence. 

Family
Extended Family
Close personal friends and community group
Co-workers
Neighbors
Civic or community service
Strangers 

What kind of ripple effect are you having with your life?

Are you doing things with your life that encourages others to follow Christ or stay away from Him?

There is a story from the Gospel of Luke that I want to remind you of:

One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” 

 27 The man answered, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 

 30 Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. 

 31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant[d] walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. 

 33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins,[e] telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ 

 36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. 

 37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” 

   Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”
Luke 10: 25-37 NLT

I responded with the Sheriff’s Office at an accident scene and then went to the yard of a church where the medical helicopters were going to touch down. People were hurting, children were involved ambulances were there; one helicopter had already landed when someone showed up to work on the church. He was cold and nearly indignant because the deputy stopped him and asked him where he was going. I stood there and realized that I had just witnessed the living example of Jesus story. So intent on working on the church that he forgot to be the church.

Oswald Chambers confessed, “If I work for God because I know it brings me the good opinion of those whose good opinion I wish to have, I am a Pharisee. If I love Jesus Christ, I will serve humanity, though men and women treat me like a doormat.”

Bill Hybels puts it this way: “I would never want to reach out someday with a soft, un-callused hand – a hand never dirtied by serving – and shake the nail-pierced hand of Jesus.”

Benediction: Love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.



2009/09/13