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Pastor Will Stoll Northwest Church
May 12, 2013
Sermon: Connecting To Your World
I would like all of our ladies in the room to stand up, please. Ladies, we want to honor all of you today. Go ahead and stand up – it’s okay. I know some of you are saying, “But I’m not a mom.” And that’s okay. God has given you something inside that is mothering. You have that maternal instinct and God is using that in you. Some of you have given birth and you know what it is like to go through the pain of that, but all of you in your own way have been showing that motherly tender affection and love toward the people around you. So the men of the church just want to say thank you to you today. We love you. Let’s give them a hand. (Applause) Remain standing if you would, because we are going to pray for you this morning. So, men, if you would just put your hand on the shoulder of a lady near you – a Mom, a woman of influence – let’s pray together. Lord, thank You for these women this morning who You have gifted with that heart of a Mom; that heart of love our world needs so badly. Thank You for what they do, and I pray this morning that You would just give them an extra dosage of peace and love and joy and an extra feeling of Your Holy Spirit, You Who dwell inside of us and gives us the energy to do everything we do. I pray that we would be empowered by You and these women would be empowered by You in a special way today and feel your love. We pray these things in Jesus’ Name. Amen. Thank you, Ladies.
Well, I have some people in my family who are struggling with cancer. My step dad is one of them. He has stage 4 cancer of the bladder, but it is kind of throughout his body and he has been doing treatments and chemo – all kinds of side effects that aren’t good have happened. And I know many of you in here have struggled with cancer and some of you are still struggling with cancer. Imagine for just a moment that you get cancer and you go to your doctor who says, “Listen, you just need to plan for dying because there is no treatment for this. The best thing to do is just live out the next few weeks or months of your life the best way you can.” You say, “Okay” and tell your family.
Everyone is disappointed and you happen to go to a garage sale. And at this garage sale you see some old, dusty books and you think, “This might be valuable,” and you open it up and it’s just a hand-written copy of something that Leonardo da Vinci wrote. You think, “Wow! – now this is not Leonardo DiCaprio, but Leonardo DiCaprio – even more valuable! You think, “This is incredible” and you buy the book for 50 cents and you start reading through it. He has some potions and lotions that might cure a disease and you say, “I’m going to try this out.” You put this and that together with some Vitamin C and within a few weeks, you’re feeling great. You go to the doctor and he says, “We have no trace of cancer! This is the most amazing thing!” You tell your family what you read about in da Vinci’s book and your family is so impressed they just can’t believe it.
But here’s the thing – you are shy. So you say, “Well, I suppose I could put this on the internet and have Fox News come out and everything, but I don’t want to do that. I’d be embarrassed by all that attention and I don’t like to be a big deal. I’m just going to let it go.” Twenty years later you die and the secret of curing cancer dies with you. Is that okay? We’re going to do like a Congress vote in here – you know with that “aye” and “nay” stuff. All of you who say it’s okay to let the secret of curing cancer die with one individual, let it be known by saying, “aye.” How many of you would say this is not okay? Let that be known by saying, “nay.” Okay! Well it’s unanimous in this service. We agree that would not be right, because this is a terrible disease that affects one in three people in our country and we would really want to have that cure.
Next Sunday morning we are going to start a series entitled “Vintage Jesus.” We will be looking at ten great statements of Jesus that are life-changing, world-changing statements of Jesus. The first message is on Jesus, our Healer. We are going to talk about how Jesus heals. We are going to have – well, the best thing I can call it is a healing service, where we invite you to come down and we’ll have our elders pray with you and anoint you with oil – just on your forehead, we’re not going to be pouring it all over your head or anything like that – you will be able to leave and go to lunch afterward. But the thing is, that is Biblical and we want to do that. So if you know someone who is sick and needs someone to pray over them, please come and we’ll do that. All I am going to promise you is that we are going to be obedient to God’s Word; I’m not going to promise you healing – that comes from God and God only. But we will pray and ask Him to do His work.
Why would I even bring up this cancer thing? Here’s why – our world is sick. Its sickness is sin. Now, we don’t like to use that word in society. In fact, society would say, “Don’t use that Bible thumping language – sin! Call it a mistake; call it whatever; call it a flaw.” But the Bible calls it “sin,” and says the effects of sin, the “wages of sin” is death. So sin is hurting you. It’s hurting me. It’s destroying our lives, often in invisible ways that then become very visible. In fact, in Genesis, Chapter 4 – one of the first chapters of the Bible, it says, “Sin’s desire is to jump on you and grab you!” So one day, you pick up a book and you read in this book that God loves you, and that He actually became a Man and died on a cross for you. His Name was Jesus and on the cross, He was paying for your sin. And three days after He died, He rose from the grave and ascended into Heaven. All these things are written in this book and you read it and you are like, “Yes! I believe!” And when you believed, you were cured from your sin! You were so excited about this life change that you told your family about it and they were like, “Wow! That’s amazing!” But you are kind of shy and you decide not to make a big deal out of myself; I’m just going to kind of let this die with you. Is that okay? Jesus says, “No. I’m not okay with that.”
Now, in this message series on “Unconnected,” we have said that you have to connect to God; you have to connect to yourself; you have to connect to your friends, your family, your wife, your husband. The last thing we want to say is you have to Connect to Your World. God made you to be connected to the world around you, the people who are around you. Look at what Jesus says about this. He says, “You are the salt of the Earth, but if the salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?” Now salt is an interesting element – sodium chloride. Two things come together and make salt. The Institute of Salt claims there are 14,000 uses for salt and it listed many of them. I can’t remember all of them, but I think there may be two or three that Jesus had in mind. Number one, it preserves food. In fact, salt was the cornerstone of civilization for a long, long time because otherwise – without salt – you had to rely on what was growing in that season. And there are some seasons where not a lot is growing that you want to eat. Salt allows you to eat almost anything in any season, because it is a preservative. It allowed you to travel from place to place carrying food with you.
Salt is an amazing thing. The other thing salt does is provide flavor. Sometimes you have a meal that isn’t very flavorful, but you add some salt and it brings out some great flavor in the food. So Jesus says, “Listen, you are supposed to preserve this world. The rottenness and corruption of sin is going to try to decay the world, but you are going to hold back that decay so that it doesn’t get so bad.” And, you are supposed to make things flavorful around you. The world should be better when you are around. You ought to be a peace-maker and make things nicer. But He said, “If the salt has lost its taste,” in other words, if you mix dirt and salt mixed together, what is it good for? You want to put dirty salt on your food? You want to put dirty salt in your food to preserve it and have a little bit of dirt and a little bit of salt in it? Probably not. Jesus says all it would be good for would be to be “thrown down and trampled underfoot.” And even when you do that, when you put salt in the ground, it’s no good for agriculture anymore. The soil is ruined when you put salt on it. It’s just almost useless. So Jesus says, “You are salt – do something about that. Be the most useful element, as you have been made.”
He says in the next verse, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket – but on a stand and it gives light to all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others so they may see your good works and give glory to your Father Who is in Heaven.” He says not only are you salt, but you are light.
Three things about being light. Number one, you are light and I am light, only because Jesus lives inside of us. If you put your faith in Jesus and you became a follower of Him, He came to live inside of you. And Jesus started by saying, “I am the Light of the world,” right? He is the Light of the world, and He comes in you and He gives you light – and you become a light. Number two, because you are a light, you are stewarding that light. He says it is possible to put a basket over it and then it is useless. If I go outside around noon today and I have one of those big flashlights and I turn it on with the batteries fully charged, it’s going to give off light, but you aren’t going to see it because the sun is out and it’s like it isn’t producing anything! So I have to steward that light. The best time to use that light is when? At night! Exactly! Now, we like to shine our light, don’t we? The light of Jesus. We like to proclaim that we are Christian. Sometimes we do it like this – both hands in the air, singing at the top of our lungs – and we love to do that . . . at church. Where there is already lots of light! But as soon as we walk out of this building where there is darkness – it’s like, “Ooh, well, I already shined my light, so I’m good for the week, but next Sunday morning, I’ll be shining the light again!” Jesus says, “No! Don’t put that light under a basket. That’s when we need you to shine the light!”
The third thing about this light is that you will never know the effectiveness of your light in this life. Only God can measure that. You might think, “I haven’t really done a whole lot.” Your light, though, had an influence on someone and they went toward Jesus years and years later – you just can’t measure your own light.
So, how does this work? How does it work being salt and light? What will that really look like? And that’s what I wanted to get to today. If we are going to be effective, we have the cure to sin. If we are going to use that effectively, use the Gospel effectively, what will that look like? Well, Jesus gave us a clue right before He ascended into Heaven. He said, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” But I want to focus on those first two words, because the first word here in the original language is actually a participle. Raise your hand if you are an English major in here. Because you are the only people who know what a participle is. It’s a word that ends in “ing.” It means “while you are going.” While you are doing this, make disciples. In other words, He is saying that this is going to happen “on the way.” Your influence is going to happen “on the way,” and this is the way it happened for Jesus. Jesus is on the way to the cross. He has a pretty important job to do, dying on the cross for the sins of the world. Then somebody comes up to Him and wants to be healed from being blind! What does Jesus do? He stops – while He is going – and He heals this blind guy. Jesus is waiting by this well, waiting for the disciples to come back – there are some things He has to do – and while He is waiting – while He is going – a woman walks up to Him and she needs eternal water. And He gives it to her. While Jesus is going to a massive crusade where He is going to preach to thousands and thousands of people, a woman walks up to Him – a woman who has been bleeding for twelve years – she touches His garment and He stops – while He is going – to heal her and talk to her.
Listen to this – don’t miss this – You won’t plan your greatest spiritual contribution in your life! You won’t plan it. It will happen by chance, by opportunity. Now it’s not a chance with God, but with you it might be, “I wasn’t even planning on talking to that person! Wasn’t planning on saying that!” Yet, it happened. Why? Because it’s all about opportunity. It’s about seizing opportunity. I want to show you three things that Paul the Apostle says about opportunity.
Number one We need to pray for opportunities. Paul says in Colossians 4:3:
and pray for us also, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison
He is saying to pray that “we get a chance to share the Gospel.” Now if Paul, who is the greatest evangelist of all time and wrote most of the New Testament, needs prayer for that – right here! I need it. I mean, if Paul needs it, I need to be prayed for triple as much! How many in here would say you need to be prayed for – for that opportunity? Yeah. We do. We need it badly. He says to pray. So when you wake up – first thing in the morning, you talk to God, you say, “God, will You give me an opportunity to share the greatest news of my life, of the world, with someone today?” You think God is going to say, “Naaah. Yeah, I did take time to come to this Earth and die on a cross and arose from the grave, and I did take the time to save you and I was pleased to do that. However, giving you an opportunity – I don’t think I’m going to do it.” No! He answers that prayer. And what happens is that you begin to notice the opportunity when it comes. You pray for it, you notice it.
Now, here’s the thing. Today, this morning – in Fresno, California – 6% of Fresno went to an evangelical church – one that preaches the Gospel. That means 94% of Fresno, today, did not go to a church that preaches the Gospel, or did not go to a church at all. I think, you open your eyes and you are going to see that 94%.
Number two, Paul says this: Take opportunities. He says, “That I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.” He says, “Pray that I speak clearly. I don’t want to make things unclear by how I speak.” Now we do that sometimes, too. We don’t make things very clear. So – “Lord, make me speak words that are clear.”
Can I tell you why most of us don’t take opportunities? Here’s why – one word – and the word is “awkward.” Because in our culture, there is nothing – simply nothing – worse than feeling awkward. You would rather have people mad at you or happy with you or whatever – but the worst thing that could happen is an awkward situation. I might say I’m a Christian and they might be like, “Eewww, that’s weird you just said that!” And what would I do then? I don’t know what to do – I’d crawl under the table! People in our society would rather die than have an awkward situation. This is why one of the greatest fears in our society is public speaking. In fact, it’s higher than the fear of death. They say, “I would rather die than say something weird or wrong and have someone say, ‘eewww, what was that all about?’” But I want to tell you a little secret about awkward situations – this is a dirty little secret. Nobody ever died from awkwardness. Did you know that? It’s true! There’s not a reported case in the history of the world that someone died – “Well, what did he die of?” “He was awkward; it was an awkward situation – he just died. He said this weird thing about God and that was it.” No! But that is why we don’t take the opportunity. “What will I do if I feel weird? I don’t like that.” No, no. Take the opportunity.
There is someone I often go to breakfast with, who happens to be in this service, and each time I am at breakfast with him, he will say to the waitress something nice. “You just have such a nice way of serving. Thanks for doing that. God loves you. He has a plan for your life.” And each time, you might say, “Oh, that’s going to feel awkward,” it’s the opposite of awkward, isn’t it? It’s “Wow, thank you so much; no one has ever said that to me” or “you made my day.” Tears come sometimes – it’s unbelievable. But the fear of the awkwardness makes us not take the opportunity.
Number three: Make opportunities. When was the last time that you had an unbeliever over to your house? Someone says, “I’m not a follower of Jesus; I don’t follow Jesus.” When was the last time that person was invited to come over to your house and just hang out? Play a game, have a meal, have coffee. When was the last time you went to lunch with someone who said, “I’m an unbeliever; not a follower of Jesus Christ”? When was the last time you just hung out? How many of those people do you just hang out with? Last week we said your closest friends, your inner circle – those are going to be believers. But you definitely need unbelievers. You need to make those opportunities. In fact, I’ll tell you where the people are who don’t know Jesus. They are at basketball courts. Okay? When you go to the basketball court, they are there. They are at the track; they are also in your neighborhood – they are your neighbors; they are at the school where you pick up your kids; they are at the library. Men, when you go and play Bunko – they’re there. Yeah! Soccer – that’s where they are. Wherever you work, that’s where they are. And we have shined a lot of light in church – and that’s great – a great place to recharge your batteries, but a poor place to shine that flashlight. Turn that on as soon as you leave here.
You might say, How do I take this opportunity? “If I’m going to take opportunities, what will that look like?” I’m glad you asked because Paul tells us in the next verse. He says in Colossians 4:6:
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer every one.
So it’s going to be gracious – give a gracious answer. There are four things about that. Number one: It’s not about judgment. Now, when I was thinking last week about Jesus being called the friend of sinners, what does that tell us about sinners? That tells us that Jesus was very condescending and “holier than thou” right? Because lost people love to be around people who judge them and act like they are better – don’t they? Don’t you love to be around that? Doesn’t that remind you of someone in your life who acts all good and everything? Does that make you thirsty for what they have? Or does that make you say, “Ooh, I don’t need any of that!”? Of course Jesus was not condescending. Of course He didn’t act “holier than thou.” So you are going to be around some people who don’t know Jesus, and they are going to be using language you don’t normally use, throwing around the “F” word and your thought is, “Oh, I guess I have to say that is a bad word” – because they don’t already know it, right? “I better say I’m a Christian and I don’t want to hear that” – and that is going to make them so thirsty for Jesus, right? Probably not. It’s not about judgment.
What is it about? You must get to their heart. I was in See’s candy this week – because I go there a lot. It’s Mother’s Day coming up and I know exactly – my wife is an easy person to buy for. I know exactly what she wants. Well, as I’m standing there, a person comes in and has this leaflet in hand. I know what is about to happen. I have this Northwest Church shirt on. The person says, “Oh, you must be okay then.” I’m like, “Yeah, I’m okay.” So then he says, “Do you want this little leaflet from our church to see what we say?” I’m like, “No, I’ve read that one before. But thank you.” That person leaves and the person next to me goes, “Oooh.” Why? Because we were in there buying candy, right? And that was not what is on the mind right now. Totally missing the heart.
How do you get to the heart? The way to their heart is through their need or pain. That’s how Jesus always did it. A man has a son who is dying, “I’m concerned about my son.” What does Jesus do? He meets the need; He meets the pain. Always. That is what He is thinking about. A woman, needing water – He talks about water at a well. You see, Jesus went for the heart and that is where we have to go if we are going to reach their heart.
You know, you probably not going to meet Jesus on your best day. I mean, it will become your best day – but it might be your worst day because it’s the inadequacy that makes you look for Jesus. I went to my doctor this week to have a physical. He’s pressing here and there and there saying, “Does that hurt? Does that hurt?” And as long as I say, “No,” he doesn’t really care. But if I say, “Yes, that hurts,” then he is going to begin asking questions. Then he begins listening. In much the same way, we need to have conversations with people, and begin to listen; begin to be good question-askers. You are going to find where the pain is.
The third thing is this – the fourth thing – Connect their pain or need to Jesus and to you. Everyone has these pains. Everyone has needs. If you meet someone who is a parent, they have needs. They are parenting kids and have questions that are unanswered. This is why so many young families come to Jesus. They say, “I have a one-year-old and I don’t have a clue what to do here.” They are worried about bullies at school; worried about Facebook; worried about grades. How about this – health. You begin to talk to someone about health and that is very near and dear to their heart. If you are talking to someone who doesn’t have a job, they are thinking about that. Talking to someone who is single and sad about it, that’s a problem. Talk to someone who is married. I’m married; been married for 15 years to a wonderful Christian woman and we have Jesus in our marriage. It hasn’t been always the easiest thing – she would say – but can you imagine having no Jesus in your marriage? How hard that would be?
So you connect their pain and their need to Jesus and to you and have a three-way conversation. You begin to say, “Lord, I need You! Help!” That’s a good thing to pray for at the beginning of a conversation with someone. You listen to them and say, “Lord, what do I say?” You have a three-way conversation – the Holy Person, the other person, and you. You listen to them and you listen to God the whole time. And He gives you the words to say. If I’m talking to someone about cancer, I’ve never had cancer. I’ve never really had a serious health problem. But my dad has – he had cancer; and my step dad has it now. I can say, “You know what Jesus did in my dad’s life? You know the thoughts that went through his mind, and the comfort God gave to him? Let me tell you about it.” You connect their pain and their need to Jesus and to you.
Now, the last thing I want to tell you is this – this is going to Take Your Time. To effectively reach your world, it doesn’t happen in a sprint. It’s a marathon. It takes time to reach people because it takes time to build relationships. They don’t happen overnight or in a car ride. Relationship takes time, but it bridges a serious gap. Relationship bridges a credibility gap. Who are you? Where did you come from? Are you a real person or not? That is what people are wondering. There are three things that time will do. Time allows the beauty of the Gospel to be demonstrated in our lives. You see, my friends who know me and are unbelievers, have time to see me interact with customer service people. They have time to see me deal with problems. They have time to see me deal with my children. And they are either going to respect that and say, “You made me thirsty for Jesus;” isn’t that what salt is supposed to do? Doesn’t salt make you thirsty – when you eat a lot of salt? Jesus says, “If you are salt, you are going to make people thirsty for Me.” The Gospel demonstrated in life does that.
The second thing time does is allows us to wait for their day of need. Once I get to know somebody, I see there is need in their life, there is pain in their life – but then there is going to be a real day when they say, “Wow! I’m devastated! What do I do?” Now I have the answers, real answers. “You are kind of at the point where you are looking for the answer? Well I have the answer; I found the answer in a book one day and I have to tell you about it.
The third thing that happens is this: Time cause us to stretch. Anybody can go out and knock on a door, give a tract away to someone who has that flicker of “Yeah, I think I’m going to live for God right now! For the next hour I’m going to live for God!” That’s great – for an hour. But what about a lifetime? You see, in relationship, it stretches you to always be living for God. To have God always working in your life. By the way, let me ask you this – how many of you in this room were saved because a total stranger knocked on your door and told you about Jesus? Raise your hand. Okay, nobody – oh, one person – God can use that. How many of you in this room came to Jesus Christ because a friend, a family member, or an influential person in your life that you had a relationship with told you about Jesus or took you to church where you could hear about Jesus? Raise your hand. Wow! That’s almost everyone. I’m not saying God doesn’t use every kind of evangelism – He absolutely does! But those relationships that you form with people outside the faith, that is the number one thing God is going to use. It is worth it – we must connect to our world.
When you came in today, you received a bulletin and inside that bulletin there is a Connection Card. If you would pull that out, at the bottom it says, “My response to this message.” I want you to respond in one of two ways to this message – if you would. Take that out and I want you to write one word on it – here’s the word – write down the name of the person who kept coming to your mind who is an unbeliever you need to develop a better relationship with, for the purpose of reaching them with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. First name is fine. Who is that person who you would say, “God is putting that person on my heart. I need to reach out and develop a relationship so that when the time comes, I’m ready to give them what I know about Jesus and the answer I found in this book.” Now, if you don’t have anyone in mind right now – then there is something else you can write down. Write down the activity or the place you need to go in order to develop some relationships with people who are outside the faith. Some of you right now are saying, “I don’t have anyone in my life who is an unbeliever. I’ve been a Christian for like 55 years and I have a Christian car, a Christian church, a Christian school, my house is a Christian – everything around me is a Christian!” Then you need to go to a certain place – wherever that is – the park or wherever – and begin to develop relationships with people whoa re outside of Jesus Christ, so that you can be a light and you can be salt. Write down the place or the activity you are going to start. Maybe its coaching Little League, maybe working somewhere part-time so you can develop some relationships. Whatever it is, write that down.
Here’s the thing – God wants you to be connected. He didn’t make you to be isolated; He made you to be connected – to your friends, to Him, to yourself, to your family – and last, of course, to this world. So you can be salt and you can be light. You can be the most useful thing in this universe, to God. Would you join me as we pray? Thank You, Lord, for Your Word that tells us of the answer to the biggest problem this world has, which is sin. I pray that as we have learned this from Your Word and as we have met You as our Savior, we would give away the most precious possession we own – and that is the Gospel. That we would be salt and we would be light. That nothing would stop us from being the people You have made us, created us to be. We love You, Lord, and we pray these things in Jesus’ Name. Amen.