From this passage, Todd Wagner points out that: 1) Christ's pursuit of you is relentless and unending, even if you have to go through pain so that you might hear Him; 2) Christ's sacrifice was more than sufficient for us; and 3) in the Christian life, you will suffer for the truth of what He has accomplished, and you will teach it to others who do not yet know the centrality of who He really is. How well are you shining your light?
Don't Let Them Fool You, Just Keep Trusting Him
From Futile Speculation to Futile Regulation: The Foolishness of Life Apart from Christ
Experts Are Everywhere but Can They be Trusted: How to Respond to Philosophy's Challenge
Our Journey to Get the Stain of Spaghetti/Sin Out of Our Lives
Why The Light Has to be Left On
What You Lose If You Leave This Chance To Serve This King
Our Colossal Christ and What You Must Quit When You Know Him
The First Thing We Ought to Pray for and Pursue
Investigating the Colossal Claims and Obligations of the Gospel
Good morning! We are glad you're here. As you can see, we're in the middle of a fun little series called CSI: Asia Minor. We are looking at a little town in modern-day Turkey. It's a town that was known as Colossae where there were some huge rocks. In fact, some colossal rocks, so they called that town Colossae. The folks in Colossae were individuals who had received a message, and this message was to really be hope to the world.
What had happened was one of the guys in that town had heard about this man named Jesus who lived about 30 years prior to when this letter was written. This man, Jesus, was no mere man, the folks who preached his message declared. He was the visible image of the invisible God. He was the exact representation of the nature of God. To see this Jesus was to see God, and he came to provide humankind a solution to their separation from the God who created them.
That was the message that was declared to a young man who heard it and took it back to his fellow citizens, and they embraced it. What had happened was, in embracing it, there were some others in that community who said, "Hey! Hey! Hey! We're not really sure that we're going to stand with you in saying this Jesus is the truth. We're okay with you liking him and with you holding him up as a man who others should listen to what he had to say like we hold up different philosophers from around Asia Minor and Greece and other places.
But we're not sure we want to say this Jesus is all you need, especially those of you who say this Jesus alone can be everything that God requires of you, to just simply believe in him and the work he accomplished for you. There are still some other things you have to do. There are some acts you have to perform and some beliefs you have to have. You need more knowledge than just the truth revealed to him."
Well, that was the attack on this church that was in this community. There was a man who was deeply concerned for this church, so he wrote them a letter. That man's name was Paul, and what we're doing is working our way through little by little this book. The reason we've called it CSI is for the same reason of what happened at my house.
We were watching some football last Monday night. I guess it wasn't Monday night. It was something on CBS. All of a sudden, that CSI came up there, and my little 8-year-old boy next to me goes, "Hey! That's what we're talking about at church! You've gone national, Dad. That's great advertising."
I said, "No, no," but I hope what you're thinking is what everybody who is watching this is thinking around our community of faith, that there are little reminders throughout the week that you don't need to see a show every night of the week called CSI: Vegas or CSI: Miami or CSI: New York or wherever else we can put a show that you watch, but we hope you'll be reminded that we're looking at something that, if you study it and investigate it, you will find to be highly relevant to your life.
Every time you see that very culturally relevant three letters right now put together, it reminds you of the primary scene you ought to investigate, which is a scene that says, "This is truth, and the truth that is revealed here about the truth and the person of God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, is the truth alone who delivers." That's where we are.
In fact, we're in verse 24 of that first chapter of that book. If you have a Bible, I encourage you to turn there with me. Let's take a little look at what Paul is exhorting those who lived in Colossae to be sure of. He just got through saying this Jesus is the Creator of everything and the sustainer of everything, that this Jesus is the head of the church, the firstborn of the dead as evidenced that God was fully satisfied with the means that he used to deal with sin which leads to death.
Paul goes on to say that this Jesus alone is the means through which mankind who has rebelled against its Creator it's accountable to can be restored into relationship with that God, so don't leave him. If you leave him, you will leave your opportunity to be useful to him and to be increasingly a light to a dark world that God intends to use you for.
What we're going to look at today is what two things ultimately characterize individuals who have truly met this Jesus, who have come to a place where they know who he is and have embraced him for what he has claimed to be and how that can be seen in an individual's life. There are two words that scream at you in these four verses we're going to look at today. Those words are suffer and preach.
If you are an individual who says you embrace this Jesus who, to us, lived 2,000 years ago but to these folks lived 30 years prior to them and were seeing this letter, what Paul is saying is, "If you know who this Jesus is and if you've come into a relationship with God through the means of understanding the work he has accomplished for you and by having a relationship with him through the presence of his Spirit which he has left and given, then you will suffer and you will preach."
You will suffer for the truth of what he has accomplished, and you will preach it to others who do not yet know the centrality of who this figure is in the context of humanity and its relationship with others on this earth and, ultimately, with a relationship with God. Here's what he says. He says in verse 24, " Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake…"
That's a strange way in the middle of a letter to say something. "I'm really getting pounded, and I'm really glad." This is what he says. "…and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions." Let me just take that one little verse and talk about it for a minute.
What Paul is saying right here is, "Listen. I am thrilled that there are some tough things that are happening in my life because these tough things are evidence for how much God cares about you. The fact that he would take somebody he loves as much as me and allow him to suffer for your sake should show you how valuable you are to him."
Let me make it very clear what Paul is saying right here. "…I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church…" Paul is saying, "I'm doing my part. I am doing my part as a part of this spiritual body that Christ has created through the baptism and presence of his Spirit where he brought a diverse group of people underneath one head, and this body is to glorify that head, and I'm doing my part as part of that body in suffering for the sake of that head," even as you will find out in a minute that he thinks others who are part of that body should.
Watch what he says here. He says, "I'm doing my part in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions." Now, the people in this town who received this letter were being attacked by those folks who wanted to tell them, "Your Jesus isn't enough. You need to not just believe in this Jesus, but you need to do these deeds in order for God to love you, if God exists, or this Jesus who has given you spiritual wisdom and understanding isn't insightful enough. You need to add to that some other knowledge."
We get the English word knowledge from the Greek word gnosis. The idea here is that there's this belief called Gnosticism which has a lot of different forms throughout history, but it's the idea that your information is okay, but you need to always keep learning and you need to always have more information because you never have ultimate truth. Gnosticism is the belief that nobody has been enlightened by definitive, absolute truth. There is always something else you need.
Jesus made a very specific claim that he was the truth. Period. You needed to add nothing to what he did or who he was in order to have wisdom and understanding. We want to always be learning what it means to understand that Jesus is wisdom and truth, but what he's saying is, "You don't need somebody else's insight to be added to mine. You have everything pertaining to life and godliness in me. Everything you need is complete in me, so you don't need to add to what I've given you in order to be acceptable to God."
Whatever Paul is saying right here in verse 24, is not that you need to add to the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. What Paul is saying right here is, "The body of Christ that he lived in as the son of Joseph and Mary, though he existed in the form of God he did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped or held onto, but he emptied himself, and being found in appearance as a man and being made in the likeness of a man, he became obedient even to the point of death, death on a cross."
What it's saying is that Jesus' body was offered up, and it suffered tremendously, and his blood was spilled, and his body was broken in order that Christ in his physical body might perfectly provide for the salvation of his people. That body was resurrected and was ascended. It's interesting that we are told his body is now seated at the right hand of God the Father.
Why is that significant? It's significant for this reason. Because when you look at how God revealed how man should approach him, it was always with fear and trembling. God always required blood to be shed as a payment for sins. That is why the sacrificial system was introduced in the Old Testament. It was to give man a picture or an indication that God was holy and he requires justice for those who offend him.
The blood of bulls and goats was continually spilled on his altar as a sacrifice saying, "We know we are guilty before you, and you have given us a system so we can acknowledge our guilt." This system was that this animal which was without blemish… God said, "Don't give me your deformed and your weak. You give me your 2,000-pound blue-ribbon hog that is unblemished and without defect, and you have it sacrificed for me."
To a Jew, they would never sacrifice a pig, but I was just thinking about that big old hog I saw at the state fair. "You give me your lamb. You give me your ox. You sacrifice a good one for me. That shows you that good must die for your evil." We are told that it's impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin, but it was a picture. It was anticipating an ultimate sacrifice that would one day come.
That is why Jesus was first identified when he was on the scene by a forerunner who said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"The perfect Lamb of God. When Jesus offered his sacrifice, he didn't offer it in a temple made by human hands. It says he presented his own body as a sacrifice, not in the temple but before the very presence of God.
The temple was a symbol of the presence of God, the Holy of Holies where God is. God gave it as a picture to people that he would dwell there with them and have relationship with them. It says that Jesus did not offer his body there. He offered his body in the very presence of the Father. It says that when he did that, from that moment on, the judgment and justice of God was satisfied.
The theological word is propitiated (accomplished or paid) so, unlike every high priest in the Old Testament, Jesus was seated. There was no place for a high priest to sit in the temple because his work was never done, but Jesus, our High Priest, is said to be seated at the right hand of God, an indication that the sufferings of Christ were complete and sufficient to satisfy all that God required for the sin of the world.
Why does Paul say, "I suffer to complete what is lacking in Christ's affliction"? The reason is because what he is saying right here is, "While Christ's death was sufficient for salvation to be accomplished, his physical body is not here to suffer anymore for that gospel message which means good news to be proclaimed," so Christ introduced a new spiritual body which he anticipated in Matthew 16.
He said to Peter, "Peter, the fact that you just said I am the Messiah, that I am the Christ, the Son of the living God and I am the one who is the long-anticipated hope of the nations… That is, mighty God, eternal Father, Prince of Peace, the Wonderful Counselor that will set the captives free. The fact that you know that, you, as leaders and apostles I will use to send forth to go and proclaim this message, are going to be the bedrock of this new institution I am forming called the church.
I will bring the church together, and I will form a body which right now the world has never seen, a body that will be made up of individuals from all of the nations, some Jew and some non-Jew, some male and some female, some folks who have gone through a system of worship that had them circumcise their males and some who haven't been circumcised, some who are Barbarians and some who are Scythians, some who are slave and some who are free, and they will all have equal standing before me as the head of this new body which I will create at the moment my Spirit brings them together underneath me as the head."
The church began when Christ instituted the baptism or the creation of this new mystery body that nobody had understood was coming. In the Old Testament, it was not a mystery that one day all of the nations would have a relationship with God. What was never understood, though, was that one day even those folks who had come to believe in the God of the Jews would have equal access to God that the Jews did.
If you go read the Old Testament, you'll find out that even folks who heard the message of the Jews that God created the world, that God has a love for the world, that God is seeking the world, and that God has a standard of righteousness that can only be met through the system he is going to introduce for men to approach him, they could still only go to a certain place. It was called the wall of the Gentiles. Any non-Jew who crossed that wall was to be put to death, but Jesus says that he broke down that wall.
Let me continue reading and show you this. Paul is saying, "I have this message, and I'm a part of this new ministry body that God created at what was called Pentecost when the Spirit of God came." Look at verse 25. He picks up and says, "Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God…""It's not mine. I am a servant of it. I am responsible for it."
"…bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."
What Paul is saying right there is, "I am a steward of what God has accomplished, and this new body he has created which is called the church is now to suffer in the proclamation of what Christ has done in the same way Christ's physical body suffered to accomplish it." Paul is saying, "I'm doing my part."
He's saying, "For those of you who are in Colossae who are getting criticized for your belief in Jesus and who are going to be ostracized and told that you're extremists or you're radical and who are going to live a life that loves and prays for its enemies and who are going to live a life that is not about its own material comfort and advancement and are going to be criticized and ridiculed and experience sacrifice for that, good! Sacrifice for it. Suffer for it so the world might go, 'What is it that drives you?'" Let me make a couple of observations here.
First, what Paul says is the glory of the church is the fact that they are no longer… If you'll look with me at verse 27, it says right there, "I suffer for this sake, that the message would get out that the riches of the glory of us, the church, is that Christ is in us, and it's the hope of our glory." All that means is that when I die, I'm not going to approach Christ in fear and trembling, wondering if I have been good enough long enough in order to be accepted by him.
But I am in Christ who has already been seen as acceptable by God, and Christ is in me as he has established and brought me into a relationship with him through the indwelling of his Spirit as all true believers of Christ have, so when I stand before Christ, I have nothing I will hope in except what God has already shown is acceptable to him, so there is a peace in me in terms of my concern for my ability to stand before God without judgment.
As I said last week, I can squander this great stewardship of truth God has given me and not live responsibly as a son, and I will experience judgment as a servant, but I know I am acceptable to God and brought into his family and no longer a child of wrath because I have put my faith in what my heavenly Father has accomplished through the sacrifice of his Son Jesus Christ, so I rest.
I am seated with Christ at the right hand of the Father, and I no longer have this insecurity. "Have I loved enough? Have I been pure enough? Have I been philanthropic enough?" Now, I'm always striving to become more like Christ and live in light of eternity as a servant who will glorify him in how I live, but I am not putting together a resume that I wonder if it will meet the test. That is my hope, that the glory of Christ alone makes me acceptable.
Paul is saying, "You suffer for the proclamation of this message. This is a world that is uneasy. In its heart it knows it is corrupt. In its heart it knows it has left Christ. In its heart it knows it has violated even its own standard, so you take the message of peace, peace accomplished through this Jesus who lived and died and who was God in the flesh, and you tell it to them. You tell them to embrace this Jesus and to love this Jesus and to love God and love others as an expression of their commitment to who Christ is."
What Paul is saying right here is, "I am suffering so you might know this gospel, and the fact that I suffer so much is evidence of how valuable you are." Let me make a little observation right here. The observation is simply that when you live a life that is sold out for the gospel and when you suffer for the gospel, when you become committed to it and you realize there is nothing in your life that is as preeminent as making sure that others can understand the hope that you have, it becomes a testimony to how valuable those who haven't received the message are.
This week, we had a time over at a friend's house. Some of you guys who are involved with us in the prayer ministry know that Carrie Green had a lesion inside her skull that they thought was cancerous. They were going to have to go in and exorcise and take out a little bit of that tumor and test it to see if it was benign or malignant and then act accordingly.
We got together over at her house Tuesday night to pray. A lot of folks got together. She is a person who loves a lot of folks in this community. There are a lot of folks who care for her, many who don't know the hope of Jesus Christ, and they were there, and I said something that night, as we got ready to pray for Carrie in a very brief moment.
What I said was simply, "Let me tell you something. We love an irresponsible, reckless, crazy God. What I mean by that is it's not beyond the scope of God's love for you that he would allow Carrie to get this lesion on her brain and to go through the uncertainty of what is going to happen with her tomorrow and have to go through the pain of surgery and have to have the discomfort of what goes on with her son and daughter and her husband in order that you might be here tonight to hear about the hope we ultimately have that Jesus Christ is going to heal Carrie Green.
By that, we don't mean the doctors are going to get in there tomorrow and find out it's definitely benign or they're even going to look at it another time and go, 'Wow! We don't even know why we went in there to begin with. There's nothing there!' We don't know that's going to happen. We pray that it would.
We know God can, but we know this. If it's malignant and cancerous and Carrie isn't with us physically in one month, we know Christ is sovereign even over the sin that leads to death and will deliver her from it and has taken away the sting of judgment which is death and separation from God from her life.
He's just crazy enough to let her go through this that you might be here tonight to hear about that hope we have, so we're going to pray God works this little story out this way, but you need to hear this story, that we have hope, and it's Christ in us, not the fact that we're cancer free, and God wants you to know it. I'm not saying this is why Carrie has this, but I know this. God is just reckless enough to let this happen so you could hear this today."
A couple of years ago we buried a sweet little baby here who died of SIDS in her car seat. Sweet Brian and Meredith had hundreds of folks there at their daughter's funeral, and I stood there and said the exact same thing. I said, "We don't know why this happened, but I do know we serve a God who is reckless and irresponsible. He is so irresponsible that, if the only means through which some of you would ever go someplace where you would hear this message is at the funeral of the daughter of a friend and that you might hear about the hope of who Jesus Christ is, he would let this family go through that only for the sake of who you are in relationship to God, the lost one that he cares for."
We buried a set of twins who were even younger right after that and said the exact same thing there. Do you know how I know that? I know that because, as I look at the story of history and I see what God has done and I see from the very moment that humankind, who he created and he wanted a relationship with, that he was going to glorify himself in, and share his love with, turned from God and ran its own way, every single act of God was a missionary act from that moment forward all the way until God did something that was unspeakable.
The Creator and the Sovereign One became a man, humbled himself, lived as a man, lived a perfect and sinless life, allowed his creation which deserved judgment to judge him, to hate him, to whip him, to beat him, to nail him to a cross, and to mock him only so that those who needed judgment could be offered forgiveness that they might be restored into relationship with him in such a way that when this was anticipated in the Scripture it says, "Let me tell you something. It's something so wonderful that, if I told you about it, you could not attain to it."
So much so that when Jesus told those who were friends of Jesus when he walked on this earth he was going to go to a cross they said, "God forbid it, Lord! No!" Jesus said, "Get behind me. You're thinking like a man, and you're not thinking as recklessly and irresponsibly and lovingly as supernaturally divine goodness thinks, and I am going to die, and it's so wonderful you can't even understand it, but I'm going to show you how great and valuable you are to God that God himself would die to redeem you."
Folks, that's unspeakable! It's a passion this world cannot get its arms around. You know. That's what the church has called for 2,000 years the story of the gospel of Jesus Christ when he goes to the cross. It's called the passion. We did a little series here that talked about the worldview of the Scriptures, and it told the story about where we came from, where we're going, why we're here, and why there's evil.
One of the questions in the series titled Why? was Why All the Passion? We know Gibson named his movie this. Why would Jesus go through what he went through to be beaten, scourged, mocked, and spit upon? Why all of that passion? The answer is because God loves that much. One of the evidences that folks who are far from God matter is the fact that he cared so much about his church and he would still call that church to suffer for those who don't know the message yet.
Paul said, "I'm doing my part." Let me show you what Paul meant by that. In Ephesians, chapter 3, this is what Paul communicated. He said, "To me, the very least of all saints…" **That was Paul's view of himself."…this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration…" If you will, that is the way God is going to operate."…of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things…"**
Before we flip that, let me just tell you what that means. What he's saying here is, "God is about to do something that nobody understood before. He's not going to work through some little esoteric race of people. He's going to bring all nations together under one head, and he's going to do it through his own sacrifice and through the baptizing of different people into relationship with this head through the power of his Spirit."
Watch this. He says, "…so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church [the body of Christ] to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord…" The one who was God and who died for us. "…in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory."
What do we mean by that? What we mean by that is when you throw an all-out search and say, "There's no resource expenditure which is too irresponsible and no sacrifice for those who seek it that Private Ryan is worth all of this loss of life to get him back home to Mama," and you go, "Who is this child? Why would God do so much to get this person?" It is your glory to show your value.
There is one place in Scripture where Jesus told three stories to illustrate this one point. Jesus was spending time with the sick, with the tax collectors, with the prostitutes, with the downtrodden, and with the sinners, and they said, "Why do you do this?" He said, "Let me tell you three stories. The first story was about a shepherd who had 100 sheep. That's a lot of sheep. One of them was gone. He left those 99 he had to go find that one because that one was so valuable that it warranted an all-out search, and when he found it there was great rejoicing.
I want to tell you another story. It's not about someone who had 100 and lost one; it's about a woman who had 10 and lost one of her gold coins. When she lost that gold coin, she turned that house upside down looking for it. She didn't just rest in the fact that she still had nine. She went hard after that one. She ripped out everything she could until she found that one, and when she found that one, there was a party."
He said, "I'm not really done. You think the 100 to one is a big deal or the 10 to one is a big deal. Let me tell you another story. This is not just some sheep. This is not just something that provides provision and gives life and sustenance to a widow. This is a father. He has two boys, and one of them takes off. One of them just goes crazy. One of them squanders everything the father ever gave to him. One of them runs away. This father lost 50 percent of what he had in terms of sons.
Every day that father would go out to the edge of his property and would look out and would wait for the day that son would come to his senses and return back home. One day, the father saw him, and the father ran to him and embraced him and brought him back and put his finest robe on him. He killed the fatted calf, and they threw a party, and he said, 'My son that was lost has returned.'"
Jesus is saying, "Do you want to know why I spend time with lost people? Because, just like a shepherd names every one of his sheep and depends on those sheep and knows them individually, when one is gone he'll go look for him because he loves those sheep. It's his job to keep those sheep.
Just like the woman needs all 10 of those coins to have the security she needs and the provision she needs, when she loses one she's going to find it. She knows that coin. Just like a daddy who loses two boys, I lost some people. I lost those I created who I want a relationship with, and I'm going to seek them, and when I find them there's going to be great rejoicing."
Every one of those stories tells you something. That which is missing is valuable, that which is missing is worth an all-out search, and when that which is missing is found it warrants a great celebration. It says there is great rejoicing in heaven when even one sinner returns to Christ. We're going to do our best in our little humble way to celebrate next Sunday different folks who stand up and say, "I am in Christ. He is my hope. He is my glory. I am at peace with God."
We're going to go, "That is unbelievable!" You're going to hear folks say, "I relate to God through Jesus Christ and his death and burial and his resurrection as evidence that God has accepted him as my hope. Now, even as Christ died for me, I live for him, and I will now, as part of the body that he has created supernaturally, continue suffering for the sake of the good news that God has been irresponsible to communicate to man all of these years."
There is something of great value that is lost, and when it is found there is great rejoicing. I have a bit of a problem. I'm going to admit it probably borders on that which needs some help. When we lose something at our house… We have six kids under 12 and two adults under 45 who all have a tendency to misplace some things.
We figure this out typically right when we're getting ready to hit the road. I go, "We ain't leaving! We had three Game Boys, and we only have two. I'm not going to listen to y'all fight for the next four hours. If you want to play Game Boys, let's stop and go find the other Game Boy." They're like, "Dad." I go, "No. These are valuable. They're not just things to throw away." We'll look all over for them. We'll look for a specific game that goes with the Game Boy.
We'll sometimes be at a soccer game with one of our kids and another kid will have brought a ball there. They'll get disinterested with the ball they brought, and some other kid will pick it up or they'll give it to them, and we'll get home and go, "Where's that ball?" They go, "I don't know."
"Well, let's go find it. We can't be irresponsible with our possessions. We have to be good stewards of that. They matter to us." The reason this glove is up here that I'm kicking around is because we had a soccer game yesterday, and somebody walked up to me this morning and said, "Your boy left his glove yesterday at the ballpark." Had I known that, we may have cancelled church until we found it today because something of great value was missing, and we're going to find it.
For me, the thing that's valuable that I'm teaching my kids is you have to be responsible for stuff. You can't just say, "We'll get another one," or "I'll use my sister's," or "I'll do this." Yeah, we can buy another sweatshirt, but where is that stuff? When we lose things, we work it out from our own resources to re-supply it.
What God's going to do in this deal is say, "Let me tell you something. You think Wagner is neurotic about finding a Game Boy before they get in the car? You should see how irresponsible, crazy, and reckless I am in finding one of my children who I created who is lost from me. I go hard after him.
I go so hard that I'm willing to let Carrie Green potentially for no other reason than because some neighbor will be there on that night when a community of faith will surround her and talk about the hope they have in Christ. If that's the only church she'll ever go to, she would have heard it last Tuesday."
So irresponsible is he that he would let the Englands and the Fowlers go through unspeakable pain so somebody who would never step someplace where they could hear the gospel would hear it at the funeral of the daughter of a friend. That is offensive, isn't it? I'm not saying that's why any of those three happened. I'm saying God has shown that if that's the only reason it happened it works in his economy, and there will be a day he will comfort those tears and show us things we can't now understand.
Here's my question. Do you get that? Are you filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions now with the way you prioritize your life? Is Christ not a priority in your life? Is Christ not prominent in your life? Is Christ so preeminent that others watch you and look at you and go, "I can tell what matters to that individual, that the message of hope is a big deal to them"? Let me just take you someplace. I want to read you five questions I threw out that will help us wrestle through this and figure this out. Here's the first one.
1._ When was the last time you had a meaningful conversation with somebody who is far from God?_ Notice I did not say on there, "When was the last time you shared the gospel message with somebody?" I just want to know when the last time was you had a meaningful conversation with somebody who is not in a relationship with God and who has no hope, who doesn't yet understand the mystery of what God has accomplished through this guy who lived 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem.
What's such a big deal about him that gives you peace? I didn't ask you when you shared with another. I wanted to know when the last time was that you said to somebody, "How are you doing? What's going on in your life?" and you have gotten to know them a little bit. Do you know how crazy it is that you're telling somebody out there that you're in a relationship and you're dating somebody but you're not spending any time with them to get to know them better?
That would be crazy. What do you mean you have a relationship and you're dating them but you're not spending any time with them? You don't care about that person. You're not trying to nurture a relationship to take that to a meaningful place. For those of us who are here who say we love Christ and say we are committed to him, if we don't love what he loves and do as he did, it betrays our profession that we have a relationship with him if we don't love and have a relationship and seek those he loves.
My question is…When was the last time you had a meaningful conversation with somebody who does not have a meaningful relationship with God? You just talked about what was going on in their life, where their frustrations were or their insecurities were or their hopes were or how their marriage is working out or how they're feeling about how their kids are doing or what they're doing right now to make life more joyful for them, just showing care and concern for them.
People typically don't care how much you know until they know how much you care, so I'm asking you as a person who is supposed to love this world to be a minister of reconciliation and an ambassador for Christ and to fulfill what is lacking in Christ's afflictions… Since his body was spent for salvation purposes, he wants his spiritual body to be spent for gospel proclamation purposes. How are you doing? Have you even prioritized your life in such a way that you have time for those who have not yet met God?
2._ If God answered every one of your prayers this week, would it have saved someone from a Christless eternity?_ Would it have changed somebody's relationship with the kingdom of heaven? What I mean by that is it's great if you've been praying for the 10/40 Window which has been the hot mission idea these last couple of decades. They take certain latitudes and longitudes and say, "A certain percent of un-reached people in the world live in this little window right here."
I'm not talking about praying for continents and praying for countries. We ought to do that. I want to know if there are people in your life who you know by name (not nameless or faceless phonebook people but folks who it breaks your heart to know that they might be headed for a Christless eternity). If God answered every one of your prayers this week, how many people's eternity would be radically changed as a result?
3._ When was the last time someone asked you to give a defense for the unreasonable love, care, integrity, sacrifice, or goodness that is evidenced in your life?_ When was the last time somebody said, "Can I ask you a question? I just noticed the way you initiate with me and care about me and ask me questions about my family and write me notes and, when we're sick, come around us or the way you love my kids or the way you're involved with your kids or the way you're involved with your community or the way you're always available or the way your life just reeks of wisdom."
Let me just say this. All three of these questions insinuate that you are around people who don't have a relationship with God. You can't suffer for the sake of the gospel if you don't have a relationship at least with those who don't even know what the gospel is. All three questions I threw up here, first, are just saying, "Are you near somebody?"
4._ Are you so near them that you know their names so you can pray for them?_ Are you so near them that you can have meaningful conversations? Are you so near them that they see the light in your life, that the salt of your life makes them thirsty, that they say, "Will you explain that to me?" That's how I came to Christ.
When I was in high school, there was a group of folks… I went through a pretty tough time. At the time, I was still under the mindset that athletes didn't do a lot of alcohol and drugs. I happened to be physically way behind where everybody else was in my particular age group and stage of development.
I tell kids I see all of the time, "When I weighed in for football my freshman year, I was the only one who did not have three digits by his name." I was a skinny young man. I really wanted to have success and play a lot of sports. I had a lot of fun doing it, but what happened was the guys I ran with and competed with all of a sudden started making some choices in seventh, eighth, and ninth grade that I just didn't want to make, not because I had any convictions of faith. I just thought that was not what athletes did at the time. I was under that naïve conviction.
Well, I went from being a kid who had a lot to do (kind of in the in crowd, the popular, athletic group) to being a very rejected kid who folks were very specific in their effort to humiliate me because I would not endorse what they were doing. I said, "Let me be your friend. Just don't make me smoke the dope you're smoking."
I couldn't care less, but if I'm going to be there and they said, "You make us feel bad when you don't do what we do," that put a switch off in me in the way God made me. I said, "Let me just tell you something. You told me I was your friend, and now you're telling me if I don't do something I'm not your friend. I don't want those kind of friends."
The way God made me was a very independent person. I went from having a lot of fun and a lot of things to do on the weekends to knowing what every episode of Fantasy Island and The Love Boat ends like. Yes, I was very good friends with the Fantasy Island people. That's all I did. I was the guy who was going through life, and for some reason, there was a group of folks two classes ahead.
There was a little different spirit in that class. The starting quarterback of the football team was a junior. One day, I was walking down the hall, and he had learned my name and said, "Todd, how are you doing?" I said, "Fine." A little bit later at lunch, his girlfriend who was one of the cheerleaders knew my name and said, "Todd, how are you doing?" I go, "Fine, Michelle."
She said, "Are you going to the dance this weekend?" I said, "I think so." She said, "I'd love to dance with you one time at it." I was like, "Are you kidding me? Does your boyfriend know that? I weigh 99 pounds!" I can remember to this day Michelle teaching me how to do the pretzel. I'm telling you it marked me. I thought, "What are these people doing? Why do they know me?"
I could remember her boyfriend calling me saying, "Do you want to go out with us this Friday night after the game?" They started to love me. I finally said after about three weeks, "What is this? Is this some joke? Are you guys setting me up for something? What is going on here? Explain your life to me."
They said, "Do you want to know? Here's the deal. We know that you matter a lot to God. Therefore, you just matter a lot to us. We're involved with this thing on Thursday nights called Young Life. We'd love for you to come with us. If you don't want to come, that's fine. We still want to be your friend, though. We hang out together on the weekends all of the time. There's a big group of us who go out. We'd love for you to be a part."
I thought to myself, "There's something different about these folks." I started to spend time with them, and they started to have meaningful conversations with me about my insecurities and fears, and they prayed for me by name. I said, "Would you explain to me what is going on with you?" They told me what was going on with them was a relationship with a God whose love made no sense to me, and it changed my eternity.
Now, I want to know who the folks are who you're seeking out like that and loving. Who are the people who can't explain why you've learned their name and why you ask them to be a part of your world? Here's the way we say it with some inside language. Have you gone three for three? If you're a member of our church, you understand what this means, or you should.
We have this thing called a Top 10 List. I want you to know, if you're a guest here today, we are pretty fired up. Maybe somebody has been inviting you for a long time to come here. This will not offend you at all, will it, that we believe that we know how to have peace with God and we have found truth by the grace of God? We as humble beggars have found bread and life, and because you're our friends, we just want to say, "This is what we've found, and we don't love you if we don't tell you about this."
Going three for three or having a Top 10 List… All that means is we have identified at least 10 people who we know who don't have a relationship with God that is meaningful and gives them peace, and we've been praying for you, and we've been trying to do three things: initiate a relationship with you, at some point get to a place where it's appropriate through meaningful conversation not to just talk about things that are out there in life but to share with you our story of grace, and then to invite you to a place where you can understand what grace is all about.
I'll tell you we're not done after that. There are four more things we still are praying that would happen. Fourthly, that you would come to a place that you understand the love of Christ and you would embrace it. Fifthly, that you would personally identify with it through baptism and through belonging to his body.
Sixth, that you would then grow in your relationship with who this Jesus is and you would be complete in Christ as a person who understands his Word that becomes a lamp to your feet and a light unto your path. Seventh, that you would figure out your gifts and begin to steward your life for the sake of this gospel so you can initiate a friendship with those who are far from God and not in a meaningful relationship with him, share your story of grace, and invite them to a place where they can hear about Christ.
The reason we say we go three for three is it's not our job to put you and your conversion as a little notch on our belt. It's because that's something you have to figure out, and we're going to love you whether you ever agree with us about who this Jesus is or not. Here's what I do with folks. I'm very intentional to spend time with folks who have no relationship with God.
My wife and I try to be strategic with that. As we build relationships with them through means we have established… Right now, our kids are the primary means that we have an opportunity to develop relationships with other people. We look for a place where appropriately at a given time we can share with them our story of grace. It typically goes like this. As we've become friends, in some conversation we start to talk about things we do and why we do them.
I say, "Do you care if we just tell you what makes our lives the way they are? Here's the deal. We really believe God's Word reveals to us the truth all of us are looking for. If I can share with you the story of how I came to a relationship with God, I'd love to do it. I'd love to do it just one time, and I want you to know that every time we're together I'm not going to try to work the conversation to where I can pound you with the gospel, but I'm not going to call myself or consider myself your friend if you don't know this is the central part of my life that affects everything I do. Here's the deal."
I share with them my story of grace. Then, I say, "Any time you want to talk about spiritual things, that is number one on my list. I love to do it. You'll never be bothering me when we have a spiritual conversation, but you need to know I'm not going to try to work every time we're together toward that. I'm going to enjoy playing golf with you. I'm going to enjoy raising kids with you. I'm going to enjoy going to dinner with your family. I'm going to enjoy processing business opportunities and philosophical ideas with you.
You need to know it would be the delight of my heart for you to discuss spiritual things with me. I'm going to pray for things to happen in your life that would make you curious about that, but you can know this. I'm going to love you whether you ever embrace Jesus Christ or not, but I'm also going to sleep well knowing that when you die and you stand before the Father who I believe will hold you into account you won't look at him and go, 'I don't know what you're talking about,' and God won't say to you, 'Weren't you friends with Todd Wagner and Alex Wagner?' and you'll say, 'Yeah.'
'Didn't they ever explain to you who I was?'
'They did.' I don't ever want to hear you say, 'No, they were just good people.' I want you to be able to say, 'Todd and Alex did labor with me on that, and they did share with me what it would mean to have a relationship with you, and I never ever wanted to go there with him, but he loved me enough to tell me that.' I'm done with that. That's all I want to do, and when you want to have that conversation, great!
I'll be your friend no matter what happens, and any time you want to come, if there's some stuff going on, I'm going to let you know until you tell me not to when the strategic things that I think might be of interest to you like how to improve your marriage or how to raise kids or stuff on The Da Vinci Code and things about same-sex marriage and homosexuality and how reasonably we can address that kind of stuff. I'll invite you when I think you might be interested. You can always say, 'No,' and know that my friendship isn't affected by that."
That's three for three. When I get those three at that place, I look for three more. When I get that 10 to that place, I get 10 more. If you're here today and you're on somebody's Top 10 List, all that means is somebody loves you and we're trying.
5._ If you were given the opportunity, could you confidently lead somebody to a place where they could receive God's offer of salvation?_ Can you clearly and concisely and compassionately with conviction and with clarity tell somebody, if they wanted to, how to have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ?
If you can't, it's the first thing we need to help you do. After you yourself come to a relationship with God, we want to help you and admonish every man and teach every man that we might present every man complete in Christ. The first thing we have to learn to do is learn how to share the gospel message.
If you can't do that, you're not an evangelist. You're still an evangelistic field. If there is no story of grace for you to share in a clear and concise way, we need to help you do it. There are classes set up to do just that. Just come tell me today. Put it in the little perforated section. "I'd love to know how to do that in one minute or three minutes, or I'd love to get to the place where I could do it for 30 minutes if I were given the chance." We will labor with you till no end until you feel confident to do that. Could you do it?
Folks are still using evangelistic methods that were effective 30 years ago that aren't effective today. Some folks are still using Bibles that speak in a language that nobody speaks to or speaks about. If you go up to somebody and say to them, "Dost thou understand God?" and they say, "Verily, yea," then buy that person a King James Version and teach out of it, but if not, move on! Figure out some other way to connect with folks in a culturally relevant way. Let me show you. Here's a little clip we put together to tell you what not to be. Watch this.
Male: Presenting Real Christians of Genius.
Male:"Real Christians of Genius…"
Male: Today we salute you, Mister Christianese-speaking person.
Male:"Mister Christianese-speaking person…"
Male: When conventional wisdom said no one could understand what you're communicating, you dared to prove them wrong.
Male:"You dared to prove them wrong."
Male: You knew your neighbor didn't know words like Trinity, salvation, and eschatology, but you overused them anyway.
Male:"You can't stop me now."
Male: When people told you what they believed, you had the guts to laugh in their face and wish them luck in everlasting retribution.
Male:"You got to be kidding!"
Male: So stand proud, chosen one. Yea, though your words confuse the masses, thou knowest what thy meaneth.
Male:"Thou knowest what thy meaneth."
[End of video]
We're just having some fun with Budweiser and their little campaign, The Real Beer Drinkers of Genius. Let me just tell you something even worse is when folks don't understand how to communicate that which is the hope of the world, and you speak in a language that misses people, and you have a life that folks just go, "I don't see that relating to me."
Let me give you a metaphor. On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occurred, there was once a crude, little lifesaving station. The building was just a hut. There was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought for themselves, they went out day and night tirelessly searching for the lost.
Many lives were saved by this wonderful little station so that it became famous. Some of those who were saved and various others in the surrounding area wanted to become associated with the station and give of their time and money and effort for the support of its work. New boats were bought and new crews were trained. That little lifesaving station grew.
Some of its members of the lifesaving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and poorly equipped that they felt a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea, so they replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged building.
Now, the lifesaving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they decorated it beautifully and furnished it exquisitely because they used it as sort of a club for them. Fewer of the members were now interested in going to sea on lifesaving missions, so they hired a lifeboat crew to do this work. The lifesaving motif still prevailed in this club's decoration, and there was a liturgical lifeboat in the room where the club initiations were held.
About this time, a large ship was wrecked off of the coast, and the hired crews brought in boatloads of cold, wet, and half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick. Some of them had black skin. Some had yellow skin. Some were poor. The beautiful new club was considerably messed up, so the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside of the club where victims of shipwrecks could be cleaned up before coming inside.
At the next meeting, there was a split in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club's lifesaving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. Some members insisted upon lifesaving as their primary purpose and pointed out they were still called a lifesaving station, but they were finally voted down and told that, if they wanted to save the lives of all of the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own lifesaving work down the coast, so they did.
As the years went by, though, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. It evolved into a club. Yet, another lifesaving station was founded. History continued to repeat itself, and if you visit that seacoast today, you'll find a number of exclusive clubs along the shore. Shipwrecks are still frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown because most of the people in those stations have lost their heart for what those stations are for.
Let me just tell you something. If you're a member of this church, you'd better realize we are always about leaving a light on. It isn't about us. It's about those who have not yet heard the message yet, but because those folks who haven't heard the message yet are so important it is why we admonish you and teach you that every man and woman here might be able to leave a light on in their life and invest deeply in what we're doing together to leave the light on for others.
We will always be a church that leaves a light on, and if you see stuff here that you think doesn't connect and work with you, then I frankly don't care as long as it's consistent with God's Word and it's connecting with those who need a light. If you want a place that's going to resonate with you every week in styles that you think are familiar and helpful to you, then you find that place, but what we are collectively doing (the core of this body, which I believe is every member) is sacrificing what is normal and consistent and easy for us that the light might be on for others.
That means if you're not serving and loving with us right now for that purpose you had better take a really hard look at who you think this Jesus is. If you're a friend who is here today and you want to know who this Christ is, we can talk with you and answer whatever question you have in whatever timing you want. I want you to know something. There is nothing that would give us more pleasure because his light is on here for you. Have a great week of worship.
From a book that is 2,000 years old comes evidence that has been preserved about the greatest truth the world has ever known and how it can transform our lives. The book of Colossians walks through the radical change that happened to some in an ancient east Asian city, revealing the struggles they faced, the resistance they met, and the transformation they found as a result of the hope they had. Join Todd Wagner as he studies the Colossians scene to discern how their journey can reveal truths that can change us.