In today's message JP reminded us in Matthew 5 that Christians are called to be salt and light to the decaying and dark world surrounding us.
The Unstoppable Force of the Gospel
Taking Light to the World
Take A Step: Saving Our City
Your Purpose, Your Place, Your People
Good morning. If we haven't met, my name is JP. Good morning, Fort Worth. Good morning, Plano, as they tune in with us. Good morning, Dallas. It's great to be here with you this morning. For about the past 12 months, for the past year, my wife and I (her name is Monica) and our family have been building a house. The way this came about, if you're curious, is somebody knocked on our door to our old house and said they wanted to buy it. I said, "You can," my wife cried, and we negotiated from there.
Then I called two friends of mine who are builders and who are very generous. Thanks to their generosity and the sale of our house, we were able to build a house just a couple of miles north of the Dallas campus here. When we told people we were going to build a house, they responded in interesting ways. A lot of folks sat us down and they said, "Hey, how's your marriage?" I was like, "What? I think it's… I mean, it's good. Why do you ask?" They said, "Man, this is going to be hard. It's going to be really tough."
"What? Building the house?"
"Yeah. It's going to take a real toll on your marriage and relationships and your work and stress."
I was like, "Really? Well, I had no idea." Some of you, evidently, have built houses, because you laughed and you maybe knew that. I didn't know that. Looking back over the past 12 months, honestly, it's been great. It's been fantastic. The guys are really good at what they do. We've really trusted them. It's gone pretty flawless. In fact, as I look back, there was kind of one time that was a little stressful.
That was around the topic of lights. Here's why: Lights are expensive and a lot has to go into it. You have the fixtures themselves which are expensive. Then you have all of the electrical work that goes into them, which is also expensive. We were on a really strict budget throughout this process, so I'm trying to get by with as few lights as possible.
So we're looking at the light plans. We're sitting there with the builder. We're talking about over the stairs; they have three lights there. I'm like, "Dude, we do not need three lights there. Let's just put a really bright light there. We'll find a 300-watt bulb or something." He's like, "No. JP, these are the stairs. Your kids are going to fall down the stairs." I'm like, "Kids are resilient. They'll figure it out. It's going to be fine. We'll hand out flashlights to everyone when they come to see us, or something. We could get by with lamps. I don't know, but let's do with less lights."
I'm literally moving walls. I'm like, "Could this bulb… Okay, if we move this wall, maybe it could light up that whole area." We're talking about this, because where you put lights is important. In fact, when the house was built and we were doing the walk-through… The builder was with me, and we were walking throughout the kitchen. I see him, and he's just kind of like locked in on these two pendant lights above the island.
I'm like, "Yeah. This looks good. This looks good." I'm like, "What are you doing?" He goes, "Those lights are four inches off." Now mind you, it's Sheetrocked and painted. It's done. I'm like, "Bro, it's fine. Four inches. No big deal." He goes, "No, no. No, those are four inches the wrong direction. We need to redo it." I'm like, "No, no. It's okay." He goes, "No, no. JP, you don't understand. Where you put lights matters."
This is the builder. He takes pride in his work. He goes, "The placement of these, the plans we put in place, all the time we sat and we had the conversations of where the lights go… Where you put lights, it matters. If they're four inches off, they're not going to hit where they need to hit, and so we need to move those. We need to redo that."
Likewise, the reason I start there and the reason I tell you that is because God is building something. He is bringing forth his kingdom here to the earth, and he is building something through us. The metaphor he has given for us in the Scripture is lights. God is placing lights in strategic places: throughout the city, in your work, where you go. Where you put lights matters. Jesus calls us lights. He says, "You are the light of the world. You're going to go and show people the pathway to eternal life by the way you live and by the things you share with them."
That is why we're moving the direction we are. I've heard these things around evangelism… I know a lot of us are like, "Oh, great. Another extrovert yelling at me, an introvert, telling me I need to share my faith. Great. This is great. I'm going to leave here, I'm going to feel guilty, I'm probably going to muster up the courage a few times, and then it's going to fade to the back." I don't want to do that. I don't want to do that.
In fact, I read some statistics that frankly didn't add up. I'll read them to you. The first is that 80 percent of Christians believe they have a personal responsibility to share their faith. That's interesting, because it makes me wonder about the other 20 percent. There are Christians who don't believe they need to share their faith? It's like a consumerism Christianity. I'm asking you; let me ask you before we go any further. Do you believe that God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, has put on you a personal responsibility to share your faith?
It goes on to say only 39 percent of Christians have shared with at least one person in the past 6 months, which tells us 61 percent of Christians aren't acting Christian or living out that calling on their lives. Here's the one I want to give you… I don't think it's your fault, or it's not completely your fault. I read another statistic that said only 3 percent of churches train their people in sharing their faith. Only 3 percent.
Those statistics don't add up: that God would want us to, a lot don't believe he would want us to, even more don't do it, and churches don't equip on it. Gratefully we attend a church that does, and so that's where we're going to be over the next four weeks, in a series that is entitled Let There Be Light.
Do you know the first thing the Lord says in the Scriptures? It shows up three verses in. It's the first verse that appears with quotes in your Bible. It's, "Let there be light…" It's the first thing God says in the Bible. "'Let there be light,' and there was…" What was once covered in darkness could now be seen.
Do you know what appears again right in that break of your Bible, Old Testament to New Testament? God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, becomes a human, puts on flesh, and comes to this earth. It says, "He is the light." He pushes back darkness, referring to Jesus. The first thing God says is "Let there be light…" Jesus comes and he says, "He is the light."
I'll read this to you. John, chapter 1, verse 4. "In him was life…" This is talking about Jesus. "…and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." Then in Matthew 5, verses 13-16, where we're going to be this morning in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, we see this idea of light again, but this time it's not God creating. It's not Jesus, here. It's him putting that on us. "Now you."
He's passing the torch. He's passing responsibility, just as he did to his disciples. You are to carry this torch forward. You are the light of the world. Jesus calls us light. This morning we're going to talk about being a light where you are. Specifically as we move throughout this passage, I'm going to say that as a light we're going to look at your purpose. As a light, we're going to look at your place. As a light, we're going to look at your people. Matthew 5.
To set this up, this is Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. This is the greatest sermon ever preached by God in the flesh. I think if you were there and you were listening, you'd leave and you'd be like, "That wasn't really that good. He was all over the place. Rabbit trails. He was like, 'Blessed are the poor.' Then he was like, 'You're a light.' Then he was like, 'You're salt.' He was like, 'Don't commit adultery, and if you're angry, you're a murderer.'"
You're like, "That guy is not a very good preacher. I was confused the entire message, and his illustrations weren't that great." That's what I think we would think if we were there. We laugh, but I really think we've moved to this place in consumerism Christianity where we're constantly like, "Well, is it good, and am I entertained?" I think if we were sitting there in front of Jesus, we would have been yawning, "Okay."
He says this, and we're going to unpack it. Verse 13: "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything…" That word good there is it lacks power for anything. "…except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot." Let's talk about salt a minute. He gives us two metaphors: salt and light. We're going to talk about both of them this morning.
He starts with salt. For us to understand this… You hear that and you're like, "Okay. Jesus is calling me that little canister beside the pepper. I'm confused. Oh, what Jesus is saying I'm supposed to add flavor to life. Okay. I get it. There's a metaphor." No, no, no. That's not it. Let me tell you a few things about salt.
First, it was expensive. Have you ever heard, "Is he worth his salt?" Have you ever heard that? Soldiers were actually paid in salt. The word for salt is where we get the word for salary. Salt had value in this time. It was very valuable. It wasn't used for flavor like we use it today; we put it on our steak or whatever we're eating. Salt was used as a preservative.
It would come from the ocean. So what they would do is they would go and get some seaweed from the ocean that was full of this saltwater and salt. They would rub it on their meat to preserve the meat. Then they would take that seaweed, and they would throw it on top of their flat thatched roofs. Now roofs in this time were used as sidewalks. They would go from one house to the other by walking along the roof.
What would happen with that old useless seaweed is it would be trampled underfoot to seal the roof. This is the metaphor Jesus is giving them. Salt, when it's no longer being used, is just thrown away and trampled underfoot. It's like a burnt-out light bulb. Has anybody ever kept a burnt-out light bulb? No. It's no longer purposeful. But he's saying, "As salt and as light, you have a purpose." This is a locked clue in this passage that we need to understand. "What is our purpose, Jesus? What are you telling us?" So…
1._ You have a purpose._ He is saying, "You're a preservative like salt is a preservative. You preserve the realities of God. This is your purpose here, that you would preserve, by the way you live, the things you do, and the conversations you have, the realities of God. Jesus is calling us MSG or something. He's like, "Hey, you're a preservative." Let me show you, because you hear that and you're like, "What? Okay. You lost me at MSG." Let me bring this back.
Let's consider Amsterdam. Have you heard of Amsterdam? Did you know that one day Amsterdam was known for its churches? One day Amsterdam was known for its thriving Christianity. In fact, you can go there today and there are museums that were beautiful cathedrals there. People actually travel to Amsterdam to look at the museums that were once churches, but because that light has moved on, because that preservative of that Christian culture has moved on, what's left? Rotting and decaying.
What's Amsterdam known for today? Two things: secularization and sex trade. Do you see what happened? The preservative has moved through. What's left is rotting and decaying. This is what we're talking about here. This is what Jesus is saying. "You are a preservative of the realities of God." We have here in America things on our money: "In God we trust." We say in our pledge, "One nation under God."
In fact, there's a whole website (I looked at it) dedicated to these Christian innuendoes that are injected in our culture, that our culture as we know it was actually built on. A lot of times what people love about America is not America itself; it's the Christian values in America they don't even know are actually the Christian values.
Let me explain. David Aikman, who was the bureau chief at TIME magazine in Beijing authored a book called Jesus in Beijing. There is this excerpt in this book where he is actually talking to a bunch of Chinese economists and sociologists who interviewed some American tourists. They made it their life's mission to try to understand why the West was thriving. I want to read an excerpt from his book, as he talks about this study, and some quotes from these Chinese economists.
"'One of the things we were asked to look into was what accounted for the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West all over the world,' said [the lecturer]. 'We studied everything we could from the historical, political, economic, and cultural perspective. At first, we thought it was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system.
Next, we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West has been so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don't have any doubt about this.'" Do you see that? "We don't have any doubt about this," they said.
Phillip Yancey in What Good Is God? says studies "…reveal that, in rural areas where traveling evangelists [or missionaries] introduce the Christian faith, opium addiction goes down, crime drops, and Christian families grow wealthier than their neighbors." Now that last part is a distraction because I think we start to think prosperity gospel. You think about when people stop using opium and stop engaging in addictions: they manage money differently.
Do you see what this…? Think about what they said. They said, "We want to know the secret of the West. Certainly it's the guns."
"No, it's not the guns."
"Well, it must be their superior political system."
"It's not that."
"Well, what is it? Let's dig deeper."
"Oh, there's a cross. They worship Jesus."
"They lost their lives for the sake of Christ."
"They found the one who created the world, who laid it out as it should be. When they live according to the world as it should be, by the Creator of the world, they thrive."
What happens when we stop doing this? Rot and decay. "You are the salt of the earth. You are a preservative," Jesus says. When I read that, I thought it was saying we're to preserve the realities of God, as I said earlier. I believe what it's actually saying, upon further study, is as we preserve the realities of God, God is actually preserving humanity as we know it.
He's not saying, "Be salt." He's saying, "You are salt, and as you are salt, the world, as it should be, is preserved." You're not just preserving the things of God. No. As you live out your mission as someone who knows the one true God, God through you is preserving the world as it should be. Humanity.
Let me just illustrate it like this. Every now and then when the weather is a little warmer, I like to have some people over and grill. A sunny day and some friends… This is like a 24-hour venture for me. It starts with a trip to the Tom Thumb a day before, picking the right steaks, getting the rub and the marinade and whatnot, and then starting. I get these Ziploc bags, and I put them in there. I take pride in the way this is going to turn out. I marinade them overnight.
This happened a little while ago. I'm grilling steaks out back. Afterward, you live for, "Man, these are good. What did you put on them?" A little olive oil, a little salt, in case you're wondering. I cook these steaks. We eat them. We eat as much as we can without sinning. Then life happened. We moved on. Life was busy. Work. I went in a week later, opened the door, and I saw one left. I was so grieved. I was like, "Why didn't we eat that one? I forgot we had that left."
I go on Google. "How long is meat good for?" It says three to four days for cooked meat. So I Google, "Can meat be made good again?" It can't, in case you're wondering. Then I'm like, "I'm going to risk it." I paid heavily; I paid for that choice. This is the metaphor Jesus is giving us. You are something that prevents rotting and decay as you live out your purpose. Your purpose is to preserve life by offering eternal life in Jesus. By showing the way to eternal life as you live out this purpose, you are preserving humanity as we know it.
You can do this at work, in parenting, in your hobbies, at your kids' school, or wherever you serve. You are living out this purpose for your life anywhere you go. This is where, to run with the other metaphor, your light shines. Where you are, Jesus says in verse 14. "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden." Why? Because it's bright. "Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house."
This is what Jesus is saying: "People don't even put lights under bowls. How much more intentional is God? People give very careful consideration to where they put lights." "It's four inches off. We need to move that. We need to undo that." How much more intentional is God? So the second thing we're going to talk about is…
2._ You have a place._ God has put you somewhere. That's what the word here is. Put. We see it twice in this little passage. We don't put it under a bowl; instead you put it on its stand. In the same way, God is more intentional than you are with where he puts lights.
In the first century, lights were very, very expensive. In the twenty-first century, lights are still very, very expensive, I will tell you. But in the first century lights were very expensive, and they would typically have one. The placement of that light would really matter. They would have to choose where they were going to put that light so it could illuminate the entire house.
You guys have experienced this. Have you ever lost electricity? You find the flashlight. Everybody huddles around the flashlight. You go to the one light. This is what he's talking about here. Where you put lights, the placement of lights, is very important. So God is saying, "If you think you're strategic in your light placement, how much more strategic am I?"
Do you believe God has placed you on purpose? Think about that. Do you believe…right now in your everyday life, where you live, where you work, who you engage with, who you know, your network…that God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, the all-powerful, Sovereign God, has placed you on purpose?
Acts 17. It's one of my favorite verses; it says in verse 26, "From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he [God] marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands." He said, "I have determined when you live and where you live on purpose, because you're a light."
What are my boundaries? My boundaries are my gas station I go to once a week or every two weeks. It's my Starbucks where I stop and get coffee. It's my grocery store. It's my apartment office. It's my neighborhood, my street, where the Lord has ordained me to live, intentionally. These are my boundaries. It's the school I go to. It's my cube farm, the people who I share a cube with. These are my boundaries. I'm to shine a light there.
I said it before, and I'll say it again. I've been in vocational ministry (I've worked for the church) for about eight years. Before that I was in corporate America. I will tell you the darkest mission field I've ever seen is corporate America. You're like, "Wait a minute. Hold on." Let me quantify that. First, I've never seen so much selfishness, narcissism, greed, and even a veneer of Christianity that is used to advance business that I've seen in corporate America.
To quantify that further, I've been to Brazil. I've traveled for days, a week, along the river to get to a village where no one had heard about Jesus (or to try to get there). I've been in the African jungle. I've been on the island nation of Haiti. I've been to Mexico. I've been on these short-term discipleship trips as a missionary. But I've never seen a place as dark as corporate America.
The reason I tell you this is this: I can go just about anywhere right now. You can too. We can. There are places the UN says, "You cannot travel here," that we can. We can get a visa. We can jump on a plane. We can get there. There's really nowhere on the face of the planet you cannot travel to. You can go right now just about anywhere, but do you know where I can't go?
There's a place I cannot go right now: the eighth floor of AT&T, where I was every single day. I had a security badge to go through two security checkpoints. There is no way… It would be impossible right now, no matter how badly I wanted to, to go to the eighth floor of AT&T where I was a light every single day.
You have these places. You have places I can't go. Your kids' day care. Your school. Behind the counter of Starbucks. In the back of the bank where you work. Your cube farm. Places I can't… Could you imagine? The teachers' lounge. In the classroom of Richardson Independent School District. Wherever that is for you. You have places you are every single day that if I went to I'd get arrested. Could you imagine me at your day care? "Hey, what's up guys? I'm just here to talk about Jesus."
"Do you have a kid here?"
"No. No, ma'am. I don't. But can everybody sit down? I want to tell you about Jesus real quick."
"Sir, we're going to have to call the police. You can't be here."
Could you imagine me behind the counter at Starbucks? "No, I'm not a barista, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night. And I would like to tell you about Jesus." "Sir, get out." How about behind the counter at the bank? That doesn't go well for anybody. But that's where you are every day, five days a week, six days a week. Your moms' group. That would be weird if I were there. But you're there. God has a light there that we would shine on our mission field.
Do we believe he wants us to? Do we believe this is our calling? That this is why God preserved this text, so we would read it a couple of thousand years later? People raise money to go overseas, lots of money, thousands of dollars to go overseas to share the gospel. Your work is paying you to be there every day to be on mission. How crazy is this? To preserve the realities of God so God can preserve humanity as we know it. That's your place, where you are.
"In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." So my question is who are the others,and who are the they? "…let your light shine before others, that they…" Who are the others? Who are the they? These are your people.
3._ You have a people._ The others and the they are your people. You say, "Well, where are my people?" Where are you every day? Where is your place? The places under point two are filled with your people. Those who you bump up against on a regular basis. Those you go to class with. Those you share cube walls with. Those you share an office with or a floor with in a building. Those in your mothers' day out. Wherever you go every single day is filled with your people. It's the people around you.
Do you know what's interesting about people? People love lights. Do we not love lights? You're like, "What do you mean? You lost me." Let me explain it. What do we do every Christmas? "Everybody get in the car! We're going to drive around the neighborhoods."
"Why are we going to drive around the neighborhoods?"
"We're going to look at the lights."
Okay. What about this. You're out camping. You get outside the light pollution that is Dallas. "Let's look at the stars! Oh! Look how beautiful the stars are!" Do you know what stars are? They're lights. Let me go one more with you. Fourth of July.
"Let's go to Kaboom Town!"
"What are we going to watch?"
"We're going to watch lights!"
We're like moths to a flame. We love lights. We're like, "Lights. Where are they? Where can I watch them? Where can I look at them? Open sign. Oh, let's go in here. Lights." That's what we do. People love lights. If you're a light that's shining, people are going to see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. That's what they do. They're going to say, "Why does that light shine so bright?"
"There's something different about that light."
"Hey, man. I want to hang out. Can we grab lunch? Can we just talk? Why do you shine so bright?"
"Can I glorify your God in heaven? Can I live my life like you live your life?"
So who are your people? Consider the people who are drawn to you. Who is being drawn to you? Consider your family. Now I know some of you are just kinda, "Ahhh. What?" Family is hard. I get it. It's hard. Jesus said a prophet is not welcome in his own town. I still feel that for you and for us sometimes. They may need to repent.
Here's a really powerful question to ask family. "Have you seen a change? As I've come to the faith, have you seen a change in me, in the way I live, that you're drawn to?" They will be honest with you, probably. "By the way I ask forgiveness, by the way I've circled back, by the way I've kept short accounts, have you seen a change?" Consider your family.
Consider your neighbors. I've heard it. Always about this time in sermons it's like, "Do you know your neighbors?" which is really convicting, because people are like, "Oh, man. I don't even know my neighbors." I'm asking, do you know their faith? Do you know their dreams and their interests? Do you know their pains?
Monica and I want to do this. We so badly want an open-door policy. I'm like, "Man, we're going to leave the door unlocked, and people can just come in. We're just going to have meals with them all the time." Sometimes we're like that. "Let's have the neighbors over for meals," and it's like, "Wait a minute, but we need to have meals. We need to stop."
I know life is crazy. I get that. So I'm like, "Man, if anybody knocks on the door, I'm just going to invite them in." Then there's a knock, and I'm like, "Oh. More Girl Scout cookies. Are you serious? I'm full. I have all the Girl Scout cookies I need. Anybody else?" Maybe it's just me, 16 times this week.
Here's the deal. Those are opportunities. "Hey, come in. Come in. Can we talk?" Opportunities to be a light right where you are, on your street. "Hey, next week we're going to have an open grill and some music playing. We'd love for you and your family to come over. We're going to hold our stuff loosely. It's okay if you track mud in the house. It's okay. It's not our house; it's God's house anyway. Just come and let's hang out. Let's get to know each other. I'd love to know the God you worship." Your neighbors.
Your coworkers. Who is on the other side of that cube wall? The people you see every single day. Who are the people you work with? You hear all these quotes around evangelism. "You're either a missionary or a mission field." I've heard atheists say, "How badly do you have to hate someone not to share with them?" Those are really effective at putting something on us, be it shame or conviction. We leave and we're like, "I really, really want to muster up the confidence to do so," but sometimes we just leave guilty.
I will tell you guys… Listen. I don't know if it has ever been more important in America's history that we share our faith, because we're preservatives. We're lights. There's a lot of darkness. We've seen it every day on the news. There is just crazy stuff happening right now, an all-out attack against Christianity.
We're in a place that I think our greatest distraction from actually living out our faith is our comfort, because where people are uncomfortable, they're living out their faith. In fact, every now and then you see something that really motivates you. I saw this this week, and I want to share it with you. Certainly you've seen on the news the Christian martyrs and everything that's going on. Would you watch this with me for a moment?
Since the first century, Christians have endured persecution.
Female: You know, it is a very dangerous time to be a Christian. Torture, beheadings, destruction of…
Male: We are seeing the highest level of persecution of Christians…
Male: A church congregation barricaded themselves in from hundreds of riot police.
Male: Christians are enduring attacks for their faith like never before.
Female: …along with the savage kidnappings of Christian school girls in Nigeria by Boko Haram and the burning of…
Female: …images of violence dominated headlines.
Male: Christians are being warned they have a choice: convert to Islam, pay a very steep price, or face death.
Male: Chilling new video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians…
Male: Beheadings of 21 Christians…
Female: Twenty-one Christian men beheaded by Islamic State…
Male: The title of the video is A Message Signed with Blood to the Nation of the Cross.
Male: We have seen the sharpest jump in violent attacks against Christians…
Male: We need to make the persecuted church an issue of prayer.
"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of God." Matthew 5:10.
May their sacrifice lead our hearts to repentance. May the blood of the martyrs, be the seed for a revived Church.
Milad Makeen Zaky
Abanub Ayad Atiya
Maged Solaiman Shehata
Yusuf Shukry Yunan
Kirollos Shokry Fawzy
Bishoy Astafanus Kamel
Somaily Astafanus Kamel
Malak Ibrahim Sinweet
Tawadros Yusuf Tawadros
Girgis Milad Sinweet
Mina Fayez Aziz
Hany Abdelmesih Salib
Bishoy Adel Khalaf
Samuel Alham Wilson
Worker from Awr village
Ezat Bishri Naseef
Gaber Munir Adly
Esam Badir Samir
Malak Farag Abram
Sameh Salah Faruq
"They triumphed over Satan by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death." Revelation 12:11.
[End of video]
What do we do with that? There is a sense that's like, "It's overwhelming." We read it and we move on, because life is crazy. But what you can do is you can be a light where you are. It may seem like that's pointless, helpless, and "That's not going to impact what's going on over there," but if you're just a light everywhere you go, if you are intentional about living out your purpose of preserving humanity as you know it, showing people the way to eternal life, pushing through your insecurities, asking for prayer and help, asking for training, seeking it out…
We're in this together. We're doing this together. I know the extrovert is like, "You just have to push through," and the other folks are like, "Well, no, if you just love…" and "We'll share the gospel everywhere we go. Sometimes we'll use words." Others are like, "Well, I have this one gift, and I can do whatever. I'll give it to the neighbors and leave a note there so that…" I think it's all of those things. We have to do all of those things. We have to combine those efforts, be the body of Christ, lock arms, and intentionally shine everywhere we go.
Romans 1:16 says, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel…" I am not ashamed of the gospel. "…because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile." These people, the apostles, carried forth the torch. Those around you, they are darkness, but you are light. So how do you share? There are three steps. We've said it before. These are the three things. We keep it real simple.
A. You engage. You engage with someone. "Well, how do I do that? Where?" Everywhere you are. If, in the back of your mind, the "I have to transition to the gospel," is a distraction from you engaging with them, then dismiss that for this week. Just everywhere you go try to engage with people. It looks like, "Hey, man. How are you doing? Are you having a good day?"
"How long have you come to this grocery store? Do you live close to here?"
"Oh, your kids go to school here too?"
"Oh, man. I don't think I've ever met you. How are you today?"
You just engage. Intentionally look around. Who is around me that I can love and shine light on? "How are you doing today? Are you having a good day?" What makes it a good day? We do this with our children, ask open-ended questions. Just engage.
B. Share. That's the intimidating part. I get it. I want to help you with that. I know. I know. It's like we do this wrong. We're like, "It's not very hot today. It's pretty cold. Do you know where it is hot? Hell. Hey, can I talk to you?" Don't do that. Let me tell you what I do, if it's helpful. Here's how I share, if it's helpful. That transition is the hardest part. Here's what I do.
"Hey, can I ask you a question? Do you have a faith?" Everyone always responds the same way. "A what?" "A faith." They're always like, "A face? Yes, I have a face. What kind of a weirdo asks that question?" "No, a faith."
"Can I ask you a question? Do you have a faith?"
"A faith, like a spirituality or a church or a religion."
Another question. Sometimes I go, "Do you have a church home? Are you into church? Is church your deal?" These are questions that are nonthreatening. Now we're there. We transitioned. "Let me ask you a question. Do you have a faith?"
I was getting my hair cut this week. "Hey, how long have you been cutting hair?" "Two weeks." That makes me nervous. "Okay. Well, what did you do before that?" "Okay. Well, how long have you lived in Dallas?" "Where before Dallas?" "That's great. So what do you like to do?" "Oh, you're a musician. That's fun. Hey, let me ask you a question. Do you have a faith?" "No, not a face. A faith."
She said, "Yeah, I'm a Christian, but I'm not crazy about it." I said, "Well, what does that mean?" She's like, "Well, I'm not like shoving it down people's throats or putting it in their faces or anything." "Oh, cool. Let me ask you a question. Why do you think people do that?" Now we're talking about it.
It turns out she was hurt by the church and hadn't been back. "Can I share my story with you? I stumbled into church 12 years ago, hungover, and sat in the back row. I thought I knew Christ, said I was a Christian, but I wasn't crazy about it either. I heard the gospel. The gospel is just a word. It means good news. It was this reality that Jesus had died for my sins.
That was good news, because I didn't have to pay for my sins, and I had a lot of sins. God raised him from the dead. He overcame death, offering me eternal life, that if I trust in that… '…if you confess with your mouth Jesus Christ as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.' That reality changed my life." Engage. Share.
C. Invite. "I understand you've been hurt by the church. I attend a church. It's like my family. We love each other. We meet each other's needs. We sing and have fun together. You're in a band; we have a band. We'd love for you to come and see that. I would love to invite you to our church. We meet on Sundays at 9:00, 11:00, and 5:30."
This week I was out buying glasses. I walked into a place, and there were only two people in there. It was the employee and one other customer. When she turned around, do you know who it was? It was the girl who invited me to Watermark 12 years ago when I was in a bar. I hadn't seen her in a decade. It was her. Do you know how grateful I was? I'm sure that was awkward. Do you know how grateful I was that she pushed through whatever awkward tension she felt and invited me? That invite changed my life, because I met a God who changed my life.
Engage. Share. Invite. In summary, you have a purpose to show Christ to a world that desperately needs him. You have a place. That's wherever God has put you. You have a people. That's those around you. Everywhere you go, those are your people. You shine a light. I know a lot of us haven't shaken seeing that video a few minutes ago. It's a distraction. I know it's dark. The world is dark. It feels dark, doesn't it? Everywhere we go, you're like, "No. There's just so much darkness out there."
In fact, if we can for just a moment, for 30 seconds if you would not move. Don't go to the bathroom. Don't worry about your purse; it's going to be okay. If we can bring the lights down. If we could feel the darkness. Feel the darkness for just a moment. We look around and you're like, "JP, you don't understand. Where I work… I agree with you. That corporate America thing? It is dark there. Where I go every day, it is dark. It feels dark." To which I say, "Good. God put a light there. He has his light shining there intentionally, that light which is you." Right?
There you are, showing others the way to eternal life. Everywhere you go, as you walk around the office, others see the light. They see your good deeds that they would glorify your Father in heaven. They're tracking with you. When you go to Starbucks, it's just another place to share a light. The grocery store. Right? Your kids' day care. Another opportunity. At your work or in your community. Wherever you would go. The hobbies you engage yourself in. The folks you meet every single day.
It's an opportunity to share a light that is infectious, that is contagious. That everywhere you go people would see your light, see your good deeds, and glorify your Father in heaven. So you would preserve the realities of God, which preserves humanity as we know it. That you would shine, that you would live out your purpose in your places to your people.
As we move towards worship, I want you to think about some folks this week who you're going to run into, you're going to see, and you're going to have an opportunity to be a light to. I'm going to pray for you now, but we're going to continue that prayer. This week, we're going to be continuing to pray for our body.
Let us know. Follow up with us. Let us know how it goes. We'd love to celebrate that with you or continue to pray with you, even if it's a struggle. Listen. Success is not conversion. Success is sharing. Conversion is the work of God. Success is you sharing with them. You don't have to wonder how you did. How you did is up to God. You just share. Let me pray we would.
Father, help us. Sometimes just another message on evangelism is demotivating. It honestly can make us feel shameful like we're not doing it right or enough. Would you strip us of that right now? Would you help us to realize that conversion is your work? Salvation is the work of God. Would you give us that peace?
So often in the Scriptures, to Moses and then to the apostles, you say, "If you lack the words, I will give them to you." Lord, that's what I pray this week, for our body, that you would give us the words. Father, we pray for our country. Protect us from evil. Father, protect us from evil by making us faithful. Help us to love. In Jesus' name, amen.