Pastor Kirk

Reflections from a spiritual pilgrim in Toledo, Ohio

The Lost

Radical Urgency, 9 October 2011

  • Big Idea: The time is now to share our story and fulfill our mission. Our days are numbered.

  • John 4:27-42

  • Introduction

  • We are in the middle of a series called Radical, largely inspired by the David Platt book of the same name. It’s really an attempt to fulfill our church’s mission:

  • We exist to fulfill the Great Commission and follow the Great Commandment by 

  • - serving our communities
  • - sharing our story
  • - sending disciples to bless the nations

  • so that God is glorified.

  • This week’s message title—planned many weeks ago—is Radical Urgency.

  • I was deeply moved by an event that occurred this past week. Our generation’s Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, passed away. I don’t think a more influential human being has died in my lifetime. As many of you know, I’ve been an avid Apple user since 1994. I love Pixar films, too, a company that Jobs launched.

  • As I was reading a tribute to Jobs in USA Today, I was gripped by two sentences. The first one said

  • Jobs was a Buddhist.

  • The second one said

  • After a stint as a video-game designer at Atari, Jobs trekked to India in 1974, where he embraced Eastern culture and religion.

  • At age 19, Steve Jobs was searching for meaning and truth and he encountered Buddhism.

  • I have great respect for Buddhists. Our dear neighbors open their home each week for Buddhist services and are wonderful people. However, Buddhism will not lead you to heaven. In fact, they don’t even believe in an eternal heaven.

  • Here’s my point: what if Steve Jobs encountered fully-devoted followers of Jesus at age 19? What if a friend introduced him to Christ as a teenager?

  • I told Heather that of all of the people I have never met, I hope Steve Jobs is in heaven. God only knows where Steve will spend eternity, but the Bible makes it clear that without Jesus, it won’t be pleasant.

  • Platt tells of a conversation with two friends.

  • I remember sitting outside a Buddhist temple in Indonesia. Men and women filled the elaborate, colorful temple grounds, where they daily performed their religious rituals. Meanwhile, I was engaged in a conversation with a Buddhist leader and a Muslim leader in this particular community. They were discussing how all religions are fundamentally the same and only superficially different. “We may have different views about small issues,” one of them said, “but when it comes down to essential issues, each of our religions is the same.”

  • I listened for a while, and then they asked me what I thought. I said,“It sounds as though you both picture God (or whatever you call god) at the top of a mountain. It seems as if you believe that we are all at the bottom of the mountain, and I may take one route up the mountain, you may take another, and in the end we will all end up in the same place.” They smiled as I spoke. Happily they replied, “Exactly! You understand!” Then I leaned in and said, “Now let me ask you a question. What would you think if I told you that the God at the top of the mountain actually came down to where we are? What would you think if I told you that God doesn’t wait for people to find their way to him, but instead he comes to us?” They thought for a moment and then responded, “That would be great.” I replied, “Let me introduce you to Jesus.” This is the gospel.

  • This is the gospel, friends. It’s a gospel that Steve Jobs needs. It’s a gospel that you and I need. It’s a gospel that the world needs.

  • We don’t have time to waste. Our days are numbered. You can be a world-famous, creative genius billionaire and your days are still numbered.

  • We must have a radical urgency for the things of God and the two things He cares most deeply about are the lost and the poor. The Bible is jam-packed with God’s heart for the spiritual and physically needy.
  • The Gospel demands radical urgency. It is something we are all given the privilege to share. If you have encountered Jesus, there’s no way you could remain unchanged.

  • One of my great frustrations as a pastor is the myth that you pay me to do ministry. The reality is we are all Christ’s ambassadors. I get paid to equip you to do ministry.

  • A related myth is that you are unqualified to do ministry. Since I’ve been to seminary and you have not, I’m the expert and you don’t know enough.

Radical urgency does not come from what we know; it only comes from who we know.

There’s a great story of Jesus encountering a woman at a well. She is a Samaritan woman, a group despised by the Jews. Jesus had a radical disregard for the prejudices and hatred of men. His radical urgency transcended tribal boundaries. As I said a moment ago, you cannot encounter Jesus and not be changed, and this woman was no exception.

John 4:27 begins

Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” (John 4:27)

Did I mention not only did Jews not talk to Samaritans, men did not usually talk to women, certainly not alone, and certainly not rabbis. Jesus’ radical urgency for the lost person trumps all of our cultural and religious traditions.
Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him. (John 4:28-30)

  • She shared her story with everyone she knew. How long was she a follower of Jesus? Minutes! How long did she attend seminary? Zero! She was not even a righteous woman, yet God used her.

  • Have you ever felt too ordinary to be used by God? Have you ever felt unqualified? Check out this video.

  • In the next verses, Jesus has a conversation with His disciples about food.

  • “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” (John 4:34-38)

  • We often think that no one is particularly interested in hearing—let alone responding to—the Gospel, the good news.

  • This week I met a woman who told me after 38 years, she knew nothing about Jesus. At age 38, here in the United States, someone finally told her the story. His story. The simple story that God created, man destroyed, Jesus restored, and He is returning to establish a new heaven and a new earth. That’s it. That’s the story. It’s not good news, it’s great news! We’re not worthy. He is. We deserve death for our sins. He did it for us if we believe and accept the gift of His life and follow Him.

  • What does Jesus say here? The fields are ripe for harvest now. This is an appropriate time of year to talk about harvest. Last week we noted that harvest often refers to judgment, but here Jesus is clearly saying some plant seeds, other water, and others bring in the fruit. We all like to pick the fruit, but each person in the process is critical. You don’t just stick a seed in the ground and eat its fruit the next day. In the same way it’s unlikely that your first conversation with someone will lead to them dropping to their knees in surrender to Jesus. Then again, it might happen if others have been planting and watering the spiritual seeds in their life.

  • In today’s scripture, Jesus does not go into a town, have a revival meeting, and count the conversions. A despised, sinful Samaritan woman is a vital part of the process. She is not guilted into sharing her story. She doesn’t take a class. She is overjoyed to let others know what Jesus has done in her life. She simply invited people to meet Jesus. Should we also be just inviting people to encounter Jesus? What would that look like for us? What would that look like for you?

  • Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. (John 4:39-41)

  • They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” (John 4:42)

  • God used a woman—a rather sinful woman, at that—to bring the Gospel to her town. It had nothing to do with her education. It had nothing to do with her character. She encountered Jesus and had to share her story.

What’s your story? Earlier this year we developed two-word stories. Of course, it helps to have someone to share it with.

This week I was reminded of radical urgency. My days on earth are numbered and when they end I have to give an account of how I spent them. There is a radical urgency that I do not waste a precious second.

Those around us are also going to face judgment someday. One conversation be all that is needed for their eternities to be transformed. Most of us live as if we’re indestructible with at least 80 or 90 years before we reach our expiration date, but some may die at 70 or 60…or 56.

This week you might encounter a 19 year-old searching for meaning and purpose in life. They may choose to follow Jesus because of your conversation or they may choose an alternate path, change the world, and spend eternity apart from God.

Steve Jobs, in his 2005 Stanford University commencement speech, said some timely words about his life and ours.

"No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

  • Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

  • We must serve our communities NOW.
  • We must share our story NOW.
  • We must make disciples to send to the nations NOW.
  • Tomorrow may be too late.

You can listen to the podcast here.

Radical Compassion, 2 October 2011

  • Big Idea: The Gospel demands we sacrifice our lives for the sake of people who do not know Christ.

Matthew 9:35-10:42

  • Introduction

  • For the past few weeks, we’ve been exploring our annual theme, Radical. Jesus said

  • …any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:33)

  • I am going to make some huge assumptions—that you’ve encountered Jesus Christ, experienced His presence and power and love and forgiveness, and you are filled with the Holy Spirit. You believe the Bible to be true and are committed to following it, including the radical teachings of Jesus.

  • In a word, we are to die! I know that doesn’t tickle any ears, but I want you to understand what is at stake.

  • Our world needs us. Seriously. Let me rephrase that: our world needs Jesus! There’s just one problem—He isn’t here. In case you didn’t notice, about two thousand years ago He passed the baton to us. We’re it. We’re His ambassadors. We’re His representatives. There is no plan B. Look around the room. We’re it! Say to the person next to you, “We’re it!”

  • There are two ingredients of Radical Compassion:
    - Supernatural awareness of the condition of the lost
    - Sacrificial obedience to the commission of Christ.

  • Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:35-36)

  • Jesus was interacting in a region of about 3 million people. How did Jesus encounter the people? He saw the crowds. He had compassion on them.

  • There are crowds all around us. Nearly 7 billion people. 1/3 claim to be Christian. That leaves 4.7 billion people.

  • Jesus saw their size, their sin, and their suffering. Do we? We often see sin, judge, and shun.

  • Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (9:37-38)

  • Harvest is used as an image of judgment in places like Isaiah 17:10, 11; Matthew 13 (wheat and tares) and Joel.

  • This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of His power. (2 Thessalonians 1:7)

  • If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15)

  • You cannot follow Christ and receive some words and ignore others. Do we believe Jesus? If so, we need to ask God to open our eyes to see the lost.

  • Do we care?

  • We need God to move us from natural affections to supernatural affections.

  • Jesus didn’t say to pray for those who were lost. Instead he told the disciples to pray for the church.

  • When Jesus looked at the harassed and helpless multitudes, apparently his concern was not that the lost would not come to the Father. Instead his concern was that his followers would not go to the lost.

  • Then Jesus sends them out.

  • I pray that God would send out workers in this room to businesses and schools and homes across Washtenaw County and ultimately to the nations. I pray for people to leave Scio…and go to the nations.

  • God delights in answering prayers like this.

  • Jesus says pray and go. We’re not in a position to ask questions and express opinions. We are to obey orders.

  • In this chapter, Jesus is giving specific commands to specific disciples, but the application is universal in different ways.
  • “preach,” the Greek word means to to preach, proclaim, tell, often urging acceptance of the message, with warnings of consequences for not doing so.

  • Go to the sick, not the healthy.
  • Go to the dying. Spend time with those near death.
  • Go to the diseased and despised.
  • Go to the demon-possessed.

  • Jesus sends them to the people of greatest need.

  • Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep. (Matthew 10:9-10)

  • As you go to the needy, you will have to trust God’s provision.

“Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. (10:11-16)

Jesus tells them to go to the dangerous.

What does the shepherd do? He protects sheep from the wolves. Why does the Good Shepherd send the sheep to the wolves?

Be as foolish as sheep but as smart as snakes. Go without reservation into areas of danger and be wise.

We do not need the power of God to live comfortable, safe lives.

“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes. (Matthew 10:21-23)

The Kingdom of God is divisive.

When you are persecuted…not if.

  • “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law — a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ (Matthew 10:34-36)
  • At this very moment there are men and women around the world choosing between Jesus and their families. I had an acquaintance in college who was a new Christian. He said if he returned to his Muslim family, they would disown him if not kill him. Some of you heard applause when you accepted Jesus but for so many it involves death, socially or literally.

  • You may be hated to the government, by your family, or even by religious people. They will hate us because they hated Jesus, not because we are evil.

  • The danger of our lives increases in proportion to the depth of our relationship and identity with Christ. Don’t follow Jesus if you want an easy life.

  • Persecuted. Betrayed. Hated.

  • USAmericans are among the few that don’t understand this. It’s easy to be a Christian here. We think that the more we mimic and appeal to the world, the better. The more this church becomes like Christ, the more difficult they will get.

  • A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. (Luke 6:40)

  • Does that scare you? It scares me!

  • Do we really want to be like Christ?

  • Jesus is saying this is dangerous.

  • “So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:26-28)

  • What really matters?

  • Fear God, not man.

  • “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:37-39)

  • Why is this so hard? There were 3 million people back then and today there are nearly 5 billion people that don’t know Jesus. They don’t see Christ today.

  • What’s best for me? What’s best for my family?

  • We have a Gospel that demands radical compassion.

  • Lose yourself. Lose your life. Die! Then you will live!

  • This message and this series is all about life, satisfaction, joy, and the ultimate reward. It’s not just about you finding Christ, but others, too.

  • “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:40-42)

  • David Platt writes,

  • You know that in the end you are not really giving away anything at all. Instead you are gaining. Yes, you are abandoning everything you have, but you are also gaining more than you could have in any other way. So with joy—with joy!—you sell it all, you abandon it all. Why? Because you have found something worth losing everything else for. This is the picture of Jesus in the gospel. He is something—someone—worth losing everything for.

  • The reward of the American dream is safety, security, and success found in more comfort, better stuff, and greater prosperity. But the reward of Christ trumps all these things and beckons us to live for an eternal safety, security, and satisfaction that far outweigh everything this world has to offer us.

  • This is more than just storing up treasures in heaven, though it is that, too. It is finding true freedom by letting go of your life and truly letting God take over.

  • The great theologian Jonathan Edwards said

  • I claim no right to myself - no right to this understanding, this will, these affections that are in me; neither do I have any right to this body or its members - no right to this tongue, to these hands, feet, ears, or eyes. I have given myself clear away and not retained anything of my own. I have been to God this morning and told Him I have given myself wholly to Him. I have given every power, so that for the future I claim no right to myself in any respect. I have expressly promised Him, for by His grace I will not fail. I take Him as my whole portion and felicity, looking upon nothing else as any part of my happiness. His law is the constant rule of my obedience. I will fight with all my might against the world, the flesh, and the devil to the end of my life. I will adhere to the faith of the Gospel, however hazardous and difficult the profession and practice of it may be. I receive the blessed Spirit as my Teacher, Sanctifier, and only Comforter, and cherish all admonitions to enlighten, purify, confirm, comfort, and assist me. This I have done. I pray God, for the sake of others, to look upon this as a self-dedication, and receive me as His own. Henceforth, I am not to act in any respect as my own. I shall act as my own if I ever make use of any of my powers to do anything that is not to the glory of God, or to fail to make the glorifying of Him my whole and entire business. If I murmur in the least at afflictions; if I am in any way uncharitable; if I revenge my own case; if I do anything purely to please myself, or omit anything because it is a great denial; if I trust to myself; if I take any praise for any good which Christ does by me; or if I am in any way proud, I shall act as my own and not God's. I purpose to be absolutely His.
  • - Jonathan Edwards, The Works Of Jonathan Edwards

  • You are not your own. If you belong to Jesus, you are to sacrifice everything for the sake of those who don’t know Christ.

  • Prayer. Make us a church that sacrifices everything for the sake of the lost.

Note: Many ideas borrowed from David Platt and his book Radical.

You can listen to the podcast here.

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