Pastor Kirk

Reflections from a spiritual pilgrim in Toledo, Ohio

urgency

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.

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