A&D Biker Ministries "Growing the Kingdom of God . . . one Biker at a time"

 

 

February 10, 2024

 

Finding It, Keeping It, and Sharing It

(sermon series)

 

“You Fail TOWARD It”

 

Matthew 24:23 - 25:30

 

WeWEWe continue tonight in our series:  IT - Finding It, Keeping It, and Sharing It.  The first message was called, “What Is It?”  We defined IT this way:  What God does through a rare combination of certain qualities found in his people.   

 

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

Those qualities are: 

   1. A passion for his presence. 

   2. A deep craving to reach the lost. 

   3. Sincere integrity. 

   4. Spirit-filled faith. 

   5. Down-to-earth humility. 

   6. Brokenness.

 

Our messages began with a study of the traits that marked churches that had it . . . and learning how WE can develop those traits in our congregation.  The first trait was a God-given, God-breathed Vision and we said that “You Can See It Clearly.” 

 

The second trait was The Importance of Teamwork and we said that “We Experience It Together.”

 

Then, we looked at a third trait which is: Innovation.  Innovation is important because “You’ll Do Anything For It.” 

 

Last week, the message was about Sharing The Gospel, because “You Want Others to Have It.”

 

Tonight, we’re going to look at a concept that you may never have considered before:  Failure is essential to success.  Inventor Thomas Edison said, “To double your success rate, you must double your failure rate.”

 

I know that most of you have heard the old saying:  “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”  That doesn’t mean “continue in failure.”  It means try it again . . . just don’t try the same way again.  Try a different way.  

 

Sometimes, what appears to be a failure at the moment is simply success trying to be born in a bigger and better way.  Pastor, author, and developer of leaders, John Maxwell says, “I know of only one factor that separates those who consistently shine from those who don’t:  The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception of and response to failure.” 

 

Maxwell also says, “To achieve your dreams, you must embrace adversity and make failure a regular part of your life.  If you’re not failing, you’re probably not really moving forward.”

Churches with IT fail often.  They have leaders who are aggressive, do-what-it-takes, think-skinned people who are willing to make mistakes.  They’re not afraid to fail.  In contrast, churches without IT are usually the ones playing it safe, doing only what is sure to succeed.

 

I know it sounds counter-intuitive - it doesn’t seem to make sense - but failing can often help a church experience IT.  On the other hand, being overly cautious can kill IT in a church.

 

I want to share with you some principles concerning failure.  They will challenge you and stretch your thinking process.  Hopefully, you will learn that failure isn’t final as long as you keep on working, seeking, and serving.

 

(Principle #1 concerning FAILURE)

 

EXPECT TO FAIL

 

I think that one of the greatest lessons that you learn in sports is that you can’t win them all.  No athlete goes through an entire career without suffering a loss of some kind.  The best basketball players in the world only hit about fifty percent of their shots.

 

A baseball player that gets a hit thirty percent of the time is considered an all-star.  Babe Ruth is one of the greatest home run hitters of all time.  He struck out twice as many times as he hit a home run.  But, Ruth expressed his knowledge of how failure leads to success by saying, “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”

 

One of the best parts of being a parent, and a grandparent, is when you’re children start to walk.  There is joy in watching the process:  rolling over to sitting up to crawling to standing up to finally stepping out with no visible means of support.  When children take their first step, their eyes grow huge with a mixture of excitement and fear as they wobble around like a two-foot tall Frankenstein.  And no matter what - whether it’s after the first step or the third step - they always fall.  Always!

 

Imagine if, immediately following their first tumble, one of the children thinks:  Well, I gave it a shot.  Things didn’t work out.  I’m not meant to be a walker.  I guess I’ll just crawl the rest of my life.

 

The fear of failure causes many churches to think this way.  And they continue to crawl . . . while God wants them to run the race with perseverance.

 

(Principle #2 concerning FAILURE)

 

Failure is falling short of your target

 

Romans 3:23

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

 

The word that is translated “sin” here, means in the original language “to aim at a target and miss.” 

The term “fall short” is in the present tense and means a continual falling short.  Not everything you do or try will work.  Failure is part of the process of finding out what works.  Accept it as normal and move on.

 

Most churches find success at some point.  Things begin to go well and it seems that everything is working.  But when the first failure hits, they go in reverse.  They try to go back to the spot or time when things were working well and moving forward.

 

What happens is, the congregation gets disheartened by setbacks and begins to pull back and start avoiding risks.  They stop growing as leaders and congregation alike freeze in time.  They adopt the idea that failure is not an option.  They fail to realize that failure is a part of success.

 

The congregation seems to think it is risky to push forward.  But, to accomplish what God wants done, pushing forward is the only way to go.  See, it’s normal - it’s good - to have several failures followed by a season of learning.

 

(Principle #3 concerning FAILURE)

 

PUSH THROUGH FAILURE

 

Churches with it push through the failures.  They know that setbacks can be setups for better things to come.  They study their failures and learn from them.  When churches with it fail, they try to fail forward.

 

How do you push through the failures?  You seek God and he rekindles it in your heart.  And when he does, he will speak to you.  Maybe he already has.  He’s directing you to step out of your comfort zone and do something in faith.  If he’s not doing it now, he will.  And when he does, mark my words, Satan will try to talk you out of it!

 

One of the enemy’s greatest tools is fear.  You might ask, “How do I overcome this fear of failure?”   Mark Batterson says, “The antidote for fear of failure is not success but small doses of failure.”

 

Think about it.  What does a doctor do to keep you from getting certain kinds of diseases?  He gives you a vaccine.  What’s a vaccine?  It’s a small dose of the disease.  You get just enough to train your body to fight the disease.

 

The same thing is true with failure.  Once you fail and realize it’s not the end of the world . . . you’re not as afraid to fail again.

 

Leo Buscaglia said, “We seem to gain wisdom more readily through our failures than through our successes.  We always think of failure as the antithesis of success, but it isn’t.  Success often lies just the other side of failure.”

 

Way too many times, we stop - we quit - before we make it to where we’re supposed to be.  Winston Churchill said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”  After we face a failure, we become afraid; hesitant to try another time.  We tend to avoid the risk of failing again.

Too many churches become hesitant, after a program or idea fails.  This is especially true of the leadership within these churches.  They’ve tried something that didn’t work the way they thought it would.  Maybe they faced ridicule, gossip, or were even asked to step down from their leadership position.  They’ve been stung once and they go out of their way to avoid a repeat.

 

One of the problems with failure is that you tend to second-guess yourself.  Maybe I didn’t hear from God.  Maybe I’m not right for this ministry.  Maybe I’m just a failure.  Maybe I don’t have what it takes.

 

It’s important to fight against the hesitancy syndrome.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s important to be prayerful and wise as you move forward.

 

ALWAYS consider the cost before doing something new.  But, also, always remember . . .

 

Hebrews 11:6a

“And without faith it is impossible to please God.”

 

God is calling us to risk . . . again.  And again.  And to recognize that not only is this the best way to live, it’s the only way to live that pleases him!

 

If you’re waiting for every venture to have  guaranteed success, you’ll probably be waiting for the rest of your life.  Sometimes the fruit of your steps of faith is measured not so much by what God does through you as by what God does in you.

 

(Principle #4 concerning FAILURE)

 

LEARN FROM FAILURE

 

As I said earlier, the idea of failure helping to lead to success doesn’t seem to make sense.  But it’s true.  Churches with it are often found to be dreaming big, experimenting with different methods, and testing the boundaries of what they can & cannot do.

 

They often fail but when they do fail, they tend to rebound quickly.  Temporary failures are often followed by lasting successes.  They try, fail, learn, adjust, and try again.  After a series of accidental learning experiences, they often stumble onto innovative ministry ideas they never would have discovered without being willing to fail.

 

Someone once said, “Discovering what will work often means eliminating ways that won’t.”

 

The best biblical example of this principle is found in the life of Peter.  Peter always had good intentions but often messed up in dramatic fashion.  And even though he was far from perfect, Peter had it.  I think what led Peter to it-land, when others missed the on-ramp, was his willingness to fail.  If Peter were alive today, he would understand what Walter Brunell meant when he said, “Failure is the tuition you pay for success.”

 

Think about how many times Peter’s aggressive nature led to what we could call great “learning opportunities.”  One time, Peter offered Jesus some unsolicited advice that Jesus not give up his life.  Jesus rewarded Peter by calling him Satan.  I bet that got Pete’s attention!

Another time Peter jumped out of a boat (while the other eleven disciples played it safe) and walked on water toward Jesus - before losing his focus and his faith and sinking like a rock.  (By the way, Peter means “Rock” in the Greek language.)  That whole water-walking thing taught him another great, but wet, lesson.

 

Do you remember the time Peter loyally defended Jesus by swinging his sword at someone’s head?

He missed the center of the guy’s head and clipped off a piece of the guy’s ear!  Jesus gave him more instruction . . .

 

After that, Peter failed in an even bigger way.  He denied Jesus three times.  The full impact of the lesson only hit Peter after the resurrection when Jesus forgave him.  Jesus made Peter the leader of his worldwide mission organization.  That’s not how we normally reward failures - but God is different.

 

By failing forward, Peter was the guest speaker on the day of Pentecost and led 3,000 people to Christ and helped birth the Church.  Peter failed often.  But he also learned from his failures.  John Dewey said, “Failure is instructive.  The person who really thinks, learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes.”

 

We must learn to see failed efforts as “experiments”.  Every failure is simply an experiment.  Experiments are set up to see what results occur and to learn from doing them.

 

Thomas Edison, one of the world's greatest inventors, successfully identified 10,000 ways that the electric light bulb would NOT work - before he discovered the one that did work.  When it didn't work the first time, Edison made a note of exactly what he'd done and what components he had used.

 

Then he made an adjustment to the experiment and tried again.  And when that "failed" he made a note of that, readjusted, and tried again.

 

He kept learning from every experiment.  He learned all the ways that it wouldn't work.  He discovered all the chemicals and elements that wouldn't work.  And each time he found a way that wouldn't work, he knew he was closer to finding a way that would work.

 

And for Edison, there was a lot of learning to go through.  Nobody had done it before.  He couldn't read a book about it.  He simply had to plug away, failing and learning, until he and his fellow experimenters worked out the right way to do it.

 

(Principle #5 concerning FAILURE)

 

RISK FAILURE TO FIND SUCCESS

 

Jesus told a parable in Matthew 25 about three household managers whose master entrusted each of them with “talents” of money.  (A talent was a measure of gold or silver that was worth quite a bit in those days.)  Two of the guys risked failure and invested their master’s money.  The third guy was afraid and he refused to fail.  He played it safe, avoided risk and dug a hole and buried his talent - just like so many churches do today.

Then the master came back and called his employees to make reports on their investments.

He rewarded the two guys who took the risk and weren’t afraid to fail.  Listen to what happened with the one who played it safe.

 

Matthew 25:24-30 (NIV)

24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came.  ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed.  25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground.  See, here is what belongs to you.’  26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!  So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?  27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.  28 So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags.  29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance.  Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.  30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

 

What dream have you buried?  What burden has God given you that you’ve put aside?  Dig it up.  Pull it out.  Dust it off.  It’s time to start praying about your next risk.  Is God calling you to start a new ministry within our congregation?  Is God calling you to take a chance on witnessing to someone? 

 

To reach out to someone who is far from God?  Perhaps God wants you to have a tough conversation with someone.

 

Dig up your talent, the assets God has entrusted to you to use for his purposes.  But remember, when you take a step of faith, the fear of failure might creep upon on you, as it does with most people.  What if this doesn’t work?  What will people think?  What if this bombs?

 

You have to risk failure to find success.  Michael Jordan is one of the greatest basketball players to ever live.  He said, “I’ve missed more than nine thousand shots in my career.  I’ve lost almost three hundred games.  Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot . . . and missed.  I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.  And that is why I succeed.”

 

The easiest way to continue risking failure to find success is to learn how to fail gracefully. 

 

Here are five principles about learning how to fail gracefully . . .

 

First principle: Call new ideas “experiments.”  Instead of making absolute statements about what’s coming, package new ventures as experiments.  If the experiment doesn’t work, we still come away with something valuable, something we’ve learned and that makes it easier to explain to those who have concerns over the failure.

 

Second principle about how to fail gracefully: Create a culture in our congregation that allows failure.  Teach people that failure is a part of success.  Leaders should talk openly about their failures and what they’ve learned.  Explain to people that as a community of believers seeking to please God, we’re going to err on the side of doing something and failing rather than being inactive and really succeeding at nothing.

Third principle about failing gracefully:  Don’t internalize failures.  Remember, failure is an event, not a person.  When failure happens, allow yourself to really feel the real disappointment.  That’s just acknowledging reality.  But . . . don’t internalize disapproval of the failure.  Just because you fail at something doesn’t make you a failure.  Shake it off.  And try something again.

 

Fourth principle of failing gracefully:  Debrief after failures AND successes.  After every new venture, take time to debrief.  List the learning points.  What worked?  What didn’t?  What could you have done differently?  What are the lessons you’ll carry forward?  Don’t waste a setback by not learning from it.

 

The Fifth and most important principle of failing gracefullyTry again.  If you fall off your horse, you have to get back on and ride it again. Don’t let yesterday’s loss talk you out of tomorrow’s win.

 

God is NOT finished with you!  Most big successes follow multiple failures.  Failure is often the price you pay for success.

 

Everyone knows what Post-it® Notes are.  Most people have Post-it® Notes.  Most people use them.  Most people love them.  But Post-it® Notes were not a planned product.

 

No one got the idea and then stayed up nights to invent it.  A man named Spencer Silver was working in the 3M research laboratories in 1970 trying to find a strong adhesive.  Silver developed a new adhesive, but it was even weaker than what 3M already manufactured.  It stuck to objects, but could easily be lifted off.  It was super weak instead of super strong.

 

No one knew what to do with the stuff, but Silver didn't discard it.  Then one Sunday four years later, another 3M scientist named Arthur Fry was singing in the church's choir.  He used paper markers to keep his place in the hymnal, but they kept falling out of the book.  Remembering Silver's adhesive, Fry used some to coat his markers.  Success!  With the weak adhesive, the markers stayed in place, yet lifted off without damaging the pages.  3M began distributing Post-it ® Notes nationwide in 1980 - ten years after Silver developed the super weak adhesive.  Today, they are one of the most popular office products available!

 

God is an expert at making failures into successes!

 

1 John 1:9

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive

us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

 

A song, originally recorded by Lulu Roman, says, “Failure isn't final with the Father.  Failure opens doors to start again.  And falling only hurts for a season, and starting over brings new life again.”

 

 

 

February 3, 2024

 

Finding It, Keeping It, and Sharing It

(sermon series)

 

“You Want Others To Have It”

Mark 2:1-12 (NIV)

 

WeWEWe continue tonight in our series:  IT - Finding It, Keeping It, and Sharing It.  The first message was called, “What Is It?”  We defined IT this way:  What God does through a rare combination of certain qualities found in his people.   

 

Bottom of Form

Those qualities are: 

   1. A passion for his presence. 

   2. A deep craving to reach the lost. 

   3. Sincere integrity. 

   4. Spirit-filled faith. 

   5. Down-to-earth humility. 

   6. Brokenness.

 

Our messages began with a study of the traits that marked churches that had it . . . and learning how WE can develop those traits in our congregation.  The first trait was a God-given, God-breathed Vision and we said that “You Can See It Clearly.” 

 

The second trait was The Importance of Teamwork and we said that “We Experience It Together.”

 

Last Saturday, we looked at a third trait: Innovation.  Innovation is important because, “You’ll Do Anything For It.” 

 

Tonight the message is about Sharing The Gospel, because “You Want Others to Have It.”

 

I have a controversial proposition for you.  Here it is:  People today aren’t rejecting Jesus Christ so much as they’re rejecting the Church.

 

I’ve talked to hundreds of people over the years about why they don’t come to church.  I think all of those encounters are summed up in one man’s response to that question.  Without hesitation, he responded, “Because I’ve already been.”   He came.  It didn’t happen.  So he never came back.

 

Have you ever visited a church and been overlooked? That makes you feel very awkward, uncomfortable, and unwanted.  What’s odd is that churches that appear unfriendly to outsiders can be full of the friendliest people in the world - if you’re and insider!

 

Churches without it are often very friendly.  In fact, they can be so tight, so bonded, so close - to each other - that they unintentionally overlook those they don’t really know.

 

On the other hand, churches with it remember that Jesus came for the outsiders.  He came for those who were lost, broken, hurting, disenfranchised, alone, overlooked, and poor.  Jesus came for those whom religion had rejected.

 

Many churches unwittingly focus inward, forgetting those who are the very purpose for Jesus’ coming and the very purpose for the Church on earth.  These churches are like a hospital which no longer accepts patients.  Or a soup kitchen which no longer feeds hungry people.  Help us, Jesus!

 

Across the board, every church that has it is obsessed with reaching people who don’t know Jesus.  They have a passion to share Christ that consumes them in a beautiful way.  Churches that lack it can be filled with people who know Bible facts inside and out.  Unfortunately, they are more concerned with themselves than they are the lost.

 

One time a teacher of the law asked Jesus, “Out of all the commandments, what is the most important one?”  Jesus replied . . .

 

Mark 12:30-31 (NIV)

30 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  31 The second is this:  Love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no commandment greater than these.” 

 

So, one big question for you to answer is, “Who do you love?”  If you love God, you should love people.  If you don’t love people, then you don’t love God.  We’re quite comfortable loving those who are like us, but we’re also called to love those who aren’t like us.

 

And when we love deeply, love makes us do things we wouldn’t otherwise do.  I’m kind of a cheapskate.  But, if I take Donna out on a date, I’ll spend money.  Why?  Because I love her.  Do you love people who don’t know Christ?  Those that have it do . . . and, they love deeply.

 

There are many so-called Christians who . . . well, don’t.  You don’t have to look very far to find churches that have people who are insulating themselves from the world.  They hunker down avoiding any movies rated above PG.  They won’t listen to secular music and some won’t even listen to the contemporary Christian music.  They’re afraid of MTV.  They keep their distance from anyone who drinks beer, cusses after a bad golf swing, smokes cigarettes, has tattoos or wears jeans that have holes in them.  They avoid talking with homosexuals.   And they stare disapprovingly at purple hair and face piercings.  Too many so-called Christians avoid “those kind of people.”  And they’ve forgotten that Jesus came for that kind of person!

 

Do you love those who are without Christ?  Be honest with yourself right now.

Does our church have people whose hearts beat for those outside the family of God?  Churches that have it care for each other and for people who are far from God.  Churches without it care more about the sheep inside the fold than the goats outside of the Church.  And the lack of caring is communicated loudly . . . even if not a word is said!

 

What caused the good shepherd to leave the ninety-nine sheep that were safe to pursue the lost one?  It was love. 

What made the father stand on the edge of town praying that his lost son would return home?  It was love.  What drove God to leave heaven to come to earth an become a man?  It was love!

 

John 3:16

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

 

Let’s look together at an incident that happened during the early part of Jesus’ ministry.  It shows us some important lessons about loving others enough to do anything necessary to get them to Jesus.

 

Mark 2:1-12 (NIV)

1 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home.  2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them.  3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them.  4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on.  5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”  6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves,7 “Why does this fellow talk like that?  He’s blaspheming!  Who can forgive sins but God alone?”  8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things?  9 Which is easier:  to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’?  10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”  So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”  12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all.  This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

 

  • WE NEED TO RECOGNIZE THAT PEOPLE NEED JESUS

 

In Jesus’ day, people generally left their doors open during the day.  An open door meant that anyone could come in.  In this scripture, Jesus had been traveling throughout Galilee preaching and healing.

 

He returned to his home base of Capernaum and begins to teach inside a house . . . with the door open.  People began to pack into the house like sardines - and they overflowed out into the street. 

 

There were at least four guys in this crowd with it.  They had a friend who was paralyzed.  Their friend desperately needed Jesus.  They didn’t come to the house to get Jesus to sign their Jesus is my homeboy T-shirts.  They were on a mission . . . to get their friend to Christ!

 

Now what about the rest of the crowd?  Some of them were probably very sincere in their desire to hear Jesus.  Others we know were skeptical and were hoping that they could prove that Jesus was a fake.  Even though most of the crowd hung onto his words, and just ate up his message - Jesus came for the sick and not the healthy.

You see, for the crowd, the meeting was about them.  What could they get?  What could they learn?  What could Jesus offer them?  Churches without it are filled with people with similar attitudes. 

 

They wonder why the worship leader picks out songs that they don’t like and doesn’t fit their taste.  They get upset when something new is introduced, because “we’ve never done it that way before.”  If the preacher brings a message that doesn’t necessarily apply to them at the current time, they complain that they’re not getting spiritually fed.  If the order of worship is moved around, they say it’s unsettling.  Erwin McManus asked, “When have we forgotten that the church doesn’t exist for us?  We are the church and we exist for the world.”

 

If a church becomes focused just on the already convinced people, that church does NOT have it.  They’re not likely to see very many people saved.  Baptisms are few and far between.  Membership classes are few, if not non-existent.  New people aren’t coming and staying.  Long-time members aren’t growing.  Things may be stable, but they’re stagnant.  There is no spiritual forward movement.

 

Look at these men who cared passionately about getting their friend to Jesus.  We can learn some lessons!  The first lesson is that to have it, we have to care about those who are far from God.

 

Do you care about those who don’t know Jesus?  Before you give some pat Christian answer, you need to honestly answer some questions: 

 

1. When was the last time you’ve had a non-Christian person in your home?  (You can’t count plumbers or Amazon delivery people!) 

 

2. How many meaningful conversations did you have with non-Christians this week?

 

3. Who are the non-believers you prayed for today?

 

If you can’t answer those questions with several names, chances are that you’re on the road headed toward not caring.  Or perhaps, sadly, you’ve already arrived there and have settled into that dangerous destination.

 

The trip to “not caring” is a slow ride.  Most Christians don’t wake up one morning and say, “I’ve decided not to care about non-Christians anymore.”  That attitude creeps in over time.  After being a Christian for a few years, we don’t have much in common with non-Christians, so we don’t typically develop quality relationships with them.  It’s only after time passes that many Christians realize they have almost no relationship with unbelievers.

 

If that describes you tonight, ask God to increase your heart’s love for those who don’t know Jesus.  He will!  And before long, God will send you someone - maybe a bunch of someone’s - whom you will care about.  Your love for them will increase.  When that happens, you get it, and it’s almost impossible to turn off.  Your prayer life increases.  You look for opportunities to shift conversations toward spiritual things.  You become much more aware that you are representing Jesus. 

When you have it, people tend to want it. Your passion for Christ will be contagious!

 

Many churches, intentionally or unintentionally, turn their backs on those who need Jesus the most.  We become focused inward . . .

 

We do our Bible studies.  We listen to our favorite Christian music.  We speak Christianese:  “Praise God, brothers and sisters!  I’m blood-washed, Spirit-filled, and glory bound!”  But, we ignore those who need him the most - and by doing that we’re basically saying to those who need him the most, “You can just go to hell.”

 

The people in this story who brought their friend to Jesus recognized that he needed Jesus more than anything.  Sadly, a lot of Christians have forgotten what / who the lost really need.  They really need Jesus. 

 

  •    The obsession to reach those who do not know Christ

        is an important mark of a church with "It"

 

Here is a scenario that I have faced many times, over the years.  I’m called to do a funeral for a family member of someone who belongs to the church I pastor.  I did not personally know the individual so I ask about their deceased loved one.  The family looks awkwardly around the room at each other, they shift back and forth in their chairs, and then someone says something to this affect:  “Well, Uncle Bob wasn’t much of a churchgoer.  He wasn’t very religious.  But besides his gambling and drinking, he was a pretty good old boy.  We know he’s in a better place.”

 

We want to believe that people we love never go to hell.  We can always talk ourselves into believing people are better off now that they’re dead . . . and it lessens our urgency to reach those without Christ.

 

UNDERSTAND THIS . . . IT TAKES A TEAM EFFORT TO GET PEOPLE TO JESUS.  It took at least four different people to get the man in our Bible passage to Jesus.  Verse 3 actually says: 

 

3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 

 

From the way things are worded, there were more than four men involved in the process.  It just took four of them to carry him.  Churches that have it recognize that reaching people for Christ is a team effort.  It’s not just the preacher’s job.  It’s everyone’s job.  I can’t do it alone.  You can’t do it alone.  It takes all of us to get the job done!

 

1 Corinthians 3:6

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.”

 

We have to remember:  we do our part, others do their part, and God does his.  We are never the answer; Jesus always is!

 

Churches without IT are afraid to ask people to follow Jesus.

 

They’re afraid no one will respond.  Don’t be afraid to fail.  I like what Craig Groeschel tells Christians:  “You don’t fail if the Spirit prompts you to ask someone to follow Christ and the person doesn’t.  You fail, when the Spirit prompts you but you’re afraid to ask.”

 

That is true for all of us.  Don’t blame yourself if someone rejects Jesus.  If you do, you’re putting yourself in God’s place.  There is also a flip side . . . the temptation to take credit if someone accepts Jesus.

 

Outreach is a team event.  You’re just part of the team.  Your position might be the pray-er.  You might be the conversationalist.  You might simply be the demonstrator - the one who shows the love of Jesus by what you do.  God might put you in for the first quarter and then bench you while others perform their specialties.  You do your part.  Let others do theirs.  And then watch God do his!

 

  • DETERMINE TO DO EVERYTHING NECESSARY TO GET THEM TO JESUS

 

The friends of this paralyzed man were determined to do everything necessary to get their paralyzed friend to Jesus.  As they came to the house, they saw the size of the crowd and knew they couldn’t get their friend through the door.  What in the world could they do?!

 

Most of the common homes in Jesus’ day had flat roofs.  There was usually some stairs or even more commonly a ladder outside that led to the roof.  The beams for the roof were generally set about three feet apart.  The gaps between the beams were covered with brush and clay and packed with manure.  You heard me right . . . manure.

 

Get the scene in your mind.  Jesus is teaching.  He’s in the flow.  He’s moving with the Spirit.  Pieces of, well, ceiling matter begins to fall on his head.  The ceiling starts to cave in.  And suddenly, the light of the sun explodes through a big hole.  It silhouettes the paralyzed man’s friends leaning over and staring down at everyone.  Jesus probably laughed with delight.  The homeowner . . . probably didn’t!

 

These guys were willing to bust through any barriers to get their friend to Jesus.  Churches that have it are filled with people with a sincere desire to win the lost.  And they don’t let any excuse stop them.  Crowd blocking the way?  No problem.  They’ll go over, under, around or through it.  I just HAVE to say it . . . They literally cut through the crap!

 

Some of you are may be upset that I just used that word.  Let me ask you this - are you more upset that I said crap, or that people are lost, dying, and going to hell?  I ‘m just wondering.

 

For our church to have it, we MUST shift to an outward evangelistic focus.  It’s essential.  Hear me . . . A&D won’t survive without it!

 

What does it take for us to see people come to Jesus?  Very simply, it takes three things.  The first thing it takes is people who don’t know Christ.  We need to have people who are far from God coming to church.  If people far from God aren’t coming to our church, we need to identify why.

 

Some reasons why we don’t have lost people coming to church:  1) Our people don’t have relationships with the lost.  2) Our people are too embarrassed to bring their friend and family to church.  3) Our building or our people are subtly communicating to people far from God, “Stay away!”  We need to do everything we can to make our congregation a place that welcomes those who don’t know Jesus.

 

The second thing it takes for us to see people come to Jesus is a clear presentation of Jesus’ story.  We need to make sure that we communicate our love for lost people but we also have to clearly teach more than a self-help gospel.  There has to be BOTH comfort and confrontation.

 

John 1:14 says that Jesus was “full of grace and truth.”  Our ministry needs to reflect these same qualities!

 

At the same moment we are welcoming someone with a comfortable environment and friendly people, we want to confront them lovingly with the truth.  If someone doesn’t recognize his / her sin, they’ll never desire a Savior.

 

The third thing it takes for us to see people come to Jesus is real faith.  If you don’t really believe in the power of Jesus to change a life, people will know.  But the opposite is true as well.  If you believe with every fiber of your being that Jesus can and will transform a life, people will sense it, feel it, and maybe believe it as well.

 

In the movie, The Guardian, there is a veteran rescue diver played by Kevin Costner.  He’s in the Coast Guard and he has spent his career going after people in danger - in the ocean.  He holds the record for number of saves.  He has been teaching other Coast Guard personnel how to do the same thing, and he’s now ready to retire.

 

At the end of the movie, there is a hot-shot up-and-coming diver who asks Costner’s character, “What’s your number?”  (He wants to know how many rescues the record-holder carries.)  The young, competitive diver is assuming he’ll hear two or three hundred rescues.

 

Costner’s character answers, “What’s my number?  My number is twenty-two.”

 

The young guy is surprised.  With disappointment he says, “Twenty-two?  I thought you’d saved many more than that.”

 

The veteran looks back over his shoulder and says, “Twenty-two is the number of people that I lost.  That’s the only number I ever counted.”

 

Instead of focusing on how many people they’ve seen saved, churches that have it realize how many more people God wants to reach.  C.R. Blake said, “If your Gospel isn’t touching others, it hasn’t touched you.”

 

When they got their friend to Jesus, Jesus forgave the man of his sins.  He did that before he healed the man of his paralysis.  WHY?  Because the man needed his sins forgiven more than he needed to be physical healing.  Even with critics present, Jesus proved he had the power to forgive sins. 

He said to the paralytic, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”  And then scripture tells us, “He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all.  This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’” 

 

We’ll know that our church has it when people start talking like the people in this story; when they tell everyone . . . “We’ve never seen anything like this!”

 

 

January 27, 2024

 

Finding It, Keeping It, and Sharing It

(sermon series)

“You'll Do Anything For It ”

 

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (NIV)

 

WeWEWe continue tonight in our series:  IT - Finding It, Keeping It, and Sharing It.  The first message was called, “What Is It?”  We defined IT this way:  What God does through a rare combination of certain qualities found in his people.   

 

Bottom of Form

Those qualities are:

   1. A passion for his presence. 

   2. A deep craving to reach the lost. 

   3. Sincere integrity. 

   4. Spirit-filled faith. 

   5. Down-to-earth humility. 

   6. Brokenness.

 

We started this series with a study of the traits that marked churches that had it . . . and learning how WE can develop those traits in our congregation.  The first trait was a God-given, God-breathed Vision and we said that “You Can See It Clearly.” 

 

Last week, the second trait was The Importance of Teamwork and we said that “We Experience It Together.”

 

Tonight, we look at a third trait:  Innovation.

 

Innovation is important because “You’ll Do Anything For It.”  A wise person said, “Learning and innovation go hand in hand.  The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”

 

Wikipedia defines innovation as the process of making improvements by introducing something new.  If there is any group in the world that should be motivated to make improvements, by reflecting God’s creative nature, it should be Christians.

 

The Latin term for expressing the idea that human beings are created in the image of God is Imago Dei.  Since we are made in the image of God, who is the Creative Creator, we too can conceive creative ideas!

 

Psychologist, physician, and consultant Edward de Bono said, “There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all.  Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.”

When we are creative, we reflect God.  Creativity leads to innovation and innovative churches tend to have it.

It is born out of passion to please God, reach people, and help those in need.  Increasing passion produces increasing creativity to reach people.

 

The apostle Paul obviously had it.  And he often did things in new ways.  He changed his approach in order to reach different people.

 

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (NIV)

19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible (to Christ).  20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.  To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.  21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.  22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak.  I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.  23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

 

Tonight, let’s take a look at some principles about innovation.

 

What would you say if I asked you, “Could you come up with a hundred thousand dollars by the end of the week?”

 

Chances are, unless you are mega-rich, that you’d probably say, “Whatchu talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?”

 

Why would you say this?  Because in your mind, I just asked you to do the impossible.  You might be thinking, There is no way I could come up with that kind of money.  I can barely pay my bills.”  If that’s your reaction, you’d be like most people.

 

Let’s do another imaginary exercise.  Think ab

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