Love being a Christian
Love being a Christian Greatest lifestyle out there - I wouldn’t trade it Why aren’t our churches flooded with people desperate for… Some Christians do a terrible job at representing Jesus - Our reputation determines wether or not people are in our lives and wether or not they’re in our churches.
Deeply convicted I've been really convicted this past year about the idea of sharing my christian faith. And what looks like in todays day and age. And how for so long, as a pastor who literally talks about Jesus for a living, how I can exclude myself from doing that in my everyday life.
And so I started this series on evangelism and as I normally do, I just prepare WAY too much and end up leaving a ton of stuff on the cutting room floor. And what I want to share tonight is something that I think is absolutely foundation to what we're talking about, but I didn't have a place to put it in just 3 weeks.
People listen to what we say only when we display it with our lives.
Jesus gives us a huge key to the whole thing in the sermon on the mount. So that's where we're going.
In this age of do-in-yourself spirituality, we need something to serve as an anchor to who we're supposed to be.
Constitution of God's Kingdom
In a society that has become more and more and more self destructive, the sermon on the mount gives us a way of living that won't result in us killing ourselves and each other. He's showing us a way to live that won't turn life into a kind of hell.
It's the ethical backbone of Christianity. If you were to ask me "What do Christians believe?" I'd have no idea. If you were to ask me "What SHOULD Christians believe" I'd point to the sermon on the mount.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Matthew 5:6)
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. (Matthew 5:7)
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (Matthew 5:8)
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:9)
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10)
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. (Matthew 5:11)
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:12)
“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, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. (Matthew 5:13)
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. (Matthew 5:14)
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. (Matthew 5:15)
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
Brilliant question to always ask is this: Who's talking and who's this person talking to.
Well first off, it's the red letters, so we know it's Jesus.
He's speaking to his disciples. or maybe a better way of saying that is he's speaking to people, who hear his message and say "I'm gonna live like that."
Which is not all Christians. You can be a Christian without ever taking seriously the way Jesus tells us to live in this world. Many people put their faith in Jesus when it comes to the afterlife. They put Jesus in charge of afterlife affairs and then live their life according to some philosophy that they've found and like in the world.
Jesus isn't speaking to those people. His message is much too radical for that. If you were to take the sermon on the mount seriously, it will put you at odds with pretty much all the systems of this world.
Salt We all joke that I LOVE salty food. If I get a steak, I love to a HEAVY seasoning of salt. More than more people. In ancient times, salt was not just a seasoning to put on food to make it taste better, it was that, but it was also a preservative. You'd put salt on things like meat to keep it from getting rotten.
Refrigerating food has only been around for 100 years. Canning food: 200. We've always been putting salt on food to stop it from going bad.
For centuries we've CORRECTLY understood this to mean that one of the things we're supposed to do in this world is stop this place from getting rotten. There's a sense that having us here stops this place from getting bad. That's we're a source of good, not for ourselves, but for the world.
Not: You HAVE the salt.
Here's what Jesus DIDN'T say: "You HAVE the salt of the earth." No, he said he are the salt. That might seem similar. But there's a world of difference between those two things. I believe that a huge number of Christians in the world think that he HAVE the salt. The salt of the Bible. I'll sprinkle this stuff around and that will help you guys out. You're welcome.
The difference is this: It's not our words of our beliefs that preserve the world, it's our lives. People receive the saltiness not by us believing something, but by us living.
It's not knowing Christian truth, it's living the Jesus way. HUGE difference. There's such a tendency in us that we think as long as we know the right things, that's somehow going to help the world. It's won't. The way that we help save the world, is by LIVING how Jesus told us to live.
Jesus comes and says "If salt loses it's saltiness, people throw it away." Again - we don't HAVE the salt, we ARE the salt. What I believe Jesus is saying is this: "If you don't live this stuff, people can and should disregard what you say."
The Number 1 reason people reject Christianity: Because they believe we're hypocritical. I think it's important to note that they're not commenting on what we BELIEVE, they're commenting on who we ARE.
So often we think that people reject Christianity because they don't value the truth, or maybe they're evil or something. Jesus says they'll reject your message if you BELIEVE stuff and it never finds it's way to who you ARE.
Salt losing it's saltiness is Christians losing their Christlikeness.
During the reign of Louie the 14th. AKA: Louie the 14th - The Sun King. Acquired a huge collection of Chinese books. Wanted to find a scholar / librarian who would care for these Chinese books.
Found a Chinese scholar who was Fluent in Chinese and French. Given the position to come to Paris, France and work for Louie the Great. Also he's a Christian. - Newly.
This man was very excited about coming to France. He told his friends - "Can you imagine?! A Christian Nation?! An entire nation:
Imagine his disappointment.
Pretend - lived in some other country, knew nothing of Christianity, but were converted and studied the life of Jesus. Then was told that there was a 'Christian Nation'. What would you expect? You'd expect a nation of people who are living this stuff. It's too easy to make 'Christian' mean something other than 'Christ Like'.
Put some of you at ease: I realize that the ministry of Jesus is a big pill to swallow in this world. I don't want to jump ahead but here in a minute, this sermon makes a sharp turn into loving your enemies. If someone comes and hits you in the face, JESUS says, we give him the other side of our face to punch too. If that doesn't sound counter-intuitive to you, then you're not listening. He says that we are to LOVE our enemies.
And we know from 1 John what love is, it's laying down your life.
Be Honest: Who in here is prepared to lay down their life FOR their enemies? But Jesus is saying here that the world will and SHOULD reject our message if we're not living it.
Christian Faith - Next Generation I spend a lot of time thinking about the Christian faith. Of course where it's been, but also where it headed. And what it takes to reach into the next generation and pass our faith on to them. It's something I talk a lot about. We've lost our saltiness.
Credibility Problem I believe that to a lot of people outside the church, the church has what I've been calling a 'Credibility Problem'. I'm sure you know that means. If you have a politician with a credibility problem. Credibility is essentially a combination of trustworthiness and expertise. So if you have a credible witness, it means you trust them. And they were there so they have some expertise in the situation. So society ignores us. And we get all kinds of mad! "HEY! You should listen to us!!! We know Bible stuff!!!" One thing that bums me out about the American church is that we've become incapable of surprising the world.
But if we don't live the Jesus way, no one is going to listen to our Jesus truth. That wasn't some atheist that said that, Jesus said that.
And how is he going to do that? Through the lives of his followers.
There are people who are big fans of Jesus. But they're not a disciple. They're not willing to change deep parts about who they are if he comes and tells us that what we're doing is wrong, and it's time to do something different.
They prefer to keep Jesus in charge of afterlife stuff. But beyond that, please stay out of my business. I'm quite happy in my particular area of the worlds system, Jesus has no business in this part of me.
Most people have a hint that the way the world currently is, is not working. The direction we're heading, is not going to work forever. There needs to at some point, be a change.
Most people don't know of an alternative. They're stuck in system. Consumerism / materialism / greed. What they need is to be able to look around and say "Hey, look at those people there! How is it that they're not in our broken system. And wow, it really seems to be working."
We don't try to make people outside our community try to live the Jesus way. That would be the wrong way to approach evangelism.
My friend Jayne Cawthon has a saying: "You don't have to get in the bath before you get in the bath." We live it out before them, and they're attracted to us, and we invite them in. That's how the change happens.
FORCING them to live how we live wether or not they want to, well that's ridiculous. The teachings of Jesus are for us to use to try to and change the culture. No we are supposed to be the radical alternative to the world. WE live the teachings of Jesus, and attract people into our communities. We don't try to force them, no we bring change by how we live.
Mother Teresa was outspoken against abortion. And you know what? People listened to her. Why? Because she lived the message.
Many of us have strong feelings about marriage. And divorce.
People who get married and divorced and it's not big deal, that's that's deeply broken. - That marriage is a sacred covenant.
So the world looks at us and says: "Ok, well do you guys ever get divorced?" "Yes"
"How often" "The same as you."
"Then in what way is marriage sacred to you?" "Well, it's a belief we have."
Protestants do a little better and catholics do a little better, but Evangelical Christianity, our divorce rates are so similar to secular society it's crazy.
Average: 46% of marriages fail. What percent of Evangelical marriages fail? 46%.
We're not salt! We're the same. What's the main different between us and wider society when it comes to marriage and divorce? What we believe. But not how we life.
"We believe in the sacredness of marriage. We don't have it, but we believe it." Jesus says lovingly "They're not gonna care what you think."
The real way to influence the worlds idea of marriage is to do marriage better.
The sermon on the mount teaches us that people won't care what we think about marriage until we do marriage better.
"If we are not a salty and shining, visible and viable, redemptive alternative to the broken way of the wider society, but are only hypocritically advocating change that we ourselves don't actually live, then we are good for nothing but to be cast aside and ignored. Jesus said so." (Brian Zahnd)
If the only real difference between us and the wider society is what we believe, but not how we live, they won't listen to us.
I don’t care how smart and touching a sermon of mine would ever be, you’d leave and say ‘Wow! Best sermon I’ve ever heard!’ But you knew that when I went home I verbally abused and screamed at my wife (I don’t by the way), you wouldn’t care what I said. My sermon would have 0 credibility. What a perfect warning for the American church. We can talk a real good talk but if our actions don’t back up our words, no one will listen.
We don't BRING the salt of a good idea, we ARE the salt. Now, we get mad because people just throw us away and don't listen to us. Jesus : "That will happen until you ARE your message."
I'm gonna say something weird: But in the context of evangelism, what you believe, doesn't really matter.
I believe faith in God is something deeper. But just ideas ABOUT stuff. Doesn't seem like that big of a deal. Doesn't seem like it actually changes all that much. We have to BE what we're wanting to happen.
If the only real difference between us and the wider society is what we believe, but not how we live, they won't listen to us.
(Prepare - Communion)
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
We know we need to let our light shine! The question is "HOW?"
No, through our GOOD WORKS.
Our light shines when we ARE the radical alternative to the world.
Peoples opinions about the Church have very little to do with God.
On one hand that's a lot of pressure. On the other hand, wow what an exciting idea. That we can actually live a life that points people to Jesus..
Buca de Beppo Not always easy. Years ago I went with seem friends to Buca de Beppo. It's a great restaurant, if you want to be carried out in a wheelbarrow. But for some reason the waiter had this huge problem with me. He said "What can I get for Princess over there?" Stuff like that. I wanted to go over there and give him a piece of my mind. But I remembered that what I did didn't just reflect on me, it's very possible that for him, what I did reflected on God too.
Just gonna warn you, people are gonna make fun of you. Accuse you of being idealistic. Paul said they're gonna think you're foolish and weak. But we, the people who have gathered around Jesus to learn how to live, we live it anyway. Because we're just that radical.
Closing Statement: For most people in the world, how you live doesn't just speak to the quality of your life, but it also speaks to the validity of your message. On one hand, this is a real challenge, often times people are turned off to the Christian message because of one bad encounter with the wrong Christian. On one the other hand, this is a great opportunity because each and every one of us has the opportunity to point people to Jesus by the life we live.
(Confess - Apostles Creed)