Propogate or Stagnate
For the past 2 months we have been going through a series which was meant to challenge us in the ways we interact with the world. I hope we have been provoked throughout this series. I have spoken to a few of you and you have made me very proud and also brought some conviction on me due to your boldness. I have heard some heartwarming interactions: Toni went to eat at little dutch and we have been praying for one of the waitresses there whose father is going through cancer treatment for the second time. I first met her while eating. One of the things I learned from eating out with Jim was how he would ask the server, “We are going to pray for our meal, is there anything we can pray for you?” I tried that and we got to step into someone else’s burden. I was able to follow up with her the next time I ate there but, Toni took it upon herself to enter the fray with me. She recognized the servers name and she followed up with her about her father. But do you know what made me feel good? Toni was asked, if I was her son. Do you know why that meant so much? My family lives in Florida. You are my mother’s and fathers in the faith. You are my brothers and sisters in the faith. You are my children in the faith. My family, is sitting right here. I would be honored if you were mistaken as my mother, father, brother or sister because that’s who you are. I want so bad, for the church to be known for this again. In a world that the majority of the population come from broken homes, who so desperately need a family, why cant the church be that family? I am not saying we have to be perfect, but we have to be selfless to accomplish this. It’s one thing for us to go out and reach people, but when they come in here do they feel like an outsider, or a part of the family? That is what we are going to covering today. But first we need to recap what we have covered.
We first began our series looking at the heart of a shepherd vs. the heart of a hireling. You see, a hireling could care less what happens to the sheep. They are not his. He was simply hired out to watch them. When danger comes, a bear, a wolf, or a lion show up they flee. But the heart of a shepherd is different. This was a convicting sermon for me to prepare because Jesus shows us using a parable to describe His heart for His flock. When a sheep goes astray, Jesus says, I will go and look for them. This is at the heart of pray for one. To actively go and search for that which is lost.
We then flipped this series on its head a little bit. Because we think that if we are going to go and search for the lost they must be out there! Or that if we are going to pray for one person we can show God’s love to it must be someone out there! In weeks 2 and 3 we talked about those nearest to us. That the people we need to show God’s love to are laying right next to us, or living under the same roof, or the ones who share our last name. For these two weeks we focused on discipleship. First we talked about how we overthink it. We make it more complicated than it has to be. We then spent an entire Sunday going through our 3/3rds discipleship taking place here at our church. I am just going to say it, every single person here needs to be in a 3/3rds. You might say, “I am not available on Monday Nights and Thursday mornings.” Then when are you available? We have no idea unless you tell us. Maybe you can lead one. Maybe you are willing to host one at your house. “JR how about I host a 3/3rds at my house on Saturdays?” Ok, we will find a leader. We cannot be a disciple of Christ without being discipled.
We then moved out from discipleship we began another two weeks addressing our most feared subject: Evangelism. Specifically the urgency which we are to have. It is already difficult for some of us to talk to strangers but are we supposed to have a burden for them? Yes. Do we love people enough we are willing to get uncomfortable, that they might know Jesus? There are two eternities hanging in the balance and our silence and lack of urgency will leave the fate of countless souls to the eternity we never wanted for them. But our silence is speaking louder than our words. We need to take responsibility who God has placed in our path, who He has put on our hearts to go after.
How can we accomplish this? When we know and we take responsibility what do we do? It was here that we addressed our preparation. Luke 12:11-12 “11 When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” Here is why I find these verses interesting. Who is Jesus speaking to? In the context he is speaking to His disciples. But notice how Peter, one of those disciples who Jesus said that to wrote 1 Peter 3:15-16 “15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 16 and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.” We approach evangelism as though God is going to give us revelation in the moment. To that I say, yes and no. First, He has already given us a Revelation for the moment. Second, He will call to mind what we have put in. David, a man after God’s own heart said, “I have hidden you word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” God will call to your mind a His Word as you talk to people. I have experienced this. I am not a brilliant man and I have the memory of a goldfish. His Word flies to the forefront. God brings what has been hidden in our hearts to our minds, that we might speak into their lives. This will not happen if we are not in His Word. Always being prepared is not going to happen apart from His Word.
But we do not just take God’s Word into evangelism. Your testimony is also a crucial part in the spreading of the Gospel. The early church did not have the NT. It was being written. But they had their testimonies of who Jesus is. Of what Jesus did in their life. We have the advantage. We have both. So, what is your testimony? How does your life testify of the Truth in Jesus Christ? We went through how we can compile our testimony to be able to tell it in 2 minutes or less.
Then last week, we heard the testimony of a man who was a apart of this church. Almost an image of what we have covered in this entire series, Storm spoke of urgency people had for the Gospel. How his grandparents, how this church took responsibility for him. He was the sheep who was lost and Christ went, found him, and saved Him.
This brings us to here and now. Here is what concerns me. This series was not meant to be a series which you listened to, maybe got encouraged, maybe felt some conviction and that’s it. I look out into this congregation and the average age is… older. How many here are retired. You have left the full-time workforce. Praise God. But your work is not done. Your employment might have ended but you are still a Christian and the Kingdom of God is still moving. There is no retirement age in the Kingdom of God. I know I am young, but please hear me out on this. I want to say this with all respect, but I also want to spur you, though I am young.
Isaiah 46:3-4 “3 “Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, And all the remnant of the house of Israel, You who have been borne by Me from birth And have been carried from the womb; 4 Even to your old age I will be the same, And even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; And I will bear you and I will deliver you.” You are not too old or too tired to keep marching forward the Kingdom of God. It was never your strength which carried His Kingdom. It was never your shoulders who carried Him. His strength carries you. His strength gets under your arms. You’re not done because he is not done with you. Psalm 92:12-15 “12 The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. 13 Planted in the house of the Lord, They will flourish in the courts of our God. 14 They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green, 15 To declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” Your life is not used up. God has no retirement age. God says He will renew you. He will work in you. He will produce fruit in your life regardless of your age. Proverbs 20:29 “29 The glory of young men is their strength, And the honor of old men is their gray hair.” Why? There is wisdom in your experience. There are warnings, triumphs, failures, and success found in your life that those younger than you need to hear. Psalm 71:18-19 “18 And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come. 19 For Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the heavens, You who have done great things; O God, who is like You?” You are not done. Can I just be upfront with you. There is ministry I cannot do. For several reasons. God has not gifted me, My personality is not compatible, my gender will restrict me where I can serve, my sin will restrict me, and my age will restrict me. I am not standing here saying, “Come on people I cant do everything, gosh!” No, I am saying as a fellow servant in Christ, I can’t do everything. Even if I wanted to, I shouldn’t do everything. What a train-wreck that would be. Why do you think I married such a soft, sweet, tenderhearted person? Because I am a jerk. God has gifted you. God has, through the years, shaped you and equipped you to serve His kingdom in a way that is unique to you. There is ministry I cannot do, because God has called you to do it. Because God has equipped you for it. He is not done with you. We have all eternity to rest, but until that time we are called to march forward the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I say that because, what I am afraid of is not the age of this church. I do not care how old or young you are. Whether it is the complacency of youth or the stagnation of the older. Both are in error. In the young we mistake that tomorrow is promised. We will put it off until tomorrow. We have no urgency. In our old age we think we have done enough. Let someone else do it. No! There are Youth in our church who need you. There are children in our church who need you. So get up, and I do not care how long it takes you to get up, but get up. God is not done with you and this church both wants and needs you now more than ever. If we are not propagating we are stagnating. If we are not propagating the Gospel, reaching the lost, disciplining one another, then we are stagnant. This world is dying, and Christ says, Revelation 21:5-6 “5 And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” 6 Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.” One of my favorite kind of shows is in the survivalist genre. Like him or not I have learned a lot with Bear Grylls. When in a survival situation what is the first thing we need to find, water. We can survive a lot longer without food than we can without water. Look at our world. Their dying. They are lost. They are drinking from critical race theory, politics, gender, and the list goes on. Our world is desperate for the living water and we are sitting on our hands, when that living water, when He will flow from our lives. But we stay silent. We have that living water, readily available, but we keep him to ourselves as though Christ will dry up.
Yes we have many in this world who will reject Christ, the living water. They would rather die than bend the knee to Him. But then there are those who will drink of His mercy, His grace, His salvation. There is no place in the Body of Christ to hoard the Spring of Living Water. This is why there is no retirement age in the church. God is still alive and working in your lives. Do not waste your life by thinking you have nothing to offer. You have Christ! You have everything to offer! As long as you have Jesus you are never too old, to worn out, too tired. As long as you have Jesus you have everything to offer this world. Don’t waste the rest of your life believing a lie. God is still glorified in your life. God is still working in your life. You are still here because He still has a ministry for you, a purpose, a calling. If you are still here, still breathe in your lungs, there is still work to be done and it is work that God has not only called you to but He has equipped you to do, Amen? Matthew 9:35-37 “35 Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. 36 Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” Let this never be said of FCC.
During desert storm, thirty-five American soldiers, almost 1 in 4 of those killed by friendly fire; 72 were wounded in those exchanges. During the 1944 invasion of France, Allied aircraft had stripes painted on the top and bottom of their wings for positive identification by friendly forces. Sadly, the Allies’ ground forces lacked similar protective markings. In one incident, American bombers struck friendly troops in Normandy, wounding 490 U.S. service members and killing 111 others.
When we hear about these instances of friendly fire, we think of it with such distaste. It heartbreaking. I mean, was a horrible thing. But you know something? That is exactly why people have rejected the church. Not because of something Jesus did, but because of what some else has done. Now I know this is not just black and white. There is a lot of debris we would need to go through. The point I am wanting to make is, our church has to be marked by our genuine love and care for people. Being a family does not mean we will never have a disagreement. That we will never mishandle a situation. Look, we have all had a family thanksgiving. This does not mean that there will be no bumps in the road or conflicts that arise. But when people walk through that door. When people sit in these pews and suffer through one of my sermons (they deserve a gold star right there). When they have fought against every cultural pressure and human desire to just stay home, but in stead they show up, they need to know they are genuinely loved. I want to read a passage for you which has been misread in our society:
1 Corinthians 13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Does this passage communicate love which should be shared between a husband and a wife. Yes. But what is the actual context of this verse? Yes it can apply over here very well but what was the context. You only need to look at chapter 12 and 14 to see this is smack dab in Paul’s writing to the church. How the church is to conduct itself. Let me go through this with you and allow God’s Word to convict us and reshape us:
Love is patient
Love is kind
love does not envy
Love does not boast
Love is not arrogant
Love is not rude.
Love does not insist on its own way
Love is not irritable
Love is not resentful
Do you notice, that Paul is telling us what love is by telling us what it is not. To this point He has only given us two positive affirmations (Patient and kind). Beyond that he has told us what love is by what it isn’t.
Love is does not rejoice at wrongdoing
(We see some affirmations!) Love rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things
Love believes all things, hopes all things: one commentator phrased it this way. Love is not suspicious or cynical. Someone may walk into our church and be suspicious of our motives, due to the hurt in their past, but we will not be suspicious of theirs motives for being here. That we will put trust in one another. That when a wrong is done their will be repentance.
Love endures all things.
Love never fails.
How? How can this love never fail? The love that Paul speaks of in chapter 13. The Love he uses 10 times in 13 verses in the love which is used when speaking of God’s love. The same love found in John 3:16. The same love which is to define the love between a husband and a wife, but the love which describes Christ’s love for His church. Paul uses Agape 10 times in chapter 13. God’s Word leaves us no doubt what love in the church is, because it also shows us what love is not. I am not saying that our church is perfect. That our church has not fallen short. That our church has not made some terrible mistakes. I am saying that, if we cannot make mistakes here, among one another. Then where can we? If broken people cannot come here, then where can they go? If we cannot work through our mess, then where can we?
The call that God has placed on the church goes far beyond a simple, reach the lost and feed the sheep. We are to reach the lost. Care for them. Counsel them. Disciple them. Nurture them. Help them to find their call. Help them to realize their gifts. Help them to grow and walk in Christ. Help them to forgive. And that only scratches the surface. But you and I play a role in that. Not just you. Not just me. We all have a part in this, and how wonderful it is to know, even broken vessels like us can still be used for the Kingdom of God.