Faith Church

3 RELATIONSHIPS – Relationship With The World | Sermon from 10/27, 2019

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For the past month, we have been talking about what it means for us to follow Jesus. Following Jesus means living like Jesus and when we look at Jesus’ life we see three significant relationships that Jesus gave himself to. First and foremost, Jesus gave himself in relationship to his Father in heaven. While Jesus was the fullness of God in human form, so he was God himself, he was also fully human and so while on earth Jesus intentionally spent time connecting with God the Father. Jesus sought out times of prayer to speak with God. He went to God for guidance. He went to God for strength. He went to God for comfort and rest. He turned to God constantly and showed us that a relationship with God is vital if we want to experience the fullness of life. David used the image of a vine and said that if we want to produce fruit – if we want to be spiritually healthy, happy, and living the life God wants for us – we have to stay connected to the vine – which is God. We have to pursue a relationship with God if we are going to follow Jesus.

Last week we saw how Jesus not only lived in relationship with God, but he also formed a community of faith and established relationships with those he called to follow him. Jesus created the church and a relationship with the church is essential if we are going to follow Jesus. In fact, just like redwood trees can’t grow alone because their roots need the root system of other trees, so we need one another if we are going to remain strong in our faith. We can’t live a life of faith on our own, and we don’t have to because we have been given the family of God, the church, to be a support. When we give ourselves to this relationship it makes all the difference.

Yesterday, I returned to Altoona to celebrate the life of a woman from my first church who passed away on Wednesday. She and her husband lived a few houses away from the parsonage and they became my biggest supporters, cheerleaders, advocates, and friends. They stood up and fought for me when the church had some conflict, and they opened their home to me when I couldn’t be with my own family on holidays. As I reflected on Jane’s life, what amazed me was that I only lived near them, and knew them in the church for 7 months before they moved away. It doesn’t take long when we live in a relationship with the church to have God’s people make a profound impact on our lives.

My life and ministry was shaped by Jane and I would not be who I am today if it were not for her faith, faithfulness and love. When things got hard and I thought about giving in and giving up, Jane and her husband had my back, gave me inspiration, courage, and faith I needed to keep going. That is why a relationship with the church is essential. It is the church that helps us stay focused on God when things get difficult, and it is the support of others who keep our faith strong. We need this relationship with the church.

Today we turn to the last of the 3 Relationships – a relationship with the world. While we often think that Jesus only lived and ministered among his own people, the reality is that Jesus reached out to all the world. Roman soldiers and officials, as well as gentile women, were all part of Jesus’ life and ministry. He reached out to all people and after his resurrection Jesus gave a mission to his disciples to reach out to the people of all nations. Actually it wasn’t a mission as much as a command. Matthew 26:18-20&Acts 1:8.

Jesus makes clear that being a witness and making disciples is not optional. We are commanded to go, and in both cases we are told to go to all the world. In Acts, we see a model for what our relationship with the world might look like: Judea, Samaria, the ends of the earth. Judea is where the disciples lived. Samaria was the larger region that surrounded them, and then the boundaries moved to the ends of the world. To follow Jesus means we are to have some kind of a connection with our neighborhood, our region, and yes the entire world.

As with the other relationships, we are going to look at 5 rhythms that help establish and grow this relationship. Again, this is not a to-do list of things we need to check off once and then say – I’m good. These are ways of living that shape all that we do and are.

  • Readiness – I continue to prepare my mind and heart for interactions with others
  • Engagement – I look for opportunities to introduce people to Jesus
  • Blessing – I find ways to make the world around me better.
  • Sharing – I communicate the gospel to others
  • Global – I am involved in making disciples worldwide.

You will notice that 3 of these rhythms have to do with sharing our faith, introducing people to Jesus, and making disciples. When we hear these words, many of us get uncomfortable because we think of evangelism – which you will notice is NOT a four letter word – but it does make us uncomfortable because it leads to images of going door to door and telling people about Jesus. Or maybe we think we need to stand on the street corner and pass out Christian pamphlets with information about how to be saved, or maybe we envision those awkward conversations with family, friends, coworkers, and strangers about why they need to accept Jesus.

It is my prayer that by the end of worship today, none of us will see a relationship with the world in those terms, but instead that we will be challenged to see it in a much larger context and a different light. And it is my prayer that we will all have the courage to take the step of faith needed in order to be more intentional in this relationship, because the world needs us and it needs us because it needs Jesus.

What is important to understand at the beginning is that God has always had a passion for the world. God has always loved all nations and all people. In Habakkuk 2:14 it says, For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. I love how the prophet says, as the waters cover the sea. What percentage of the sea is covered by water? 100%. All of it. God wants all the earth, meaning all people on the earth, to come to the knowledge of God’s glory, which means knowing about God’s love, God’s grace, and the salvation that is ours through Jesus.

1 Timothy 2:4 says, God wants all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. God’s heart is truly for all people. God loves every tribe, every nation, every person on earth the same way and his passion is for each one of us to know him. God has called us to take this good news of God’s love to all the world and we do that by intentionally developing and deepening a relationship with the world, and it all starts by getting prepared.

Readiness. What I like about this rhythm is that it acknowledges that we might not be ready to interact with other people in faithful and significant ways so we need to get ready. We need to reflect on our lives and consider all the relationships we have with people now. How and where do we interact with new people? What is our comfort level in meeting new people? Where might God be leading us and wanting to use us in meeting new people? Reflection, prayer, and discernment are all a big part of readiness. How is God asking us to get ready and how has he already prepared us?

This rhythm really needs to be seen a simple as getting to know our neighbors? Do I know the people I work with? How well do I know the parents of my children’s friends and teammates? What about the people we see over and over again in the stores and restaurants? Can we simply get to know the people around us and the people God places in our lives and let those relationships grow and teach us how to connect with others? When we intentionally focus on these relationships and start praying for these people, it helps us see how and where God can use us in the lives of others.

Readiness needs to lead to engagement. We don’t just build relationships to have a lot of friends; we also build relationships so that we can shine God’s love into people’s lives. This does NOT mean all of our relationships are projects – not at all. We build relationships because of love. God’s love for us and our genuine love for people, but that love for others has to include sharing in different ways the knowledge of God’s love and grace.

But it is important to understand what this rhythm is saying and not saying. It is not saying that introducing people to Jesus means going door to door. Some people might do this and might do it well, but that is just one method of sharing. It also does not say we need to stand on the corner and preach or pass out information. Again, some people might do this with authenticity and passion, but it is just one method.

What it does say is that we need to look for opportunities to introduce people to Jesus, and this often just starts with prayer. God show me who is already in my life that I can show and share with them your love. Who can I simply take a step of faith with and invite to worship, or share how God has been a blessing in my life?

It’s not always preaching and teaching that introduces people to Jesus, it is often words of forgiveness, kindness, and grace that touch someone’s heart and gets them thinking in new ways. Many times people will want to know more about our faith because they see us living a life of peace in the midst of storms, or joy in the midst of pain. When people ask us what gives us help and hope – that is an opportunity to introduce people to Jesus. But let’s be clear – it also means sharing. It means communicating the gospel with others.

In Mark 16:15 Jesus says, Go into all the world and preach the gospel. Matthew 28 says teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. At some point God will give us all an opportunity to speak and to share what we know of Jesus. Again, this often makes us uncomfortable and we begin to say, I don’t know enough to teach, and there is no way I can preach – but we can, because what God is asking for here is simply sharing what it is we know of God and what we have experienced of Jesus.

The best example of this is found in John 9 when Jesus heals a man born blind. Jesus heals the man and then slips away into the crowd. The blind man is then asked, who did this? Who healed you and why did he do this on the Sabbath? They ask the man all kinds of questions and the man simply says this, Look… this is what I know. Once I was blind but now I see, and that’s the guy who did it.

Sharing what we know is simply communicating what we can about Jesus. Has he forgiven us? We can share that. Does he love us? We can share that. Have we seen his power at some point in our lives? We can communicate that. Has he given us hope, peace, joy, or purpose? We can let people know. Sharing is simply stating what we know about God.

If this seems too overwhelming, then let me encourage you to do this one exercise. Take some time this week and write down what God has done in your life. Find one thing that you can clearly see and say to yourself, God has done this. Then write it down. Rewrite it. Revise it. Add to it. Read it daily. If we do this we are getting ready and God will then give us both the opportunity and the courage to share it with someone. Sharing is simply learning to tell our own faith story, and how God has moved in our lives.

The rhythm of blessing is similar to the rhythm of generosity we discussed last week, and it is just asking ourselves how we can make our world a better place. Start by asking how you can make your world better. Where can you go right now and what can you do to make life better? Start small, and then allow God to show you more ways you can be a blessing, and then don’t let any boundary hold you back but truly go global.

Make disciples and be a blessing world-wide. Many times we do this by supporting missions and ministry in places like Sierra Leone and Belize. We can support people or organizations that are involved in disaster relief, well drilling, medical missions, educational missions, church development, child welfare, or economic freedom. Next month we will all have an opportunity to do something to share God’s love globally through Operation Christmas Child. Each shoebox goes to a child in a different nation. Each shoe box is a blessing and makes a child’s world better.

Each shoe box also shares the story of Jesus because there is a booklet that shares the gospel. In fact, there are ways we can enhance the sharing of the gospel through the shoe boxes by giving to a program called “the Greatest Journey”. This is a 12 lesson course on following Jesus and costs $6 per child and you can add this to your shoe box to help children learn more about Jesus and you will be hearing more about that in the weeks to come.

So a relationship with the world is not sharing our faith door to door, or standing up at work or on the streets and giving our testimony. It is a way of living that focuses on our thoughts, words, and actions on the people around us and around the world. We focus on others because God loves them and it is God’s desire that they know about this love. We focus on others because it is God’s plan for us to share God’s love with them. God wants his love and grace shared with all the world, and God has only ever had one plan to make that happen – his people sharing this love and message with all the world. There is no plan B. It is our relationship with the world that is to reveal God’s love and shine God’s light and truth in a way that blesses people and brings us all closer to God.

There are 3 Relationships that help us follow Jesus and 15 rhythms that can deepen our faith and trust in God. Learning to live this way can never be a checklist of things to do, this is a complete way of living and moving and being. I invite you to find just one rhythm in one relationship to focus on during the next month. We are going to focus on generosity and giving in November but you can choose any rhythm and any relationship, but pick one and every day focus your heart, your mind, and your will on that rhythm. Read scripture and pray about that rhythm and give yourself to growing in that rhythm and watch your faith grow and the blessings into and through your life.

Next Steps

The Relationship with the World

1. Think about your own life. What series of events (people, events, circumstances) helped lead to the relationship you have with God today?

2. Read 1 Timothy 2:3-4. What does this tell us about God’s desire for the world? Who is excluded from the list of people the Lord desires to have a relationship with?

3. What makes it hard for us to share our faith with folks who don’t follow Jesus? How do you think Jesus would respond to our concerns?

4. The 4 Rhythms of a strong relationship with the world:

  • Readiness – I continue to prepare my mind and heart for interactions with others
  • Engagement – I look for opportunities to introduce people to Jesus
  • Blessing – I find ways to make the world around me better.
  • Sharing – I communicate the gospel to others
  • Global – I am involved in making disciples worldwide.

5. There are 15 Rhythms that make up the 3 Relationships that followers of Jesus are invited to deepen and develop. What is ONE rhythm you have a desire to grow in? What is one thing you can do in the next month to help you grow in that rhythm? Tell someone about your goal.

Sunday Morning

8:15 am: Traditional Worship Service with Nursery
10:45 am: Contemporary Worship Service with Nursery and Children’s Church

512 Hughes Street Bellefonte, PA 16823

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