Over the last three weeks, we’ve talked about the first two qualities of disciple-making. This week, we will focus on the third quality, Heart for Our World.
The gospel always goes against our excuses and our temptations. What’s the antidote for the sinful, “curved inward” bent of our souls? The gospel of Christ offers the antidote. And it bids us to turn our hearts outward towards God, each other and our world. In the book of 2 Corinthians, the apostle Paul challenged believers to answer Christ’s call to have a heart for their world. We can answer Christ’s call to have a heart for our world.
Below is an automated transcript of this message:We’re concluding our series today entitled, “Rising Up to Make More Disciples.” I would remind you of what this series has been based on; it’s been based on two great commands, from Jesus to the church and to believers.
The first is called the Great Commission, where Jesus commands, Matthew 28:19 (ESV) “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” He gives us a command to make disciples.
The second is the Great Commandment; it tells us what kind of disciples we are to be making. Mark 12:30-31 (ESV) ‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
If you put these two great commands together, you get the foundation of our sermon series. More than that , you get the basis for our church purpose. Our church exists to make disciples of Jesus Christ who have a growing . . . Heart for God expressed in passionate worship and generous giving. Heart for Each Other expressed in authentic fellowship and devoted discipleship. Heart for Our World expressed in intentional evangelism and sacrificial service.
Over the last three weeks, we’ve talked about those previous character traits of the types of disciples we are making. Today, we’ll be looking at that third and final quality, “Heart for Our World.”
And you might be thinking right now, Come on, really? I mean, that sounds all well and good, you know, that we should have a heart for our world, but I can barely take care of myself right now. I mean, really? The world? The truth is, with all this Covid, it concerns the social unrest and the political disunity. Some of us can barely get out of the bed. Some don’t even want to leave their house.
But you want me to have a heart for our world? Isn’t that always our temptation to turn inward, to think, I need more alone time. I need more “me” time. I need more of me. That’s the temptation and the coronavirus has made for the perfect excuse for this. It’s like we’ve been commanded to be alone. But even before Covid, even before the coronavirus, we always felt that kind of temptation to turn inward, to make life about ourselves.
Yet, the gospel goes against our excuses and against our temptations. It always does, and the gospel bids us to turn outward even as the coronavirus tries to lock us down. The gospel always bids us to turn upward to God and outward to others. Fourth century writer and theologian, Augustine of Hippo, coined a Latin phrase to describe this inward focus of the human heart. He called it: “incurvatus in se” (“in-curve-AH-toos in say”) – Latin for “curved inward on oneself.” Augustine saw this inward focus as the real nature of sin, describing a life lived inwardly for oneself rather than outwardly for God and others. Augustine saw this as the result of sin when we failed in the Garden of Eden. When we fail and we have fallen into sin, we turn from looking to God and looking to others to looking inward. We “curve” inward. He sees this as the real problem of the human heart.
What’s the antidote for this? How can we overcome this tendency of looking inward, “curving” inward? The Gospel of Christ offers the antidote. It bids us to turn upward towards God and outward towards others and our world.
In the book of 2 Corinthians, the apostle Paul challenges believers to answer Christ’s call to have a heart for their world and I believe we can have a heart for our world. We can hear this call from the gospel of 2 Corinthians. As we look at it, I want us to look for three words that help us answer Christ’s call for having a heart for our world.
Are you ready? Have you got your seatbelts on? Let’s read. We’re going to look at 2 Corinthians, starting at verse 14 of chapter 5 and we’ll read down through 21. 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 (ESV) 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. This is God’s Word. Amen.
We’re looking for three words on how to answer this call to have a heart for our world. Here’s the first word:
How to have a heart for our world: 1. Let Christ’s reconciling love be your motive. Look at our first verse that we’ve read; this is verse 14. You’ll see that Paul writes, “For the love of Christ controls us…” that word, “controls,” could have been translated, “compels us” or “motivates us.” It’s this idea of being held together and pressed forward towards something.
If you’ve ever been on a farm where they have cattle, they have these fences that, little by little, direct cows until they are in a straight line. At the end is place where they can lock their head and take care of any of their physical needs. These fences, little by little, press them together and move them towards that place. That’s the verb here in the Greek. It has the idea of being compelled, motivated, pressed into.
What’s the source of this activity that would make us feel compelled and motivated? It’s the love of Christ. Let me read it again; he says, 14 “For the love of Christ, controls us…” It compels and motivates us. That is our motivation, that is our source; the love of Christ.
What kind of love is this? It’s “agape” love as the scripture teaches us. This is the kind of love that caused Jesus to lay down his life for us. Agape love is God’s kind of love. It’s the kind of love that is unconditional. It’s not I love you because but I love you in spite of. It’s the kind of love that we only can receive if it’s poured out in us from God, because it’s God’s kind of love. The love of Christ motivates us. Does it motivate you? Does His reconciling love motivate you?
Here’s what it looks like; Paul goes on. He says, 14 “…because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died…” It motivates us because He died for all. Therefore, we have all died. In other words, we’ve died to our old self, our old life and so we have this new love poured out in our hearts. He died for all that those who live might no longer live for themselves or turn inward because we have Christ’s love poured out in our hearts. We have a new heart that turns outward.
And then he says in verse 16, “From now on…” in other words, there’s a new reality from now on. If you came in one way today, I pray that from now on as you leave here, you will leave in a different way. He says that from now on we regard no one according to the flesh, even though we used to even regard Christ according to flesh but we don’t any longer. We no longer regard people according to flesh because we’ve been made alive in Jesus and we have this love poured out of us.
Now, what does he mean? “We no longer regard others according to the flesh.” What does he mean? “Regard” means we no longer look at people through the lens of the flesh, which is the outward. In other words, we no longer look at skin color. We no longer look at gender. We no longer look at political parties. We no longer look at cultural background or international background. We no longer look at people according to the outward, but now we look at people through the lens of Christ, reconciled in love. We see people through the lens of love. We have a new motivation and a new heart. So we see differently. We have new eyes. We used to see people in all kinds of ways and we would judge them accordingly. Back then, we would say, Well, I don’t think I can be with that person or talk to that person. I don’t like them already, just by the way they look or I don’t like them because of their accent or because of… fill in the blank. But agape love is unconditional. I love you in spite of, not because of. Agape love no longer regards people according to the flesh, because the love of Christ motivates us.
Let’s carry that out with another step; if we don’t regard people according to the outward anymore, how then do we regard people as we look through the lens of love? We only see two categories of people: (1) Those who already have received the love of Christ. We have fellowship with them and we call him brother and sister or (2) People who have yet to receive the love of Christ and we regard them through the lens of love, as those who deserve to hear about Jesus. We Are motivated by this, not motivated by our own desires. We are not motivated by whatever motivation you can list. We are motivated by the kind of love from within us through Jesus Christ. We are moved, we are compelled, we are controlled, we are pressed towards viewing people in this new way from now on.
You look at someone and you ask, Holy Spirit, can you tell me, has this person already received the love of Jesus or do they need to hear the love of Jesus? You don’t look at them according to the flesh anymore; you only look at people according to their spiritual reality. The love of Christ that’s poured out within me really simplifies my life. It can really simplify your life. You are motivated by Christ’s love.
What motivated God to send Christ to us? Wasn’t it love? “For God so loved…” How much? “…so loved…” John 3:16-17 (ESV) 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.’’ God has a heart for the world. He so loved the world that He gave the greatest gift of all, His Son, Jesus, to die in our place. He’s motivated by love. And when we receive the love of God, which is expressed in Christ, we now have a heart for our world too. We no longer have hearts, that as Saint Augustine said, that are turned inward, curved inward. Now, we have new hearts that are turned outward.
You might be thinking, Gary, come on. Do you realize how hard it is to be alive right now? Living is so much harder this year. Constant loneliness, isolation , discouragement, depression, increases of addiction and more marital strife than ever. I have my kids at home; I can’t even tell if they’re studying. It’s just pressure, pressure, pressure and here you’re putting more pressure on me. You’re not hearing me; we’re always tempted to turn inward. I know there’s new pressures, greater pressures, perhaps, that you’ve ever felt right now. This is always coincided with the temptation to turn inward. We’ve always wanted to turn inward because sin always turns to self. What’s the antidote? Is it to turn more inward? No. You’ll find your healing in helping others. You will find that you are overcoming discouragement and depression. You’ll take your eyes off of yourself and put them on the Lord Jesus and put them on other people because He has His eyes on the lost. You want to see what Jesus sees, looking through the lens of love. This will be your healing, too, not more inward turning.
Now, some of you are home and you’re watching online right now. I’m not talking about whether you’re here in person or not. I’m talking about engaging with others. Are you engaging, using whatever you’re able to do. Some of you have health risks and you’re staying home. I get that; I am not talking about that. I’m talking about whether you’re turning inward and, as a result, you’re not becoming more like Jesus. You’re experiencing discouragement and depression. You’re not being motivated by love. You’re being motivated by fear, whether you’re at home or here in person. We are to be motivated by love.
What motivates us to love others? In 1 John 3:16 (NLT) “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.” So, we are to do what Jesus did; we are to his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.” be motivated by sacrificial, agape love; unconditional love. 1 John 4:19 (NLT) “We love each other because he loved us first.” The way we have received this love is because we’ve received Jesus.
In her book, “Changepower,” psychologist, Meg Selig, writes, “Love is the greatest motivator. Not just romantic love, but also loving relationships, including love of family and friends. A pregnant mom quits smoking for love of her unborn child. An alcoholic stops drinking for the love of his family. A college student who wanted to quit school, stays and graduates for the love of a woman. Love empowers us to change!”
We already know that love makes the world go around. Even the world without Christ knows this but they don’t know the love of Christ. It is unique. It’s ever giving; always forgiving . It always stays. Read 1 Corinthians, chapter 13 and get a glimpse of God’s kind of love.
Are you motivated by Christ’s love? Does it compel you to love others? Does Christ’s love compel you to turn outward. The minute you’re tempted to go inward do you say, Wait a minute, I am moved by the love of Jesus. If not, will you let Christ’s love, his reconciling love, be your motive.
That’s the first word. Are you ready for the second word? The second word is ministry.
2. Let Christ’s reconciling love inspire your ministry.
Maybe, you’re saying, I didn’t know I had a ministry. I didn’t even know I wanted one. We knew you had one, Gary, but I didn’t know I had one. Well, good. You’re learning something new today. You have a ministry. Look at verse 18; circle the word, ministry. There it is in the scripture. Let’s let’s refresh our minds here.
Verse 17 says, “therefore.” Remember, if we see, “therefore” in the text,what should we always ask? What’s it there for? You are doing so well today. What’s it there for? You can always read what was prior to see how because therefore is like an “equal sign” in the text. What comes before results in what comes after. So, what came before was that He died for us. He’s motivated us by His love. 17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.”
Are you in Christ? How do you get in there? If you get in there, he gets in you. You’re in him and He’s in you. How do you get in there? How do you get in Christ? You believe in Him; it’s by faith. That’s how you get in there; by faith. You say, I believe that You did all that was necessary when You died on the cross for our sins. You did all that was necessary for me to be made right with God. And because I believe that I will say it with my mouth, I believe you are Lord, and that You were raised from the grave and you live today. You can say this through prayer or you can stand up and say it out loud. But however you say it, say it so God can hear it. He can hear everything, by the way, so say it and believe it in your heart that He’s alive. God raised Him from the dead; He is the Lord. He died for your sins. He will save you; that’s how you get in. If you’re in, He does something to you. He makes you a new creation. Now, this is not a makeover. This is not a remodel. This is not a “house flip.” He doesn’t just “flip” your heart; He gives you a heart transplant. He takes out that old, callused heart and He puts in a new one. Now, I’m speaking spiritually. Some of you look at me and you look troubled but I’m speaking spiritually.
He gives you a new heart; a new heart filled with love, motivated by love and a new heart that’s got a ministry. If you don’t get the new heart, you don’t have a ministry. If you get a new heart; you get a new ministry. In verse 18, you see the word, “ministry.” We have a saying in our church; “Every member a minister.” Well, Gary, we thought you were the minister. Don’t you call me the minister. I’m not the minister. I’m the pastor. You’re the minister. You are the ministers. That’s God’s plan. I’ve got a ministry too but don’t call me the minister. You’re a minister too. In fact, this week, when you go to your Thanksgiving dinner and you’re sitting across the table from your brother in law and he asks you, What have you been doing lately? (because you haven’t seen him since last Thanksgiving) you say that you got a new job. So what is your new job? he asks. You tell him, I am the minister of reconciliation. Tell him, Yeah, I have a ministry; I am the minister of reconciliation.
Verse 18 says this, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” Christ has already performed His ministry. He’s done what is necessary to reconcile.
The word reconciled, reconciliation is in this passage five times. It could be translated, He made us right with God. It means to be made right. It is this idea of there’s now peace between you; you’ve been restored to a favored status.
For those of you that can remember this, back in the day, we had something called “checkbooks.” You could write checks and, at the end of the month, you would get in the mail a statement from the bank. You would take your checkbook and reconcile it to the bank’s statement. You had to get right with the bank because you didn’t want to write a check more than you had in the account. Does anybody remember this? Talk to your kids and explain to them what a checkbook is.
Reconciliation means to be made right with, to be in agreement with. Here’s the problem, going back to the bank analogy. For a moment, we had a huge NSF from heaven, a non sufficient funds problem. There was no righteousness. We were bankrupt when it came to being right with God. If you’re already bankrupt, you’ve got nothing to deposit to make yourself right with God. Someone has to come along who is rich in righteousness and make a deposit that we can draw on. Someone did. His name is Jesus. God loved the world so much that He sent Jesus and He deposited his righteousness for our sinfulness. He deposited His eternal life for the death that we deserved. He deposited His Sonship for our separation from God. Praise the Lord. Hallelujah! He paid it all so that we now have been reconciled. Made right with God. So when the heavenly accounts are checked, when you get your heavenly statement, it says, “paid in full,” plus a huge deposit of righteousness and love.
We are co heirs with Jesus. You’ve been given a ministry. It’s called the “ministry of reconciliation.” The word, “ministry,” comes from a word that you may have heard me say in the Greek before. It comes from the Greek word, ( ). That’s where we get the word, “deacon;” it means servant. It’s often translated, “servant;” you’ve been given a service to do. Remember what we say, “We’re making disciples who have a growing heart for God that is expressed by sacrificial service.” This is where we get that phrase; it comes from this, that we are intentionally called to make disciples of Jesus who have a growing love of our world that is expressed in sacrificial service.
Christ came to serve and calls us to be servants too. Mark 10:43-45 (NLT) 43 “… Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
The word, serve, every time you see it, there in that text is the same word that’s translated “ministry.” It comes from the Greek word, ( ). Jesus said I came to serve; if you want to be a leader, be a servant. Husband, father, do you want to be a leader in your house? Be a servant. Mom and wife, do you want to be a leader in your house? Do you want to make a difference? Be a servant. Lay your life down for the other. This is called servant leadership. Our great model is Jesus. He’s not only a model; He abides in us and lives in us. He compels us and motivates us. He lives inside of us.
And then, He sends us out to do the very thing that He came to do. As His representatives you’re the ministers.
Listen to these verses from Ephesians 4:11-12 (NKJV) 11 “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry…” Why did he give this five-fold gifting to the church? For the work of the ministry; see, now you’re stuck. There’s no wiggling out of this. . I now call you to be ministers of reconciliation. That’s who you are. You’re peacemakers. You’re difference makers, you are world changers. You have a heart for this world. You’ve been given a ministry and it’s been given to you by Jesus himself.
What did Christ do when He came as a servant? What did His ministry look like? He healed the sick. He encouraged the hurting. He touched the leper. He fed the hungry. He took children in His arms and blessed them. I’m just getting started. What is your ministry supposed to look like? How can you minister and serve to those who are far from God? Through radical acts of kindness. In other words, from now on, and it will be hard; be nice, be good to people. Be kind. Be generous. Be hospitable. Serve others. Be a reconciler, not a troublemaker. Leave a big tip at the restaurant. Send someone a card of encouragement. Not because it’s their birthday or christmas; “just because.” Invite your neighbors over for a cookout or coffee. You have a ministry. It’s the Ministry of Reconciliation. Ministry is your second word. Motive is your first. Are you ready for the third? Can you handle the third? Do you wanna hear the third?
3. Let Christ’s reconciling love inform your message.
I’m sorry; I’ve got three “m’s;” I couldn’t resist it. I had to come up with the word, motive. You can see that ministry was in the text. And if you look closely, you’ll see that message is also in the text in verse 19. You won’t forget it.
Having a heart for our world, we are motivated, we have a ministry and we have a message; a message of reconciliation. He says in verse 19, “that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” The word message.
Those of you may like when I throw Greek words at you. Some of you may wonder, Why does he always do this? Well, sometimes it’s just so rich; I can’t resist. But here’s one I’ve shared with you before; it’s the Greek word, “logos” and it means “word.” It’s often equated with the name of Jesus. Jesus is the word of God, the “logos.” But here, interestingly enough, it’s translated “message,” the “logos” of reconciliation. The message. In other words, it’s a word now.
Maybe you’ve heard this said; it’s often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. The truth is, no one knows where this phrase, this quote came from: “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” Have you heard that before? “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” Now, to give the person who wrote this (and we don’t know who it is; I think his name was “Anoni Moose.” I think that’s who it was; anonymous. We don’t know who wrote it, but maybe giving him the benefit of the doubt. The motivation for writing it was to say that you need to make sure, if you’re going to share the gospel , that your life looks like it should. It supports that you live a changed life. I agree with that. But, unfortunately, the phrase came to be used by Christians who didn’t want to share their faith. They say, Well, I don’t talk about it, but I try to show people what I believe in the way I live. We’ll see. There’s a problem with that. That’s not what you’re asked to do. You, as ministers of reconciliation, have been given a message, and the message of reconciliation can also be translated, “the Word.” Therefore, use words when necessary. It’s always necessary. Our life should look like seeing others through the lens of love, being motivated by Christ’s love. You’re a servant. We’re building this up.
If you look here, Paul fills this text with “therefore.” You know what he’s doing; he’s building a case. You carry a message. He recognized that you need to be motivated by love. You need to recognize that you’ve got a new heart. You recognize, now, that you’re a minister and an ambassador . You have a message. That’s why all these “therefores” are there. He’s doing math; it’s theological math. He’s building a case that you are those carrying this message because you are recipients of it.
He says, “you are ambassadors,” in verse 20. You’re a trusted and respected representative of God in this world. This world cannot see Jesus. The only Jesus they can see is you. The only Christ they know of is the one you tell them about. This is a high and holy calling. You are his ambassadors. We are his ministers. We carry a message. It’s the message of reconciliation.
What is this message? In verse 19, “that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” That’s why it’s good news. Guess what? You’re a sinner. But, guess what? You’re forgiven. All you need to do is accept the gift. That’s good news because you can’t pay for it. You’re bankrupt, but He made a deposit , and all you have to do is say “Yes, count me in. I want Jesus. I don’t want my way anymore. I want Jesus.”
When we share the message, do we say, Jesus died for your sins, and then let the mic drop? No, He tells us how we have to share it. In verse 20, it says, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” God, You could do all things. Why couldn’t You have just done some skywriting; You could have put the gospel in the clouds, You could write in the clouds, “For God so loved the world…”
Sometimes, when I was a kid, I would lay on the ground in the summertime especially , and look up at the clouds. Me and my little brother would look at the clouds and say, That looks like a horse. We would see other shapes. Maybe you’ve done that. And so, we know God could do that. In fact, Jesus said He could have made the rocks cry out, you know? So why did He choose us? He doesn’t tell us. The only thing He says to us is because you’re the recipients of it. You’re the focus of the love of My Son, Jesus. And of the love of the Father. You’ve been changed by it, and you’ve been motivated by it.
So why not you? You are the ones I have built for this. I have made you for this. You have a purpose, so stop being tempted to turn inward. Live openly! You carry the message of Jesus. He says “implore.” The word, “implore,” has to do with “to beg.” When is the last time that you begged your brother or sister? I’m talking about your biological brother or sister. You’re going to Thanksgiving this Thursday somewhere; you’re going to have Thanksgiving with somebody. Some of you might have to do it on “Zoom.” I don’t know how you’re doing it, but you’ll get with family. Have you ever loved your mother- in-law or your brother- in- law enough to beg them to receive Jesus? I’m begging you. Hear me out. We don’t see each other that much anymore. We all are busy with our own lives, our own little temporary lives, that the Scripture says “are as a vapor.” But there’s this eternal thing, the eternality of the soul that will live in a place of eternity, either in a place called heaven or hell, based on whether or not they’ve received the love of Jesus. You haven’t told them; not just that, but begged them, implored them and appealed to them. You’re thinking of who it is right now.
We have these cards down front; these “impact cards.” These cards have a line at the bottom that says “my long shot.” This is the person who, if they came to Jesus, what a miracle that would be. Somebody in my small group (we had just talked about this last week) said, I have been praying for this one guy to come to Jesus. And then we did these “Rise Up” cards. I went down Sunday to the front and tearfully and prayerfully wrote his name down as my “long shot, and dropped it in the container. I was praying for this man by name. As I turned and walked back up the aisle, I didn’t know it, but there he sat in the church. It was his first Sunday at our church. I’ve been inviting him to church. He didn’t even tell me he was coming. He was sitting right there . I have just heard that story again this past week in my small group, my community group. He reminded us of this experience; his eyes were filling up with tears. It was just during the time that women weren’t with us. Guys, we had a few “man tears.” The women didn’t see it. We had separated for prayer.
You have the love of Christ motivating you. You have the ministry of His reconciliation. You have the message of His reconciliation. In verse 21, he says, “for our sake, not for his sake.” It wasn’t for His sake; it was for our sake. The Father made Him, Jesus, for our sake. God, the Father. made Jesus to be sin who knew no sin so that in Jesus, in Him we might become the righteousness of God. Put your name where “we is; Gary , fill in your name right there, Robin. Fill in your right name right there, Blake and Claudia. Put your name right there, Chris; so that Chris might become… Put your name there, Heather; so that in Jesus, Heather might become… Jim, you’re watching from home. You do every Sunday. So that Jim might become the righteousness of God.
You are his ambassadors. You are his ministers of reconciliation. You are motivated and changed by his love, seeing other people through the lens of Christ’s reconciling love and sharing the message, the word, which is the gospel with others. Oh, if we did that, if we said from now on, starting today, the whole world would be reached in our lifetime because if it broke out, it would change everything for 2000 years. There’s yet to be a church that is fully obedient to this; what if it could be us? We’re saved by this message.
Romans 10:8-10, 17 (NLT) “…And that message is the very message about faith that we preach: If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved… So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.” That’s how people come to Christ, by hearing; we must speak words. The word of reconciliation. We have been sent. Jesus said to them in John 20:21 (ESV) Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” You’ve been sent. You are ambassadors, ministers of the message.
Some years ago, I heard a sermon from Pastor Doug Banister, and I’ve never forgotten this quote. He was preaching a sermon series called, “Prayer Evangelism.” I liked it because it helps that person who is really disturbed and fearful about sharing the gospel. They say, I’m scared, I’m afraid. He basically taught to begin with prayer, begin by talking to God. He defines prayer evangelism as praying for your neighbors needs and then joining in the Father’s work. The Father already loves your neighbor, He’s already at work, so you pray, God, show me where You’re at work so I can join You there because I want to do what my Father is doing.
Jesus said to always do what the Father is doing. That’s what we’re supposed to do. Join in the Father’s work in your neighbor’s life, how through radical acts of kindness and sharing the gospel story and you say, God, show me a need that my neighbors had that my neighbor has that I can meet that need in the name of Jesus. And then when they ask, why did you do this for May I can tell them the message of the gospel story. See, it all goes together, because we’re motivated by love. We pray for our neighbor and because we pray for our neighbor, we pray, God please reveal to me the need that they have in their life that I can meet in the name of Jesus. And then. because we carry this message of reconciliation, we go and we try to help make them right in their marriage with their kids, with whatever their problem is with finances or maybe they need help with food. Whatever it is. They just might need encouragement. We are the hands of Christ. We are the feet of Christ. We are the voice of Christ. We come and then we share.
It starts with prayer. Can you pray for your neighbor, for your brother in-law, for your mother in- law? Thanksgiving’s coming. Are you ready to do that? If you’ve yet to make your commitment to the “Rise Up” generosity initiative, we have those cards down front. But the purpose for that is really these blue cards; write down the name of the person that you’re praying would come to Jesus. You are not just praying for them. You are praying that God would give you the opportunity to show kindness to them and share the Gospel to them.
We have talked today about three words. Paul gave us two of them. If you think about it, he gave us all three. Motive, the reconciling love of Christ is their motive. It is our message and it is our ministry.
Let’s pray. Lord, thank You for Your Word. We love Your Word and how it affects us. Lord, we’re thankful that you saved us through Jesus. There might be somebody, watching from home or sitting in this room right now in person, and you’ve never given your life to Christ. You’re not in Christ, so you don’t know what it means to be a new creation and you’re thinking, How do I get in there? Christ, how can I be saved? It’s so simple. We read the verse earlier, where he says, “If you would say with your mouth confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead You will be saved.” He’s done all the work. He’s made the deposit to reconcile you to God. Would you pray right now? Father, I’m a sinner, but I want to be brought near. I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, that He was raised from the grave and that He lives today. I believe it now. I invite You to come into my life and forgive me of my sin. Make me what You want me to be. Change my heart. I want to be a child of God and I want Jesus to be my Lord and Savior. If you’re praying a prayer like that and you mean it in your heart, wherever you’re at, maybe you’re listening in your bedroom or watching somewhere else. Maybe you’re driving your automobile and just listening. Maybe you’re here in person. It doesn’t matter where you are. What matters is where your heart is. If you’re praying that prayer right now, believing, He will save you And then, many of us here are believers. But we’re not living motivated and turning outward. We’re not living motivated by love but by fear Oh, Lord, forgive us. Help us to have a heart for You and each other and for our world. For You so loved the world that You gave Jesus. Lord, help us to be motivated by this. Help us to accept and receive our ministry and declare Your message. From now on help us to boldly be what You have called us to be. We pray in Christ’s name, Amen.