09/24/17 – Highland – Pastor Ray Meute
Living the Story, Sharing the Story
“The Gospel: With Others in Mind”
Isaiah 53: 4-9; Romans 10: 11-15; Acts 8: 26-40
Pearl: Sharing what is real to me with others as they share what is real to them in mutuality.
Function: To equip listeners with motivation/sensitivity/and peace in sharing the relationship with Jesus.
I am thankful to Sam Tharpe, Jr. for stepping in to preach last week in our family emergency over my father’s death and to all of you in your wonderful warm support! My assignment for last week in “Living the Story, Sharing the Story” was to pretty much share my own testimony under the title “What does the gospel mean to your pastor?” So I am combining last week with this week’s subject of “What does the gospel mean to others?”
- From my earliest faith experience up to this day, my faith has certainly expanded and evolved. But there is a constant all the way through. My spirituality, my faith is about my relationship with God through Jesus.
- Theological understanding is important but it changes which is good! Biblical understanding is important but it changes and this is very good! Your relationship with the church is good but it is erratic.
- What remains a constant and sure has for me is Jesus.
- My earliest understanding about Jesus was about the need to accept him as Savior and Lord in order to inherit eternal life and to avoid separation from God in hell. It was as stark and as simple as that. It was very much a faith which was to prepare me for the life after death. I now recall that it seemed a little odd to give so much thought to life after death especially when I was a mere young adolescent.
- Somehow, I appreciated the very sacrificially generous action of Jesus in giving his life on the cross to save me and everyone from the sin predicament.
- In the most recent decades I have only become more and more convinced from scripture that the gospel is much more about life here and now than about the life after death. Jesus’ message was about life now; it was the message of the kingdom of God and he meant it to make an impact on life on earth. It was a message of love and justice for everyone and all creation in this life that we now live.
- As a very young person I felt that Jesus was with me and I prayed to God through Jesus regularly.
- When I had any difficulties I prayed.
- When I worshipped I believed that it was all about Jesus. Credit the pastor of my youth Myles MacDonald with giving a clear understanding that the faith was all about Jesus. The gospel was about Jesus. All through my life and as a pastor I still am focused upon Jesus—worshipping him; serving him; being about his Way; knowing his heart and mind above all else. He is my filter.
- There were other mentors through my life and all validated that central premise: it is all about Jesus and his reign.
- My constant aim is to understand fully and completely what is the mind and heart of Jesus so that I understand life and the purpose of it.
So the heart of the matter, the heart of the gospel, is about “knowing Jesus.” The gospel is about “relating to God through Jesus and serving Jesus. Life is to be lived in the context of a relationship with Jesus. Since this is the case the gospel then becomes a matter of sharing that relationship with others.
- There is something very basic and elemental that happens when you get to know someone new. You begin to talk about whether that person may know this person and you try to figure out all of the persons that you might know in common. It is a natural human tendency to do this.
- We very naturally want the people we love to know the other people that we love. We love to find relationship connections.
- It is the same then with our relationship with Jesus.
- There is extra motivation because of things we believe about Jesus. Think of all of the things you believe about Jesus which gives you some motivation to want others to know him as well.
- You know Jesus and you inherently want others to know him as well.
One thing I have come to believe strongly is that God wants people to know Jesus far more than any of us do. That gives me some relief. I used to worry and feel a certain amount of guilt if I did not try to introduce Jesus to everyone I knew.
- The Lord is making every effort to relate to every person but he does so through you and through me. We have a part to play just like we often introduce one friend to another.
- Take a lesson from Philip and the Ethiopian traveler. Philip hitched a ride with this royal Ethiopian traveler. He noticed that the man was reading from the scroll of Isaiah. He was reading the very words which became fulfilled in the way that Jesus suffered and died. Philip asked him if he understood what he was reading. He said that he did not and invited Philip to explain it to him. So Philip interpreted those verses in light of Jesus’ passion and the Ethiopian became a believer.
- Take a lesson from that. There are many ways in which we can enter into spiritual conversations which can be very organic and normal. You could carry books around and read them in the company of others. Maybe they will ask you about them. And then you might be able to say something about your relationship with Jesus.
It is about knowing Jesus and introducing Jesus.
- It is not so much about knowing right doctrine which brings you to God.
- It is not so much about knowing the scriptures inside and out which brings you to God.
- It is not so much about all that you do in service for the Lord Jesus that brings you to God.
- It is the Lord Jesus Himself through the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit which brings people to life.
- Every doctrine, every scripture, every action must align with the heart and mind of Jesus in order to know that it is Godly. Jesus is the filter.
- The gospel is simply all about Jesus and his way and will.
Talk about your relationship with Jesus and your faith with others. God takes over from there.
- Early this year I visited a Hindu family as a hospice chaplain. Inside the room I noted the walls were covered with pictures of Hindu gods. It was a wonderful opportunity to have a spiritual conversation. I asked about all of the pictures. I sincerely wanted to understand this family’s spirituality. I was not trying to figure out how I could work a word about Jesus into the conversation. I listened and asked questions wanting to understand.
- The fellow enjoyed talking to me and in very natural ways I was able to talk about Jesus and I remember feeling that there were bridges and points of contact even though we were different. I trust that Jesus was active in that conversation.
- When we go to South Dakota and hear about Lakota spirituality we listen and we all find many points of contact between our beliefs. We often talk about the many points of overlap between the gospel and American Indian spirituality.
- The important thing is to have those conversations. Jesus makes himself known in those interactions. You can be at peace. You need not enter into some rehearsed speech in order to try to convert someone into a believer. Open yourself up and try to understand more than to be understood and Jesus will show up! Trust that!
With regard to introducing Jesus to others I want you to be motivated to do so; I want you to be sensitive to the perspectives of others; and I want you to be at peace that when you do try to talk about your relationship with Jesus he will show up. You do not have to worry about whether you are being successful.
The relationship with Jesus is very personal but it is also very much communal. There is a lot of talk about a “personal relationship with Jesus.” I have one. You have one. But it is much more than that. God has always related to a “people.” God is concerned with everyone. Jesus relates to each and everyone but it is all about being a very large family which is very diverse and complex—a multi-colored tapestry.
The gospel is for you and it is very much for others. Thinking about Jesus with others in mind is the most natural thing in the world. Of course, you would want others to know the wonderful Lord that you know.
- Find ways to engage in spiritual conversations with people. Be open to whatever they might say. Listen and don’t judge. Don’t prepare arguments and rebuttals. Just talk about your relationship with your Lord and believe that Jesus will take over from wherever you go.
- People are more ready to hear than you might imagine.
- “How beautiful are the feet of those” who talk about Jesus!
- People are more ready to hear than you might imagine.