March 1st Sermon Follow-Up
In our last sermon of the "GOT PURPOSE?" Series we talked about the four things that get in the way of our GOING towards others with the Gospel. We said that sometimes when we try too hard to PRESENT the Gospel (Instead of naturally talking about it with the people we love) we come off as impersonal, preachy, intolerant or uninformed. Holden Chapel doesn't want to be any of those things, so most of our time was spent talking about what that looks like and how we can avoid those stumbling blocks. We noticed every time we try to get fancy with our presentations, the Gospel is minimized. As the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:4 - "My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power." So it should also be with us!
For our conclusion, I asked the congregation to choose between four scenarios as to which one I should give an example of what would it look like to humbly, personally, tolerantly and in an informed way share our faith to those who are either:
1) Looking for ACCEPTANCE
2) Looking for INTIMACY
3) Looking for TOLERANCE
4) Looking for APPROVAL
The Congregation chose option #3 but I had a lot of people asking me about what the others would have looked like. The following are my notes for options 1, 2 and 4:
Option One: If you know someone who is looking for acceptance, you can make this point in your own words: The Gospel gives you the freedom to give up on yourself and give in to Jesus! Someone who is looking for acceptance needs to hear Romans 3:23-26. Here is the cool thing about the Gospel - Before you even have a chance to prove yourself, God offers you perfect acceptance. In God’s family you don’t have to prove yourself to God or to others. In fact, in God's family you don’t even have to prove yourself to yourself! The Gospel offers you perfect, complete, full, eternal acceptance in Christ Jesus!
Option Two: If you know someone who is looking for intimacy but can’t find it, here is what you can tell them: Our deepest longing for intimacy can only be met by Jesus since Jesus gave us that desire in the first place! Show this person Colossians 3:1-4. This passage makes clear that if we are “Hidden in Christ” we are no longer judged or treated on the basis of our own faults, failure or sin. So ONLY IN CHRIST do we find an entirely new identity that is defined by perfect, complete, intimacy! There is only one relationship that can bear the weight of our desires – and that is the relationship we can have with Jesus Christ.
Option Four: People who are looking for approval need to hear of what it means to be adopted into Christ’s family. Show them Galatians 4:1-7. This passage reminds us that there is no greater approval than to be approved by the God of the universe. The Gospel of adoption reminds us that we have enduring approval before God the Father and that approval cannot be matched by anyone else in this world.
(For anyone wanting to delve in deeper on these topics, I highly recommend the book, The Unbelievable Gospel: Say Something Worth Believing. I used this book heavily in my prep and followed much of its outline for the sermon).
Last but not least, I also got a great question on Twitter. Someone asked, "How do you balance being tolerant with standing up for what you believe in?" I love this question, especially since it is almost impossible to answer in the abstract. This will always look differently depending on the situation. But there are a few things we can keep in mind as we think about this dilemma:
1) Gospel tolerance doesn't mean you have to affirm everything someone says as true. It means you are always willing to allow someone else to express their viewpoint, even if they disagree with you. Remember, our job is not to convert anyone - God is the one who does that kind of stuff. When we are faithful, we can leave the results to Him! This frees us from any undue pressure we may be putting on ourselves.
2) When it comes to the Gospel - you can always speak it plainly, simply, gently and humbly. It stands up for itself! As you know, Gospel words come with enough power in and of themselves! Standing up for what you believe in can be a very grace-filled thing - God doesn't need us to add any "oomph."
3) There is always a protestor behind a protest. If someone disagrees with what you are saying, spend some time to figure out why. Listening and asking questions goes a far way in showing to others that we don't just care about answers, but we care about the person behind the protest.
4) If we want the best for the other person - we will do everything in our power to NOT demean them or put them off. When trying to find the right balance - it is crucial we ask God to give us His love for others. If we love others the way God loves them, our entire demeanor will be different and we will find ourselves more naturally living into that balance of grace/truth.
5) At times, you will fail. If you are like me, then at times you will be "too tolerant" and at other times you'll defend yourself too strongly. In all of this, the rule must be grace. God doesn't expect us to get it perfect. When we fail, we can pray: "God I'm sorry I didn't do that well. Thank you for your forgiveness. Give me an opportunity to redeem that situation just like you redeemed me when I didn't deserve it!" It's good to remember that when we are weak, He is strong! As far as I can tell, this is a life-long lesson...and I've only just begun!
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