Sunday, November 6, 2011

Pastor Joe Wittwer

Followers, Seekers and Owners

# 2: Seekers or Saints?

 

Opening:

    Most of you know that I became a Christian because an eighth-grade boy invited me to a youth rally at his church.  I’ll tell that story later.  I became a Christian because a friend sought me out and invited me.  Most people become Christians through the influence of a trusted friend or family member.  Today, we are going to talk about being those people—the trusted friend or family member that seeks out people we love and brings them along with us.

 

Introduction

    We are in week two of our three-week vision series, “Followers, Seekers and Owners.”   Last week we talked about the difference between being a fan of Jesus and a follower of Jesus.  This week, we’re talking about the difference between being seekers or saints.  

    Are you a seeker or a saint?  Before you answer that, let me tell you that I’m messing with the usual definitions.

    Usually, we use the word seeker to describe a spiritual seeker, someone who is investigating the Christian faith, or seeking to know God.  How many of you have heard the term, “seeker church”?  A seeker church is one that designs its services not only for the already convinced, but also for those who are seeking.  We are a seeker church.  We design our Sunday services to nurture and challenge believers in a seeker-friendly environment.  If you bring a seeking friend with you, we try to present the life-changing message of Jesus in an understandable way.  So “seeker” usually refers to someone seeking to know God.  

    What about the word “saint”?  How many saints are in the room?  The word “saint” means “holy one”; it is from the same Greek root as the words “holy” or “sanctify”.  It means, “set apart, different”.  When you hear the word “saint”, what do you think of…besides me, of course?  You think of someone of unusual piety, someone exceptionally close to God and righteous. Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Joe of Spokane.  The Catholic Church uses “saint” of these very holy people who are canonized, recognized by the church to be different from the rest of us.  But that is not how the Bible uses the term.  In the Bible, every Christian is a saint.  Every believer in Jesus is set apart, holy, different—you belong to God.  You are a saint—not because you are so pious, but because God has saved you and called you His own.  Let me see the hands of all the saints.  “I am a saint.”

    Seekers and saints.  Seekers are people who are investigating Jesus; saints are people who follow Jesus.  That’s how we usually use the terms.  

    But I’m going to redefine them for today’s talk.  

    At the top of your outline, I wrote: The church is not a rest home for saints, it is a rescue mission for sinners. God sends every Christian on the mission of seeking and saving the lost.

    Often, the church exists only for the saints, the believers, the already convinced.  And if we’re not careful, we develop a fortress mentality.  We huddle in the safety of the church; we end up isolated and insulated in a Christian sub-culture.  The church becomes a rest home for the saints.

    But God wants the church to be a rescue mission for sinners, and so He sends each of us on the mission of seeking the lost.  God sent Jesus to seek and save the lost, and Jesus sends each of us to seek the lost as well.  Jesus is the first Seeker, and He calls us to be seekers as well—people who are actively seeking the lost.  

    God wants us to be seekers who are actively looking for lost people and helping them find God, rather than being saints huddled in the safety of the church.  He is sending each of you on a mission in your world: your family, your neighborhood, your workplace, your school.  Are you a seeker or a saint?

 

1. God sent Jesus to seek the lost.

    Luke 19 tells the story of Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus.  Jesus was passing through Jericho on his way to Jerusalem for the final time.  A man named Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus.  But Zac had a problem; he was vertically challenged and couldn’t see over the crowds, so he climbed a tree.  When Jesus saw him, he called him: “Zacchaeus, come on down; I must stay at your house today.”  Notice the word “must”—Jesus felt a sense of necessity—I must do this.  

    Well, Zac was stoked!  He hustled down and welcomed Jesus gladly.  

    But everyone else was not so happy.  They were offended and grumbled, “Jesus has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”  You see, Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector.  He was a Jew who worked for the Roman oppressors, collecting taxes for the Romans from his own people.  He was in bed with the enemy.  He was a traitor.  And he got filthy rich doing it.  So everyone in town hated him.  

    This is why he had to climb the tree.  Sure he was short, but why do suppose no one let him through to the front of the crowd.  “Oh it’s you.  Take a hike.”  

    Zacchaeus was the most hated man in town and was considered the most sinful, the biggest scumbag in town.  People made jokes about him.  “Do you know the difference between Zacchaeus and a carp?  One is a scum-sucking bottom feeder, and the other is a fish.”  

    With all the good people that Jesus could have picked for a lunch date, he picked Zac.  “I must stay at your house.”  Can you see why all the good people were upset?

    This visit proved to be life-changing for Zacchaeus.  He became a follower of Jesus and changed dramatically.  He gave half his possessions to the poor and paid back anyone he had cheated four times the amount!  Suddenly the greediest man in town was the most generous, the most dishonest man in town was the most honest.  Zac changed Big Time!

Luke 19:9–10 Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

Jesus was a seeker.  He came to seek and save the lost.  The reason he picked Zac out of the tree was because He was always seeking, always looking for people who were lost.  This is why He came.  Jesus was a seeker.

    The other two references on your outline reinforce this point.  In Luke 5, Jesus calls Levi, another hated tax collector, to follow Him.  Levi immediately hosts a dinner party and invites all his friends.  Well, who were a tax collector’s friends?  Other tax collectors and sinners.  It was a dinner party of outcasts, of people far from God—and Jesus.  The religious people—the Pharisees and teachers of the law—complained about the company Jesus kept.  

Luke 5:31–32 (NLT) Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. 32 I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.”

Jesus was a seeker.  He came looking for the sick who need a doctor, for the sinners who need to repent.  He came looking for the lost who are far from God.  He didn’t wait for them to come to Him.  Jesus sought them out.  Jesus was a seeker.

    In Luke 15, the Pharisees are complaining again that Jesus was hanging out with tax collectors and sinners.  Jesus answers by telling them three stories about a lost sheep, a lost coin and a lost son.  When one sheep got lost, the shepherd left the other 99 in the fold and went seeking the lost sheep until he found it.  When a woman lost one of her 10 coins, she searched her entire house until she found it.  Jesus was explaining why He came, and why He was hanging out with lost people.  He came to seek and save the lost.  He came looking for me and for you.  Jesus was a seeker.  

    I’m so glad that Jesus is a seeker.  He sought and found me, a sinner.  He didn’t wait for me to find Him; He came and found me.  And now He has sent me out to seek others who are still lost.

 

2. Jesus sends us to seek the lost.

    I have included a whole list of Scriptures on your outline that are all about being sent.  Some of them are about the Father sending Jesus to seek the lost.  Some of them are about Jesus sending us to seek the lost.  We’ll look at just a few of them.

John 17:18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.

Jesus is praying in John 17, and he says this.  Just as the Father sent Jesus into the world, Jesus is sending us into the world.  Why did the Father send Jesus into the world?  To seek the lost.  Jesus was a seeker.  Why is Jesus sending us into the world?  To seek the lost.  We are to be seekers as well.

John 20:21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

The resurrected Jesus is commissioning His disciples and says it about as plainly as it can be said.  “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”  Why did the Father send Jesus?  To seek and save the lost.  Jesus was a seeker.  Now Jesus is sending you and me into the world to be seekers too.  A couple more…

Mark 1:17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”

This is Jesus’ call to the first followers, Andrew and Peter.  From the very beginning, they understood that they were called to be sent.  Jesus was sending them to “fish for people”, to find people who were far from God and help them back.  They were sent to seek the lost.  One more:

Luke 10:2–3 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.

Jesus says this to His disciples as He sends them out on a preaching and healing tour.  I love the juxtaposition of verses two and three: “Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.  Go!  I am sending you out.”  Ask for it, and be the answer to your own prayer!  “Lord, send workers.”  And God says, “I am sending you!”  

    By the way, this is one of the places where the Bible tells us what to pray for.  Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers.  This is something I pray for regularly, and hope you will too.  And be prepared to be the answer to your prayer.  God is sending you!  

    These verses we just looked at, and many more, indicate that Jesus sends His disciples to seek for the lost.  We are on a mission.  The word “mission” comes from a Latin root that means, “to send”.  A missionary is one who is sent.  So let me ask, how many missionaries are there in the room?

Every Christian is a missionary!  Every Christian is sent by Jesus to seek the lost.  You are a missionary—sent to your family, your friends, your neighborhood, your school, and your workplace.  You don’t have to go around the world to be a missionary; you just have to go across the room, or across the street, or to the person in the next office, or to the soccer mom or dad standing next to you.  You are a missionary to your world—you are sent by God to seek the lost right where you are.  You are a seeker.

ILL: Have you ever lost something valuable?  What do you do?  You become a seeker.

Several years ago, Janine Noll lost the diamond out of her wedding ring.  Besides the monetary value of the stone, there was, of course, an even higher sentimental value: this was her wedding diamond.  So an earnest search began.  She and Rick carefully retraced their steps, looking everywhere for that diamond; they looked all day, but to no avail.  The last place she remembered seeing the diamond was when they were riding in Rick’s car.  Of course, they had already thoroughly searched the car, looking under the floor mats and seats—everywhere.  But as a final act of desperation, Rick even took off the interior door panel.  He thought that maybe the diamond had caught on the door as Janine got out of the car, and it might have somehow fallen inside the doorframe.  Pretty implausible, but they valued that diamond and were willing to leave no stone unturned.  And there it was. They kept seeking until they found it.

What makes the story even better is that the car was a 1970 Ford Maverick that was on its last legs.  Not long after, it died and Rick had to call several junkyards before he could find one that would take it.  They offered him $60 or three hubcaps for it!  If Rick hadn’t searched so intensely for that diamond, it would have been hauled out to the junkyard with the car—a $60 car with a $3,000 diamond in the door!

What makes a person search so hard for something?  Value.  What made God search for us?  Value.  For God so loved the world.  God loves you; God values you; that is why He sent Jesus to seek you and find you.  

    People matter to God.  Lost people matter to God—they matter so much that He launches an all-out search for them.  They matter so much that God sends us to seek them.  You are a missionary, sent by God to seek for people He loves.  

So we want to be seekers.  We want to be a church full of missionaries, sent by God into our world.  We want to be a church full of seekers, not a rest home for the saints.  As seekers, we are always on the lookout, always aware of the people around us and what God is doing in their lives.   We are always looking for the diamond in the doorframe, that lost person that matters to God.  

    How do we do it?

 

3. How we do it:

    Our mission is “to honor God by helping people become whole-hearted followers of Christ.”   That summarizes our four guiding purposes: love, win, grow, send.  Last Sunday’s talk focused on love and grow.  This talk focuses on win and send.  How do we win our friends to Christ?

    Many years ago, a group of us evaluated our efforts to win people to Christ.  We listed everything we had done, and asked ourselves if we know of anyone in our church who had come to Christ because of it.  There was one thing that had worked consistently.  Here’s the crazy thing: we had put most of our time, energy and money into all the things that didn’t work and ignored the one thing that did work!  When we decided to dump all the stuff that wasn’t working, and focus on the thing that did, our church started growing with lots of new Christians.  

    What was that one thing that worked?  Find, tell, bring.  

  • Find someone you love.

  • Tell them what you know.

  • Bring them with you to church.

And here’s the really cool thing.  We found this in the Bible!  In John 1, the first thing Andrew did after meeting Jesus was find his brother Peter, tell him about Jesus, and bring him to meet Jesus.  Later in that chapter, when Philip met Jesus, the next thing he did was find his friend Nathanael, tell him about Jesus, and bring him to meet Jesus.  In John 4, the woman who met Jesus at a well did the same thing: she went back to her village to find her neighbors, tell them about Jesus, and bring them to meet Him.  

  • Find someone you love.

  • Tell them what you know.

  • Bring them with you to church.

You are a missionary, a seeker, right where you are.  You don’t have to go around the world, just across the street, or across the room, or to a soccer game.  Watch this.  

 

Sketch

 

    How many soccer parents are out there?  There’s a mission field!  Let’s use that sketch as an example as we finish with a quick breakdown of find, tell, bring.

 

    Find someone you love.

    To find someone implies that you looked for them.  You’re a seeker, you are on the lookout for people far from God.  Most of us don’t need to look any farther than our natural circles of relationship: our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, classmates, and acquaintances.  Roger saw Lee every week at soccer, but at first he wasn’t seeking, he wasn’t on a mission; in fact, he was avoiding Lee!  But as they hung out on the sidelines, something happened.  Lee saw something different about Roger and asked about it.  We’ll get to the telling part in a moment—Roger kind of botched that.  But what did Roger do right?  He invited Lee and his family over to eat.  You get the idea that over a meal, the relationship will progress and there will be a chance to talk more about the difference Jesus made in Roger’s life.  

    Here’s an idea for winning people to Christ: barbecue first (picture).  It almost always starts with a relationship.  Love people until they ask you why.  When people know that you love them, they are usually willing to talk about almost anything.  Most of the time, the Christian faith spreads through relational networks.  God sends us to the people we know and love, to seek them and find them for Jesus.  

This is find—it is what seekers do.  Seekers find.  Seekers are looking for lost people to love and help.  Seekers are always on mission everywhere they go.  Jesus said, “Open your eyes, the fields are ripe for harvest.”  Open your eyes.  There are people all around you, people you know and love, who are far from God.  God is sending you to seek and find them.  

Find someone you love.  Barbecue first. Build a friendship. Love them until they ask you why, then…

 

    Tell them what you know.

    This is the part that makes lots of us nervous.  How many of you could relate to Roger in the sketch?  The telling makes us nervous—why?  Two big reasons:

  • We don’t know what to say.  

  • We’re afraid we’ll offend someone or turn them off.  

So what do we tell them?  Tell them what you know.  Tell them what happened to you, the difference Jesus made in your life.  Tell them the gospel: the good news that God loves them and wants a relationship with them and has sent Jesus to find them.  Tell them what you know.

What if they ask a question or raise an objection and I don’t know the answer. Just be honest and tell them, “I don’t know the answer to that, but I’ll find out and get back to you.”  

One of the best ways to begin a faith conversation is by asking a question.  

ILL: Laina and I were visiting a Life Group on Friday night, and one of the members, Dave, told us about a conversation he had with a stranger while traveling for business.  Dave asked the guy, “How are you with God?”  The man said, “Great!” and then started telling Dave his life story and talked for an hour.  When he was done, he thanked Dave for listening.  Dave is a seeker.  He is on a mission.  He is finding people for God.  And he started a faith conversation by just asking, “How are you with God?”

Start by asking questions.  And just share what you know.

    What if it bothers someone?  Most of the time, if you’ve really loved someone, they don’t mind hearing your story.  But if you sense that someone is really bothered, back off and pray for them, and try again later.  But I want to emphasize that most people are open to those who love them.  

    Find someone you love.  Tell them what you know.  Then…

 

    Bring them with you to church.

    Why is this important?  Because no one follows Jesus alone.  Christianity is a team sport.  When Jesus called people to follow, He called them into community with one another.  When you begin to follow Jesus, you join His band of followers.  You can’t have one without the other.  You can’t have Jesus without His followers.  If you do find and tell without bring, it is like giving birth to a baby and abandoning it.  Every baby needs a family.  So does every new Christian.  So you’ve got to bring them.

    We also bring them to church so they can continue to explore the Christian faith.  We design our Sunday services with your exploring friend in mind.  

  • We try to make the message clear and understandable—we avoid using lots of Christianeze, that peculiar language that Christians use amongst themselves.  “Isn’t it a blessing to be with the body today?”  You guys have a body here?  

  • We use music that our friends will relate to—most of them are not listening to organs and hymns on their ipods.

  • We use the arts—video, drama, dance, music, visual art—because we live in a media-saturated society and people get it.

We try to make Life Center a safe place to hear the dangerous, life-changing message of Jesus.  We want you to have confidence that you can bring an exploring friend here and know they’ll get it.   

    What if you have a friend that is interested in Jesus, but is church-resistant?   They are wary of the church and don’t want to come.  Bring them to your Life Group.  Your Life Group can provide the love and friendships that person needs to start following Jesus.  Bring them to your Life Group.

 

  • Find someone you love.

  • Tell them what you know.

  • Bring them with you to church.

Be a seeker.  

    This is how I came to Christ.  My eighth grade classmate, Don Lang, knocked on my door one Saturday morning and invited me to a youth rally at his church that night.  I was far from God and didn’t want to go, but I didn’t have the courage to say no and disappoint my friend, so I went.  And God ambushed me! The speaker was funny and talked about having a relationship with Jesus.  I walked home afterwards and said, “Ok, God, I don’t know anything about you, but I want what that guy has.  So here I am.”  

    I’m here talking to you today because an eighth grade boy named Don Lang was a seeker.  This summer, I was in Bend, Oregon, where Don now lives, and I had lunch with him, and got to thank him again for knocking on my door.  

    Who do you know that might be one conversation away, one invitation away from a changed life?  Be a seeker.