ILL: I was reading this week about the protests that are sweeping the Middle East. Do you know how they started?
Two months ago, an unemployed college graduate in Tunisia, Mohamed Bouazizi, was trying to make a living selling fruit on the streets. On December 17, when police confiscated his fruit stand and mistreated and humiliated him, he had enough. He went to a government office, demanded justice, and when denied, doused himself with gasoline and lit a match.
That match lit a fire of protest across Tunisia. Four weeks later, the president of Tunisia fled the country, ending 23 years of oppression. But the fire quickly spread across the Middle East, resulting in the end of Hosni Mubarek’s 30 year dictatorship in Egypt. And that fire has become a wildfire burning in a dozen countries.
It all started with one person.
The Christian faith spreads like that. It’s viral, spreading from person to person to person. And all it takes is for one person to catch fire to start a wildfire. You might be that person.
Today we’re talking about “Pass it on”, the vision of our church to reach our community and our world with the good news of Jesus.
Thanks to Brittney, Eric and Goldie for sharing your story with all of us. (watch the video) Brittney is a great example of what our church is all about. She met Jesus, and then she passed it on. She loved her family and shared her faith, and now Eric and Goldie are following Jesus and passing it on. This is how the Christian faith spreads: virally, person to person. And this is what we are about as a church, and what I want to talk about with you the next two weeks.
Our mission is “to honor God by helping unbelieving people become whole-hearted followers of Christ.” We want to help people meet the Living God and experience the new life that is ours in Christ. Jesus said, “I came that you might have life, and have it to the full!” Life to the full, abundant life—that’s what we have in Jesus. And when you experience it, you can’t keep it to yourself; you want to share it. Like you saw in the video, it’s infectious! It’s viral! You’ve got to pass it on!
So I’ve got one Big Idea in this message: we’ve met Jesus and we want to pass it on. I’m going to come at it from several angles, but that’s the Big Idea.
Let’s begin with a story.
1. A story: “we can’t keep it to ourselves.”
In 2 Kings 6-7, the city of Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel is under siege from the Arameans. The siege lasted so long that they ran out of food; a great famine struck the city, and food prices inflated out of sight. It was so severe that a donkey’s head sold for 80 shekels—the average wage was a shekel a month. Almost 7 years worth of wages to buy a donkey’s head that was considered unclean, and had almost no nutritional value. And a cup of dove’s dung sold for 5 shekels! You know you’re out of food when you’re willing to pay 5 months wages for a cup of bird poop! The famine was so severe that women were cooking and eating their own children! It doesn’t get much more desperate than that!
One evening, four lepers decided to turn themselves in to the Arameans. They figured they had nothing to lose: they were going to die for sure if they stayed in the city, and maybe the Arameans would have mercy on them and give them food. To their surprise, they found the enemy camp abandoned. The Lord had made the Arameans hear the sound of a great army approaching, and they had run for their lives, leaving everything behind. The four lepers entered a tent where they found food and drink, and they had a party! They ate and drank until they were full. They also found silver and gold and beautiful clothes and big screen TV’s and iPads—ok, maybe not the last two—which they hid for themselves. They started going from tent to tent like kids in a candy store—it was awesome.
And then it dawned on them.
2 Kings 7:9 Then they said to each other, “What we’re doing is not right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let’s go at once and report this to the royal palace.”
“What we’re doing is not right.” What’s wrong with it? They weren’t the only ones starving; there’s a whole city full of dying people. It was wrong to just satisfy your own hunger and let others starve when there is plenty for everyone.
“This is a day of good news, and we are keeping it to ourselves.” It was a day of good news! The siege is over; the famine is ended; there is food for everyone! It’s hard to imagine better news for starving people than this—and they couldn’t keep it to themselves.
I’ve always thought that this story parallels our own. We were dying spiritually, trapped in our sin, hopeless and far from God. Then God in His great love acted—He sent Jesus to rescue us. And like the lepers we stumbled into God’s mercy and were saved. We began celebrating and enjoying all the good things God provided in our new life in Christ.
Then at some point it dawns on us. Our friends, our families, our neighbors, everyone in our city are still trapped and dying. We’ve got to go tell them, let them know that God has acted, that the war is over and we’re rescued! There’s plenty for everyone!
Someone said, “Evangelism is simply one beggar telling another where to find bread.” I think they got that from this story. If you know where the bread is and that people are still starving, you’ve got to tell them! How many of you think the lepers had a moral obligation to share? Listen to what the apostle Paul says:
Romans 1:14–16 I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. 15 That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
“I am obligated.” Don’t think of this as a burdensome duty that God has laid on you—“you are obligated!” The lepers felt a moral obligation to share the good news, but do you think it was hard to do? No—it was exciting. “Hey everyone, come quick! The Arameans have run away and left everything—there’s food and drink for everyone. Woohoo!” Did they have a moral obligation to share the news? Of course! Was it burdensome? Not at all!
It is a joy to tell starving people where to find food!
It is a joy to tell oppressed people where to find freedom!
It is a joy to tell dying people where to find life!
We have a moral obligation to share the gospel, the good news that God has acted in Christ to rescue us. But it’s not hard to share. Good news is never hard to share. How hard is it to say:
You get a big raise this year!
You got the job!
You got an “A”.
The cancer is gone.
Yes, I’ll marry you.
Any day now, grandchild #5 will make her entrance. I promised my mom that I’d call her as soon as it happens. Will that be hard? “Darn, I’ve got to call my mom.” No, it’s good news!
Good news has to be shared! We can’t keep it to ourselves; we’ve got to pass it on. This is actually a theme that runs all through the Bible.
2. A theme: we are blessed to bless others.
Near the beginning of the Bible, when God called Abram, we find this idea of passing it on.
Genesis 12:1–3 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. 2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
Notice the progression: I will bless you; you will be a blessing, and through you, all peoples on earth will be blessed. God promised to bless Abram, but never intended that it stop with him, but go through him to all the peoples on earth. In the same way, we are blessed to bless others. We are saved to save others. We are given mercy to give mercy to others. We are loved to love others. It can’t stop with us; we can’t keep it to ourselves. We are blessed so we can pass it on.
Abram understood that God chose him for a bigger reason than just himself. Abram knew that it wasn’t just about him. God didn’t say, “I will bless you,” and then stop. God had a much bigger plan than just blessing Abram, and Abram knew it. He was blessed to be a blessing. He was blessed so that through him, all the world could be blessed.
Has God called you? Have you been blessed with a new life in Christ? It’s not just about you. God has a much bigger plan than just saving you; through you He wants to save the world. Have you ever thought of yourself as part of God’s great plan to save the world, like Abram was? You are blessed to be a blessing; pass it on!
As I said, this is a theme through the whole Bible, front to back. Listen to this from Revelation, the last book in the Bible, and the last chapter.
Revelation 22:17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.
Notice the progression again. First the Spirit (God) and the bride (the church) say, “Come!” God Himself and His Bride—the church, all of us—extend the invitation to come to Jesus and drink the water of life. We’re like the lepers, inviting everyone to join us at the banquet! Come! We’ve come, now we’re inviting others to come.
Next, the one who hears also says, “Come!” There it is again—the assumption that the invitation isn’t just for you; it’s to be shared. As soon as you are invited, you invite others. God calls you, you call others, they call others; and it keeps going. “Come.”
ILL: It was 1965. I was a brand new Christian when our little church held a weeklong revival. Bud Grogan preached, and the Good Twins (Dwight and Dwayne Good) sang, every night for a week. (I talked to my mom, this week, who is wintering in Arizona. The Good Twins just sang at her church in Yuma! These guys are older than dirt and still singing!) It had been only a couple months since a friend said, “Come” to me, and I had come to church and found Jesus. Now I was inviting my school buddies to join me at the revival each night. And when they gave the invitation at the end to come forward and accept Jesus, I said, “Come on, let’s go,” and drug them up front.
Let the one who hears say, “Come”. You’ve been invited, now invite others!
Pass it on. This theme runs through the whole Bible. We are blessed to bless others. We are invited and then invite others. We can’t keep it to ourselves; we have to pass it on!
But it’s more than a theme; it’s our calling.
3. Our calling: to make disciples who make disciples.
This week in our Bible reading plan, we started the gospel of Mark. On Tuesday we read about Jesus calling the first disciples.
Mark 1:16–18 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.
Here it is again. Jesus extends the invitation: “Come, follow me.” But it doesn’t stop there: “And I will send you out to fish for people.” He invites them to follow so they can invite others to follow. He catches them so they can catch others. He calls them to come to Him so He send them to others. Pass it on—it’s always there.
I’ve always believed that this wasn’t just Jesus’ calling for them, for Andrew and Peter, but for all of us. Jesus calls you to follow—but it doesn’t end there. Then He sends you into a broken world to catch people for God. He calls you to come so you can call others to come. When you answer Jesus’ call to come and follow, you become part of His team that He sends into the world to call others to come and follow. It never ends with you or me. We’re part of something much bigger than ourselves. God wants to save you and me, and through us save the whole world.
This is part of what it means to be a whole-hearted follower of Christ. We are called to follow Jesus and we are called to catch people for God. We meet Jesus and become contagious!
ILL: Jenna, 3, asks me, “Grandpa, can we play hide and seek?” Sure! She yells to her cousin, Zealand, 4, “Zealand, let’s play hide and seek with Grandpa!” They both run off to hide, giggling, while I count to ten and shout, “Ready or not, here I come.”
“Where are you?”
“Over here.” Or sometimes I hear them calling, “Marco.”
When I find them, they squeal with delight and want me to hide. They find little sister and brother, Savanna and Stejer (1). “Come play with us! We’re going to find Grandpa!” It started with one, but now we’re all playing together.
That’s our calling as a church: to invite everyone in our city to join the fun! “Come play with us!” You might be thinking, “Not everyone wants to play.” That’s true—but invite them anyway and let them make the decision whether they want to play or not.
You are called to follow Jesus. You are called to catch people for God. You are called to pass it on!
Jesus starts with a call to pass it on. And He ends with a call to pass it on.
Matthew 28:18–20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
This is called “The Great Commission.” Jesus commissions His followers; He gives them their mission. This is their mission: to make disciples wherever they go. I think that catching people for God and making disciples are the same thing. Jesus is reiterating His initial calling: follow me and I’ll send you out to fish for people.” This was their calling and ours: make disciples, catch people for God.
A disciple is a follower, a learner. Jesus has just spent three years investing in these men and women, making them disciples. Now He sends them into the world to do the same thing, to make disciples wherever they go. They are to pass it on.
This is our calling, our mission: We help unbelieving people become whole-hearted followers of Christ. We follow Jesus and we help others follow Jesus. We pass it on.
2 Timothy 2:2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.
Paul tells Timothy to pass it on. There are four generations in this one verse: Paul, Timothy, reliable people who are qualified to teach others. Paul passed it on to Timothy, who will pass it on to reliable people, who will pass it on to others. The others are Paul’s spiritual great grandchildren. Paul tells Timothy not only to make disciples, but to make disciple makers. Pass it on to people who will pass it on.
This is our calling as a church: to make disciples who make disciples. To make disciple makers. To pass it on to others who will pass it on for generations to come.
How do we do it? We found an example in the Bible.
4. An example: find, tell, bring.
There are three stories in the gospel of John that all follow the same pattern of passing it on. We call it “find, tell, bring.”
In John 1, when Andrew met Jesus, the first thing he did was find his brother Peter, and tell him, “We have found the Messiah,” and then he brought him to Jesus. He found someone he loved, he told him what he knew, and he brought him to Jesus. Find, tell, bring.
When Philip met Jesus, he found his friend Nathaniel, and told him, “We have found the Messiah.” “Who is it?” Nathaniel asked. “Jesus of Nazareth,” said Philip. “Nazareth? Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” And Philip answered, “Come and see,” and brought him to Jesus. He found someone he loved, he told him what he knew, and he brought him to Jesus. Find, tell, bring.
In John 4, when the woman at the well met Jesus, she went back to her village and found her neighbors and told them, “Come see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” And she brought them to Jesus. She found people she loved, she told them what she knew, and she brought them to Jesus. Find, tell, bring.
Each of these people were changed by Jesus, and immediately passed it on to someone they loved. Find, tell, bring.
Find someone you love. They found family, friends and neighbors. They reached into their social networks. This is pretty natural. When something great happens to you, who do you tell? Strangers? No; you tell your friends, your family; people you love. Most of you have people in your social network that are still far from God: neighbors, classmates, co-workers, friends, and family.
In your program, you’ll find a Love List. We’re going to take a minute to fill this out. Write down the names of people you love who are far from God, who still need to meet Jesus. Please don’t leave someone off because you think they are unlikely candidates. I was the least likely candidate I know—I wasn’t interested, wasn’t searching, God wasn’t even on my radar. But someone prayed for me and invited me and God showed up and surprised me! Do you know someone who’s a hard case? Write them down! Then we’re going to put that list in our Bibles, or somewhere we can see it and be reminded to pray every day for these people we love.
Fill out the Love Lists and pray.
By the way, if you couldn’t think of anyone who needs God, you are probably living in a Christian bubble, and you need to get out and be intentional about making friends with people who still need Jesus. Love them until they ask you why, then:
Tell them what you know. This is the scary part for most people. So let me “unscary” it for you.
What did Andrew, Philip and the woman tell people? They told them what had happened to them. And it was short and sweet. “We found the Messiah.” Just share with people what happened to you. Tell your story, short and sweet. “I met Jesus; here’s what happened.” I encourage every believer to write out your story. Write a 3-minute version; and write a 3 sentence version (you don’t always get 3 minutes).
In our Bible reading yesterday, we read the story in Mark 5 of Jesus freeing the man who was so tormented by demons that he lived naked and alone in the cemetery. After he was free, he wanted to go with Jesus.
Mark 5:19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”
Go to your own people—find your family and friends—and tell them. Tell them what? Tell them what the Lord has done for you, how he has had mercy on you. Tell them your story.
Your story is powerful—just like the video you saw today. Tell them what you know—and there is nothing you know better than your own story of how you met Jesus and what He did in your life.
Let’s go back to our first story. What did the four lepers tell everyone? The good news. And what was the good news? The siege was over, the enemy was gone, and there was food and drink for everyone! Come to the party!
What’s the good news we have to share? Invite responses.
God loves you and has acted in Christ to save you.
God has forgiven us in Christ! All our sins are forgiven.
God has freed us in Christ. You are freed from whatever bound you.
God has reconciled us to Himself in Christ! The war is over. We are God’s friends. God is for us, not against us.
God has given us new life in Christ. You can live life to the full. You can be a new person. You can start over! You can live forever with God.
The gospel can be told in many ways, but fundamentally it is the good news that God has acted in Christ to save us, redeem us, reconcile us, and give us new life. It is good news!
ILL: Imagine that the CEO of Costco started coming to Life Center, and he came to me and said, “Joe, we love Life Center; this is our church family and we want to make a contribution. Here’s what we’d like to do. Everyone at Life Center can shop for free at Costco. Get what you need, and when you check out, just tell them you’re from Life Center, and it’s free.” Would this be cool? Would you tell anyone? Would you say, “You should come to Life Center. You get free shopping at Costco!” I think our church would grow like crazy!
This is like the gospel. God has acted in Christ to save us, to free us, to forgive us, to give us life to the full! We’ve got better news than free shopping. We’ve got life to the full in Jesus! It’s the gospel.
Find someone you love. Tell them what you know. Then…
Bring them to church.
Invite them to come with you. “Come and see.” We design our Sunday services with your seeking friend in mind. It’s why we do church the way we do it. Each week, our goal is to nurture and challenge believers in a visitor friendly atmosphere. If you are already convinced, already a Christian, we want you to grow spiritually. And if you have a seeking friend at your elbow, we want them to “get it”. That’s why we do music that they will like, use the arts (like today’s video) that they relate to, and try to make the message clear and understandable. We want Life Center to be a safe place to hear the life-changing message of Jesus. And we want you to feel confident about inviting the people you love.
ILL: Find, tell, bring. This is what Brittney did with Eric and Goldie.
This is how I met Jesus too. In the 8th grade, a friend named Don Lang knocked on my door one Saturday morning and invited me to a youth rally at his church that evening. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t believe in God; I didn’t want to go to church—I that it was boring and irrelevant. But I said yes. Do you know why? I didn’t want to say no. I didn’t want to disappoint my friend. I didn’t have the courage to say no.
Sometimes we may not invite someone because we assume they will say no. Make the invite! At least give them the opportunity to say no! They might surprise you—like I did—and say yes, even if they don’t want to!
So I went, and God ambushed me. The God I didn’t believe in surprised me! I heard a guy talk about Jesus in a real way, and he was funny, full of joy. Later that night, walking home alone, I said, “God, I don’t know anything about you. All I know is that I want what that guy has. So here I am.” I got up the next morning, and went back to that church and my life was changed.
I stay in touch with Don Lang, and when we talk, I always thank him for loving me enough to take a chance and invite me to come. That invitation changed my life and my eternity.
Who do you know that might be one invitation away from a changed life and a changed eternity? Make the invite!
Pull out your Love List—we’re going to do one more thing. At the end of the aisle, you’ll find a basket of sticky notes. Let’s pass these down the aisle, and take as many sticky notes as you have names on your Love List. Write the names on your Love List on the sticky notes—one sticky note per name. Then take them to the nearest wall and stick them on the wall. When you’re done, take your seat, and I’ll wrap us up.
Sticky notes on the wall.
Look around. This is our mission. These are the people we love and we’re praying for. Our goal is to find them, tell them, and bring them—and pray that God meets them, that they find Jesus. Let’s pray.