Sunday, April 21, 2013
Pastor Joe Wittwer

Story

When God’s Story Intersects Yours

Part —Our Story

Opening:

    When I was 13 years old, a friend from school invited me to a youth rally at his church.  I didn’t want to go, but I didn’t want to disappoint my friend, so I reluctantly said yes.  I went and was ambushed by Jesus.  The speaker that night talked about Jesus like he knew Him, like they were friends.  And he was funny.  On my way home, I said, “Ok God, I don’t know anything about You.  All I know is, I want what that guy has.”  That was my prayer, and God heard it and began to change my life.  He gave me what that guy had: Jesus.  A new life.  Joy!  And since then, I’ve tried to help as many people as I could find and follow Jesus.

    My name is Joe, and that’s my story.

    My story has become part of God’s Big Story—just like Abraham, Moses, David, Peter and Paul…now Joe.  And your story can be part of God’s Big Story too.

    Today, you’re going to see five stories from people in our church—stories of people who have been changed by Jesus and who are serving God and making a difference in a variety of ways.  They are part of God’s Big Story, too.

    Today, it’s the story of us.

Greeting:

    How do you do good for others?

Video:  Amber—Young Lives

Introduction and offering:

    Thank you Amber for sharing your story with us.  Isn’t it cool that when God redeems us, He uses our brokenness to heal others?  Many people find their best service to others in their redeemed weakness.  We become wounded healers, helping others in the very ways we’ve been helped.  Thanks Amber for helping teen moms know that they matter to God. He is using you to change their stories!  Amber is part of God’s Big Story!

    Offering: Acts 20:35 Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  Let’s say it together.  Giving to God and others isn’t a burden, but a blessing. If you view it as an obligation (I have to give), then it’s a burden.  If you view it as a privilege (I get to give), it will be a blessing.  Be blessed!

     This is part 8 of our Story series.  We’re telling the story of God and us as it’s found in the Bible.  And we’re seeing how our stories change when God enters the story.

The Big Idea: The Bible is the story of God and us.  When God’s story intersects yours, you begin to live a new story.

It is one thing when someone intersects your life and changes your story.

ILL: I’m reading a novel and the hero’s life is changed by a chance encounter on a train.  He meets a man who is kind to him, gives him hope and teaches him how to box—all in 24 hours.  His story takes a new trajectory because of this one encounter—but he never sees this man again.  

That kind of thing has happened to all of us.  We meet someone, however briefly, and our life is changed.

    But it is another thing when someone intersects your life, and your story is caught up in his.  His story becomes your story, and your story becomes part of His.  

ILL: When Laina agreed to be my wife, our stories joined.  My story became hers, and her story became mine.  They aren’t separate stories any more.  I’m living in her story, and she’s living in mine.

This is what happens when we meet Jesus.  His story becomes mine.  I am living in God’s Big Story and He is living in mine.  My story becomes part of God’s story just as much as Abraham or Moses or David or Peter or Paul were part of God’s story.  

    On your outline, I’ve created a timeline of the story of God.  It looks like this.

The Old Testament            The New Testament

<—————————————————–——————————————>

Creation/fall   Abraham   Moses   David   Jesus   Peter   Paul   Us    Re-creation

    You can see “us” in there—underneath the “us” on your outline, write your name.  We are part of God’s Big Story!  And you are part of it!  When you became a follower of Jesus, your story is caught up in His, just like Abraham or David or Paul.  You became part of what God is doing in the world—we are part of something much bigger than ourselves.  

We are living in Acts 29.  In the Bible, the book of Acts is the history of the early church.  It ends in Acts 28—and we are living in Acts 29.  God is still writing the story, and we’re in it!  God is redeeming and restoring the world, and we are working with Him.   

How do we that?  How do work with God to redeem the world?  It is done in two ways.  Watch this:

Video: JJ—Youth for Christ

    Thanks JJ for sharing your story.  I love JJ’s commitment to help these kids “become lifelong followers of Jesus,” and “to serve the least, the last and the lost.”  Thanks JJ for the great work you are doing with students; God is using you to change their stories forever!  JJ is part of God’s Big Story!

That leads me to the first way we work with God in His Big Story.

1. Make disciples: The Great Commission.   

    Before Jesus ascended to heaven, He left marching orders for His followers.  They were to continue His work and spread His message.  We call this the Great Commission.

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 our church’s mission—this is every church’s mission.  

Most of you have heard me say before that the imperative verb is to make disciples—this is the command, this is our mission.  The other verbs (go, baptize and teach) are participles, which means they are verbal adjectives that modify or explain the imperative verb.  “In all your goings, make disciples, baptizing and teaching them.”  So wherever we go, we are on a mission.  Our mission is to make disciples—to help people find and follow Jesus.  

    Every Christian is a missionary and this is our mission:

Help people find and follow Jesus.

When we do this—when we help people find and follow Jesus—we are part of God’s Big Story, and we’re helping other people become part of it too.  The Big Story is that God is redeeming a fallen and broken world, and He’s doing that through Jesus.  Whenever you help someone find and follow Jesus, you are working with God and are part of the Big Story.

JJ is doing it through his work at Youth for Christ, and by being a light in his neighborhood.  Amber is doing it through her work with teen moms.  Hundreds of you are doing this work all over our community: on your jobs, in your neighborhoods, with your families and friends, and in partnership with our church.  

    Someone asked at the Connections meeting last Sunday what is the secret sauce at Life Center.   What has made us grow and keep growing even when we send off church plants?  Anyone want to take a guess?  Find, tell, bring.  Michael Hockett, our adult ministry pastor, pointed out that hundreds of you have embraced the mission of making disciples, and are doing find, tell, bring.

  • Find someone you love.

  • Tell them what you know.

  • Bring them to church.

The secret sauce is you!  You are the reason our church keeps growing.  You are the reason that we baptize dozens of people each month.  You are the secret sauce because you are working with God to change people’s lives, to change our community one person at a time.  

    Has your story been changed by Jesus?  Then you want to help others find and follow Jesus so their stories can change too.  You want to invite other people into God’s Big Story.  It’s a pretty natural sequence.  Watch this:

Video: Abbie—Mosaic.

    Thanks Abbie for sharing your story.  I love this!  Jesus changed Abbie’s story, and now she is working with God to change others.  She is giving other young girls what she lacked—a godly mentor and example.  Thanks Abbie for serving our students in Mosaic—God is using you to change their stories!  Abbie is part of God’s Big Story!  (I think when we get to heaven and we meet all these folks, we’ll say, “Oh you’re Abraham; you’re Moses.  I always wanted to meet you.”  And they’ll say, “Wait, you’re Abbie—we’ve been waiting to meet you!”)

    When Jesus changes your life, you want to share that with others.  You want to help others find and follow Jesus.  Every Christian is a missionary.  And our mission is to help people find and follow Jesus.

    Please, find someone you love, tell them what you know, and bring them to church.  You are inviting someone into God’s Big Story and changing their story forever.  Why wouldn’t you want to do that?  Would you hesitate to tell a dying person of a cure?  Would you hesitate to tell a hungry person where they can get food?  Would you hesitate to direct a lost person to their destination?  Why would you hesitate to invite someone into God’s Big Story—to be reconciled to God?

    Take a moment right now and write down the name of someone you love that you’re going to find this week, tell them your story, and bring them to church with you.  Invite them into God’s story!

    Prayer

    There is a second way we work with God in His Big Story.

2. Do good: The Great Commandment.

    There are 365 specific commandments in the Old Testament.  The Jews of Jesus’ day often debated which was most important.  So one day, someone asked Jesus, “What is the most important of all the commandments?”  And Jesus said:

Matthew 22:37–40 “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Simply put, Jesus said the most important thing is to:

Love God and love people.

Love God with all you’ve got, and love your neighbor as yourself.  In Luke 10, the questioner asked, “Who is my neighbor?”  He was hoping for a very narrow definition: you only have to love those you like, or those who are like you.  But Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan helping his enemy.  The point is that we are to love everyone, even our enemy.  And this love is very practical; it is action, not emotion; it is doing, not feeling.  The Good Samaritan stopped and took care of his enemy who was hurt.  

    Love God and love people—that is the most important commandment.  You are not commanded to feel something, but to do something.  Love is doing what’s best for another no matter what it costs you.  The love that God commands is action—it is doing good for God and others.  It is being committed to someone’s wellbeing and doing whatever you can to make that happen.  

    This is so important.  Many people feel like failures because they don’t feel love for God.  Don’t worry about the feelings.  Do what is best for God, what He asks you to do, and the feelings often follow.

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

When you do good, God is glorified.  Benjamin Franklin said that the best way to love God is to do good for people.  I think he’s on to something!  

1 John 3:17–18 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

John says that if you have the means and opportunity to help someone and you don’t, how can you say you love God?  Love isn’t just talk or feelings; it’s action.  The best way to love God is to help the person in front of you.  Love is doing what’s best for another.

1 John 4:20–21 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Pretty clear, isn’t it?  If you love God, it means you love your neighbor.  If you can’t do good to your neighbor who is right in front of you, how are going to do good for God whom you can’t see?

    Love is doing what’s best for another no matter what it costs you.  Love is doing good for the person in front of you.  Take a look at this.

Video: Sean—through his work as a clinical psychologist

    Thanks Sean for sharing your story.  Actually, it wasn’t Sean, but his wife who sent his story in, so thanks Amber for sharing Sean’s story!  I love that Sean loves God—at work.  He is helping the people right in front of him.  And he’s sacrificing to do it.  Thanks Sean for serving those in need right where you are!  Sean is part of God’s Big Story.

    And there are hundreds of you who are doing this.  You are doing good, loving God and people, right where you are: at work, at home, in the neighborhood, in the community.  There are hundreds of stories to tell!

  • The dentist who does pro-bono work for the needy.

  • The schoolteacher who spends her own money and time to help a struggling student.

  • The couple that adopts a young single mom and watches her kids so she can finish school and have some time to herself.

  • The grandma who selflessly gives most of her time each week to care for her grandkids and help her kids.  (That’s my wife, by the way.)

  • The lady who each week drops in on her 84 year-old neighbor to help out.

  • The young couple that makes time in their busy schedule to coach kids’ soccer and quietly pays the fees for the neighbor kid who can’t afford it.

  • The airline employee who offered his air passes to a person in need.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea.  When we love God and love people right where we are—on our jobs, in our homes, and neighborhoods and community—God is glorified.  We are part of God’s Big Story, redeeming a broken world.  

    As a follower of Jesus, God will use who you are where you are.  

God will use your work or career.  Sean is a great example of that, and so are many others here who are doing good and making disciples at work.

God will use your abilities and interests.  

ILL: We’ve got some really interesting Life Groups here that were started by people who love to do something.  There is a gardening group, a motorcycle group, a quilting group, a men’s fantasy football group, a crafts group.  There used to be an upland bird hunting group.  All these groups do something they love, and then help each other find and follow Jesus.

What do you love to do?  God can use that to do good and to make disciples.  

    God will use where you live.  Your neighborhood is a mission field where you can do good and make disciples.  What would happen if every one of us started loving our neighbors (doing good for them)?  How many people would come to Christ?  How many neighborhoods would be transformed?  

    God will use who you know.  Every one of us has a sphere of influence—people whom we know that God loves.  The only Bible some people will read is you; the only connection to Jesus they have is you.  God has strategically placed you in that person’s life!  What would happen if you asked God to use you to help each of those people find and follow Jesus?  

God will use your strengths and your weaknesses, your successes and your failures, your joys and your pain.  God will use it all; He doesn’t waste anything.  If you’re successful, God will use your success to do good and make disciples.  If you’ve experienced failure or pain, God will use your pain to do good and make disciples.

Watch this:

Video: Jenny—Statement (domestic abuse prevention and recovery)

    Thanks Jenny for sharing your story with us.  Jenny has helped so many ladies who have been victims of domestic abuse, and now she is helping young women know how to avoid it.  This service came out of her own painful experience. God doesn’t waste anything.  He doesn’t waste your sorrow or your pain, or your success or joy.  God redeems every part of us, including the not-so-pretty parts.  And then He uses us to help others where we’ve been helped.  Thanks Jenny for serving women like you do.  Jenny is part of God’s Big Story!  

    Are you part of God’s Big Story?  Have you surrendered your life to Christ and said, “Yes Lord to anything, anytime, anywhere”?  Jesus is calling you to follow Him.  That means so much more than just coming to church once a week.  It means that you let Him change you, and then you become part of His Big Story, redeeming the world.  It means you become part of something so much bigger than your individual story.