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Intro: Frustration of being told what to do, yet not how to do it. Happens at school, happens at job, sometime it happens at church as well. We tell you to share your faith, share your faith, share you faith, but sometimes we’re not good at supporting you to do it.
That’s what these next two months are about, about supporting each of us to share our faith so that we are actually enabled to do it. A lot of us have been taught one form of evangelism in campus ministry, that’s great I was too. Yet some of the young adults have shared with me that while campus ministry equipped them to share the gospel in the short-term setting of the university where it is easy to find people all around who are at questioning stages of life, they were at a loss of how to do so now that they are out of university and have longer-term relationships with co-workers, neighbors, and family who seem to be just focused on the daily grind.. So what I’ve seen happen to you and to me is that, where you once shared your faith daily, or at least weekly, now it might be months, or maybe you’ve given up altogether.
So we’re here to help. Today you received a booklet for the entire sermon series. Alot of what we are doing is based primarily off of two resources: Becoming a Contagious Christian by Bill Hybles, and the Billy Graham Association training materials. So I tried to cram everything into a nice little package for you. Please do three things for me: 1) Don’t lose it! 2) write your name in it, and 3) Bring it every Sunday. We will be using it every Sunday, and as you can see, there is a place for sermon notes, and then usually some take it home exercises to do. So if you look at page 3, you’ll see the outline for last’s weeks sermon, where we spoke of the promise and the problem of the harvest - The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. If you turn to page four, here was the take-it-home exercise, start making a prayer list and start praying. You can still do this by-the-way. But turn to page 5, because that is where we’ll be today.
When you turn to page five, you’ll see this weird little equation on the bottom of the page, what in the world is this, math? Actually no. This is our outline for the next two months. The harvest outline. So what does it mean?
HP + CP + CC = MI
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13–16 ESV)
We’ll go right to the last element, MI. MI stands for Maximum Impact. That is what we’re praying for. As Jesus said, “that [your unbelieving friends and family] may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” As John Piper once said, missions exists because worship doesn’t. We serve an amazing God, our Father in heaven. We love God because He first loved us and showed us His love in sending His Son Jesus to us, to live for us, to die for us and to be raised for us, and to return for us. If you’re a Christian, this is the central truth of our life, and as we live for God it brings him glory. And we want to pray that our friends and family will give glory to God. Pray that God might be praised from the lips of your friends who don’t know him.
So go back to your prayer list and that is the prayer - that they might glorify God in heaven. Not that Jesus will fix all their problems or that they’ll start living right or that they come to have peace. But that they come to worship God, who alone can bring them peace. So go back to your prayer list and pray that they might become worshippers. So how can we have an impact? Living out our calling as salt and light.
Salt: You are the salt of the earth. In our culture, probably the first thing we think of is that salt spices things up, brings flavor to our otherwise bland food. A couple of months ago I was reading about the basic diet of the people living in Jesus’s part of the world, and maybe gives a little more background. One of the main staples of the lower classes living around the sea of galilee was a fish sauce called garum. Basically you would make a cream of the chopped up entrails of fish and small minnows and left out in the sun to decompose, and then mix herbs and tons of salt to it to preserve the fish so they didn’t go bad. This was before refrigeration. This was daily food, and if the salt wasn’t potent, their food would go bad. So Jesus calling us salt wasn’t merely saying that we add spice to life, he was saying that if we go bad, the fish die. So this brings us to the first to parts of the equation:
- Salt must keep it’s potency for it to have an effect: High Potency Jesus was speaking directly to Jewish people who were given the charge to be a kingdom of priest and bring the worship of God to the nations, but they had lost their potency by turning inward toward themselves. We can fall into the same trap as the church.
- Salt also must come into contact for it to have an effect: Close Proximity. You have to mix the salt in with the fish in order to save the fish.
“That’s exactly what we need as Christians if we’re going to influence people who are outside the family of God. We must have high potency, which means a strong enough concentration of Christ’s influence in our lives that His power and presence will be undeniable to others. And we’ve got to have plenty of proximity. We need to get close to people we’re hoping to reach in order to allow His power to have it’s intended effect” - Hybels, BCC, 42.
See, you could be a highly potent Christian off in your little bubble and make no impact on the world. Our you could be in the world, and no different from it, and again, make no impact. So what about the third part of the equation?
Light: You are the light of the world. What is light? Notice that light is intrinsically potent. Darkness cannot overwhelm light. Light can only be dimmed or covered. Notice also that we are told to let our light shine before others. So here we have Close proximity. Yet light also carries with it the idea of revelation, or making things visible and clear, which brings us to our third part of the equation, Clear Communication. And what are we to communicate? Look at the verses just before: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11–12 ESV) Jesus is saying that we are light, in the same way prophets are light. We speak of the truths of God and we speak clearly enough so that we ruffle some feathers enough to be persecuted. Notice that people speak evil against us, on Christ’s account. See, it is safer to not Clearly Communicate Christ and just let your lifestyle do the talking, but that is not what Jesus is calling us to do when he tells us to be the light of the world. As Paul says in 2 Cor. 4:5-6: For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Clear Communication in words and action is necessary to have maximum impact.
So now we have the full formula: High Potency + Close Proximity + Clear Communication = Maximum Impact. Let’s pause here to ask a very important question: How many of you would say that this equation accurately describes the current condition of your life? Let me ask you to share this with someone sitting next to you - which aspect of the equation do you struggle with the most? Share with your neighbor.
For the rest of our time today I want to start focusing on the question: What does it mean to be a Highly Potent Christian? Let me suggest that we start with two things: A highly potent Christian is authentic and compassionate.
- GENUINE FAITH: Authentic: The real deal.
- Genuine follower of Jesus: This is actually where Jesus was striving to take everyone in his sermon on the mount. At the end of his sermon he proclaim that everyone is on one of two roads: a broad road that leads to death and a narrow road that leads to life. Yet he concludes with some of the most chilling words of the Bible. Matt. 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ See, we can imagine that we’re doing a whole lot of work for Jesus, but never come to Him by faith. Our good works flow out of our relationship with Jesus, they can never substitute for our relationship with Jesus. Our faith must be genuine. A genuine faith. Let me put it another way. Love is attractive. When you love something or someone, people around you see the love you have for it and are attracted to seeking something similar. If you can’t stop raving about the new iphone, I’ll probably at least be interested in seeing what the deal is. As we grow in our love for Jesus, we don’t need to manufacture warmth - people will see our warmth because we’re genuine.
- Letting People In: Not overselling the faith. Some of the best spiritual conversations I’ve had with people is when I just let them in to my struggles. You are not betraying the faith when you show your weakness. You are showing how our faith is real. I had to learn this with my family. I came to a point at the end of university that I realized, my family is stuck with me, so I’m not going to act differently with them than I would my Christian friends. I’ll talk about the same things, let them know the things I’m excited about and worried about. I do the same with non-Christian friends. If a non-Christian friend asks me how I’m doing, I’ll answer the same as I would any of you.
- Generous Living: Compassionate: They will see our good works. Their is an action component to being a high potency Christian. Sometimes we religicise the phrase “Good works” to somehow mean the things people do to try to earn God’s favour. No. We can’t earn God’s favor. So when the Bible speaks of good works, it is in most cases simply speaking of doing actual, tangible acts of compassion. Helping people, listening to them, buying them a bag of groceries when their in need, babysitting their kids, visiting the sick, adopting children, opening your house to people in need, giving people rides, being involved in making your community a better place. In short, we’ve talked about this before, being benefactors to those around you. In our seeking the welfare of our city sermon series last summer, we talked about how good works were an essential part of the evangelistic strategy of the early church, because good works do two things. 1) Good works are a shield to protect from persecution. People don’t generally hate people who are helping them. 2) Good works provide a platform for our message. People will listen to someone who is helping them. Here are three gifts that you can give people that will raise your level of potency.
- Being Generous With Time: If we’re honest, here is one of the biggest hurdles in making an impact as highly potent Christians, we have no time to give the lost. We have overdrew from our time-bank and many of us are living in crisis mode. Crisis mode is when the pace of life just starts spiraling our of control. We don’t have time for the lost. Here’s three suggestions:
- Make the most of moments - if you don’t have huge chunks of time to give those around you, make the most of moment so that you are sharing your faith in sprinkles throughout the day.
- Tithe one night a week to the lost - we’ll talk about more when we talk about close proximity, but try to spend one night a week with an unchurched friend. Invite them over for dinner, see a movie with them, let your kids have fiends over and invite their parents to have tea with you. Small groups - you can help here. Invite someone over for dinner before your small group, and then ask them to stay.
- If you are too busy - simplify your life. There is no easy way around this. Some of us are too busy at work or at home or at church and our emotional resources are drained and we’re burned out and we can’t even think about the lost. Sabbath. Parents I know you’re busy - but wouldn’t one of the best lessons you could give to your kids is that they can always make time for the lost.
- Generous with Materials: We need to work. We need to work to pay the bills, and to provide for our family. University students, study hard - get a good job. But we need to rethink why we work. It’s not to tithe a 10th of our income so that don’t need to be generous with our resources and we can hoard the other 90%. This is why I don’t teach a tithe. I don’t believe the New Testament teaches a tithe. The New Testament teaches radical generosity. Give to the church so we can pay our bills, challenge the church to extend our care of those around us in the city, and radically alter your families use of resources so that you can generously extend material help to those around you. Freely you have received, Jesus says, therefore freely give.
High Potency = Genuine Faith + Generous Living. Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
'Out of 100 men, one will read the Bible, the other 99 will read the Christian.' –DL Moody.
Take it home: Page 4, Prayer list. Page 6: Impact List (Rock the River)