Rising He Justified Freely Forever

rising he justified freely forever

 

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District 4

Love it or hate it, The Hunger Games is insanely popular.  I helped proctor some testing at a school in the area and EVERY kid in the room was talking about it…excitedly.  One kid even told me he couldn’t finish the books because his mom was too busy reading them to share!  Then a girl said something that inspired this post.  She said matter-of-fact: “We live in District 4.”

I live in Tulsa, OK and thought I’d do some digging.  If you do a Google image search for “Map of Panem” or “Hunger Games Map” this is the top result:

She’s right.  We live in District 4.

Switch gears to another story:

I was listening to the radio the other day and the DJ (Brant Hansen) was talking about Ezekiel Bread.  Calls kept coming in from excited listeners saying they’ve tried it, they love it, etc.

But everytime Brant asked the caller “have you read how they made this bread in the Bible?” most of the responses were like “hahaha…no…I’m not familiar with that…story…”

As in, this bread MUST be good because it has a biblical name (like “Testamints“…really?)…but I have no idea what the Bible says about how it was made (it was cooked over human poop, by the way).

Both of these stories make me wonder if Christians know the story of the Bible.

The girl at school knew exactly where she fit in the story of The Hunger Games.  But does she have any idea where she fits in the story of the Bible?

The callers into the radio station know that Ezekiel is in the Bible, but they don’t know that story and probably never consider how they fit in the story of the Bible, either.

And what about us?  If asked, would we be able to clearly articulate the story of the Bible and how we fit into it?  Because I met a girl who, without skipping a beat, knew we lived in District 4.


Talk With Your Ears

In our last series we looked at what it means to be a disciple.  Now that we know a disciple WORSHIPS God, is in COMMUNITY with others, and is always on MISSION, we need to focus on how to make disciples.

So in this series we’re going to learn that evangelism is simply LISTENING, RESPONDING, and KNOCKING.

In our urgency I’m afraid we’ve forgotten how to care about people.  And there’s so much pressure on “doing it right” that…we…never…do…it.

So my hope is in this series you’ll learn how to listen to the stories of others so you can have more effective conversations about the Gospel because everybody has a story.

TODAY IS ABOUT LISTENING.  So let’s go:

Matthew 4:18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me, “Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.

 21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

God wants you to go “FISHING”  

Jesus told a group of fishermen that he wanted them to fish for people.  Here is a picture of what fishing looks like on the Sea of Galilee:

My students who have been fishing described what was needed to catch fish.  Three of their responses were:

  1. It takes patience
  2. You need a place with fish
  3. Use the right lure

I snagged a HUGE Northern Pike in Ontario one summer, but I had a cheap fishing pole.  With one flick of the tail, that pike was gone, safe, and in possession of a new fishing pole.

I wasn’t prepared to catch big fish in Canada.  I think most of us feel like we’re not prepared to go fishing for people.  So let’s practice and get some good training on how to fish for people (because that’s what this series is alllllll about):

Share God’s love by ASKING and LISTENING

Look at this picture…think about your first reactions/impressions to this guy:

Now watch this video and listen to his story.  As you watch, think about what you’re hearing and how your first impression may or may not have changed about him:

  • What did you hear in his story?
  • What did you learn about him from his story?
  • What questions would you ask him?
  • How did your first impression change?

You listened to his story without interrupting or thinking of interjecting your own story.  So if this was a real life encounter, think about how asking questions and really listening would open the door to have a conversation about the Gospel!

Homeboy was crazy about the chance of a recording contract.   We have something even better to offer. 

When we ask questions and listen to what another person says, we earn the right to share about God and his love and truth. It can be tough to remain patient in conversations and allow our friend to share first because we have so much to say. But if we hog all the conversation time, we’re basically saying we don’t care about the other person. If your friends know you care about them and value what they think, they will be more likely to be open to hearing your story of why you’re a follower of Jesus.

Hearing stories gives us the right to be heard.

Pray for OPPORTUNITIES to listen and share

Matthew 16: 13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

   15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

You have opportunities to share your faith every single day.  But we’ve got to see people as people, not projects.  Our motivation is love and concern, not fulfilling a spiritual agenda.

Jesus asked his disciples who people were saying he is and he got a lot of responses.  You will, too.  Not everybody wants to talk about God, but everybody has an idea about Him.

When we LISTEN to their stories, we can find out what that idea is.

Peter knew who Jesus was.  And you need to as well.  If you don’t have confidence in who Jesus is, evangelism can be VERY intimidating.

How Do We Respond To This?

Evangelism is sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with others who are not yet saved.
And the first thing we need to learn to be GOOD at evangelism is how to listen to the stories of other people.
It’s an incredible experience to be part of God’s plan to share his love with someone and to help that person understand who God is.
We can be even more effective in sharing God’s love when we are prayed up and prepared.
When we pray for opportunities to talk with friends about Jesus, God will give us opportunities.

May we learn how to listen well so we know how to respond.

unDeserving Debtor

What is a “DEBTOR”

  • a person who owes a creditor; someone who has the obligation of paying a debt
  • A person owes a debt to another.
  • The person who either owes payment or other performance on an obligation such as a contract or note.

When we say Jesus is the unDeserving Debtor, that means He paid a debt He did not owe.  We owe a debt we cannot pay.  We owe a debt to God because of our sin, but Jesus paid it in full.  And we’re going to unpack that today:

WHAT did He do because of our debt?

Isaiah 53:5-6 says “But he was pierced for our transgression, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.  We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

1 Peter 2:24-25 says “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness, by his wounds you have been healed.  For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

A physician explained the pain of the cross in this way:

adequate exhalation required lifting the body by pushing up on the feet and by flexing the elbows…However, this maneuver would place the entire weight of the body on the tarsals [ankle bones] and would produce searing pain.  Furthermore, flexion of the elbows would cause rotation of the wrists around the iron nails and cause fiery pain along the damaged nerves…Muscle cramps and paresthesias [pins and needles when your foot or arm wakes up] of the outstretched and uplifted arms would add to the discomfort.  As a result, each respiratory effort would become agonizing and tiring and lead eventually to asphyxia.

WHEN did He do it and WHERE did it happen?

Colossians 2:13-15 says When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.  He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away nailing to the cross.  And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”

According to this, when did Jesus become the unDeserving Debtor?

The only time we are referenced in this passage is when it says “you were dead in your sins” and the rest is about Jesus.  This is our condition.  We are sinful.  And apart from Jesus, we are dead in our sins.  See, salvation doesn’t happen when good things outweigh bad things.  We don’t balance our debt, we get rid of it:

  • If I owe$3,000 on a student loan and I have $3,000 in my bank account, that doesn’t mean I’m free…it means I’m broke
  • If you lose sleep because you played Black Ops all night and make it up for it by sleeping in class you’re not free…you’re failing

And the only way we get rid of our debt is through Jesus.  He is the one who has paid our debt.  And He paid it in full.

WHY did the unDeserving Debtor take our debt?

2 Corinthians 5:21 says “God made him who had no sin [Jesus] to be sin for us, so that in him [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God.

He died so that we could be made right.

Jesus is holy.  Jesus had no sin.  Jesus was not created and therefore not affected or ruled by sin.

But we are.  We are not good enough.  Jesus didn’t die because we earned it.  In fact, the Bible says apart from Jesus, we are “children of wrath” or “deserving of wrath.”

He died because He loves us.

He died so we could be made right.

He died to cancel our debt.  He became the unDeserving Debtor.  He paid what we owed.  And because of that we can be saved.  We can be made right with God!

The unCreated Creator stepped into creation as the unDeserving Debtor.  He paid for our sin with his life and three days later He became the unStoppable Savior.  And we’ll see what that means next week.

I Can’t Preach the Gospel

I’m in the middle of a series on Jesus and the next one coming up is called “Jesus: the unDeserving Debtor.”  I have a meaty outline answering the who, what, where, when, why, and how Jesus paid for our sin, canceled our debt, and made us right with God.  This outline has tons of Scripture to cross-reference and back up my argument.  It’s sound.

But then throw in the element that it is for a middle school audience.

Almost every book I’ve read and nearly every junior high pastor I’ve met is conditioned to ask things like:

“Is it too scholarly for them?  Is it too deep?  Is it too long?  Is it too abstract?  Is it too concrete?  Do I have enough illustrations?  Are those illustrations relevant to the current culture?  Are those illustrations funny?  Should they be funny?  Can I make the gospel entertaining?  Will it capture their attention?  Should I use story?  Should I make up stories and call them case-studies?  Should I put the students in groups?  Should I tone it down?  Should I get kids on stage?  How can they act out the gospel?  Should I have them nail their sins to a cross?  Should I have them write their sins on a black cloth with a black marker?”  On and on and on.

I’ve agonized all day with my outline and my audience.  And I’ve lost track of the message.

I’ve been too worried about finding the right stories or the right place to use a plunger as an object lesson.  I’ve been too worried about teaching to the adolescent brain rather than the human heart.  I’ve made it so hard that I can’t preach the gospel.

In the end, I did tone it down (because we only have 30 minutes to work with).  I did use a few illustrations (because the atrocity that is crucifixion is heavy for even the most seasoned follower of Christ).  But I kept the gospel the gospel according to God’s Word.  And no book, seminar, or methodology can ever make that better…even if it is a middle school audience.