We are called to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.
We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves.
We are commissioned by Jesus to teach everyone all that He has commanded.
So, how can we do this?
We need to be a church of contributors and not consumers.
At the same time, we know that we need to reach out to people, and provide what they need, more than what they want.
For example, if we had 20 kids in our children’s program, then we would attract other young families with kids, ….but we don’t have 20 kids, yet, and until we do, then we need to be praying and restructuring WE NEED TO BE CONTRIBUTORS, RATHER THAN CONSUMERS. WE NEED TO THINK, HOW CAN RIVER OF LIFE WELCOME MORE PEOPLE INTO THE KINGDOM OF GOD….so that we will reach out to this community.
The capacity of our sanctuary is about 130, comfortably. But we could probably squeeze in about 175 or even more.
As a congregation grows, we must be thinking of how we can facilitate and keep that growth.
FOR EXAMPLE, WHEN THE SANCUARY FILLS TO ABOUT 80%, then we need to begin a second worship service.
You may be wondering, “why am I talking about this during a sermon?” and I’ll tell you, as I’ve been saying for the past many months,
“God placed our church in this building to reach this community.”
Thus, we need to assess, HOW CAN WE REACH this community with greater success?
Is this due to people’s talents?
Well, talents are good, and we need to use our talents, but it is not dependent upon talent. It is dependent upon the Holy Spirit at work in our lives.
Today, we were supposed to have a missionary whom we’ve been supporting, Mark Cannon, share, but his father passed away, and he is helping his widowed mother, right now.
I was excited about having Mark come, and I also wanted him to share a seminar afterward about reaching out to Muslims.
But this will come later, Lord willing.
So, I wasn’t originally planning to preach today, but I believe it is so important that I share.
God gave me this word for us for today, and I believe it more strongly now than ever.
We must be people who are going to do the effort to reach out to the community.
To reach those who do not believe in Jesus and those who may believe but are not disciples of Him.
We call the unbelievers, “lost,” and that is true, in fact, that is a biblical term, but the term can cause some to misunderstand.
For my message, the Lord led me to a story in the Bible about a man who was prepared to receive the gospel, but no one thought this.
NO ONE REALIZED THAT THIS MAN WAS RIPE FOR THE HARVEST.
No one anticipated this, except Jesus.
This man was wealthy, and in Jesus’ day, wealth was a sign or the blessing of God (still, today, we consider wealth to be such a sign, and yet, wealth is a snare that causes many to turn away from God).
This man was wealthy because he was a bad man. In fact, he was part of a pyramid BUSINESS scheme, if you will, in which he made money off of the other bad businessmen around him.
He overcharged people, and expected his people under him to also overcharge.
Politically, he was not on the side of the majority of the suffering masses, but was on the side of Herod and on the side of the foreign country that was occupying Israel at that time.
He WOULD THEREFORE HAVE BEEN considered to be a traitor.
When people looked at this man, they probably despised him in their hearts.
This man was judged by the community.
Some people are judged because they’ve served time in prison.
Others are judged because of their addictions.
And others are judged because of their sexual sins.
People are judged due to their education, or they job, or their neighborhood.
THE LIST GOES ON AND ON OF HOW PEOPLE ARE JUDGED.
AND YET, AMONG THE JUDGED, THERE IS RIPE FRUIT.
WE HAVE TO OVERCOME OUR PREJUDICES…
WE HAVE TO OVERCOME OUR SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS…
WE HAVE TO OVERCOME OUR BLINDNESS…
IN ORDER TO FIND THE ONES WHO ARE READY FOR THE GOSPEL.
JUDGING is dangerous, because it causes us to erect a wall between them and the truth of God’s Joyful News through Jesus.
And while we believe
- crime needs to be punished,
- and people need to live holy lives in marriage relationships as a man and a woman;
- and we don’t want people to be enslaved to chemicals and objects,
what we want is that people would find a new life through Jesus.
JESUS WAS THE FRIEND OF SINNERS, AND THEREFOR, HE REACHED MANY
For today’s Scripture reading, let’s look at Luke 19:1-9.
19 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd.4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
- Jesus’ Mission Directed Jesus’ Action
Why did Jesus do what he did?
Just recently we celebrated his death and resurrection…HE DID THAT FOR US.
His disciples did not want him to be crucified, but it was the plan of God, that had been even foretold in Scripture.
On this occasion, Jesus chose the person that no one would have expected him to choose, in fact, Zacchaeus was probably surprised.
- Jesus bothered people
Religious People: He did not do what the religious people wanted, because they wanted Jesus to acknowledge them and to be subject to them…
Jesus would not do that, not just because He is God in the flesh,
but because subjecting himself to those who did not follow God’s Purposes would have kept him from fulfilling God’s plan in His life.
THE SAME THING CAN HAPPEN TO US…
LET US SUBJECT OURSELVES TO THE HOLY WORD OF GOD…
Political People: The followers of Herod, the Herodians, did not like Jesus because his very presence threatened their favored political position.
As well, the Sadducees and Pharisees were not just Religious leaders, but political.
And the Zealots, or the “freedom-fighters (which may have included Judas Iscariot),” wanted Jesus to overthrow the Romans.
Jesus was NOT politically correct, thus, not welcomed BY THE POLICAL COMMUNITY.
The Masses: They wanted to make JESUS king, by force; and yet, in his hometown, they were offended by him.
On the occasion of Jesus’ entry into Jericho, Jesus chose the one person that no one else would have chosen for him to stay with, nor would they have chosen ZACCHAEUS for themselves.
He went to the home of a sinner.
Why was this?
- Jesus pleased His Heavenly Father
He didn’t go to the most talented
He didn’t go to the most anointed
He didn’t go to the home of a synagogue leader
He didn’t go to the home of a political leader
He didn’t even go to the home of the godly grandmother
He went to the home of a sinner.
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Jesus knew His mission, and He made decisions according to that.
We need to know our mission, too.
And we need to live according to it.
We are living on purpose. And our purpose is to welcome our community into a relationship with God.
And while this will please God, it also means that some people will mutter and complain.
If we could go back in time and consider this story when it occurred, let’s consider those who complained and muttered.
We can chuckle at them and think,
“well, I for sure would have never complained like them.”
How do we know?
Are we complainers, now?
And what happened to those complainers?
Were they, perhaps, in the crowd shouting “Crucify Him!” just a short time, later.
When we complain to other people, rather than directly to the person with whom we have the complaint, then we are sinning.
Sin leads to death.
COMPLAINING CAN BE A FORM OF JUDGMENT…SO NOT ONLY WERE PEOPLE JUDGING ZACHAEUS, BUT JUDGING JESUS, TOO.
WHEN WE COMPLAIN TO OTHERS ABOUT SOMEONE ELSE, WE ARE ERECTING A JAIL CELL IN OUR HEARTS
IN WHICH WE THINK WE ARE INCARCERATING THE ONE WHOM WE ARE JUDGING,
AND YET, WE WILL FIND OURSELVES LOCKED AWAY.
As long as that offence is kept alive, that is, unreconciled and unforgiven, we envision that person in a little jail.
And yet, in truth, we are living in that jail.
And in truth, gossiping and complaining will lead to our demise,
and we will become that person who no one really wants to be around.
And by our actions of complaining and gossip,
we are shouting to the community, “Crucify Him/Her!”
while we need to be Loving and supporting each other.
- Who Are We Pleasing?
Are we complainers and mutterers?
- participants in God’s Mission or
- are we focusing on our OWN mission?
God’s mission has NOT changed since the beginning of Time and especially since Jesus gave us the Great Commission.
But, we find ourselves holding on to things because of various reasons:
God calls us to serve Him. His mission hasn’t changed, but methods can and must.
We don’t read the Bible in the original language,
but if we did we would see that Paul’s earliest writings are different from his latest writings.
It was the influence of the places where he traveled and served.
Early in his ministry, Paul spent his time East of Rome, but later, he spent time in Rome and West of Rome.
What kind of difference would that have had on his ministry METHODS?
- Roman imprisonment
- Latin Culture and Language (rather than Greek Culture and Language)
- HIS Age
Paul established leaders quickly in his early days of ministry, but in time, he realized that there needed to be more testing and qualifications for leaders.
People could have complained,
“hey, we never did it like that in the past,”
to which Paul might have answered,
“yes, that’s right, and it shows.”
There are changes that must happen
And these may be uncomfortable.
You know, we need people to be willing to serve in areas where we have the greatest needs, not just where we want to serve.
We need to see ourselves as contributors and not consumers.
- Jesus’ Ministry was to Reach People
It was an act of love for Jesus to choose Zacchaeus that day.
Jesus knew that Zacchaeus would respond.
Jesus said once that
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them,
God is in the “drawing people to Himself” business.
God loves the World so much…all of the world,
-not just the part that I like
-or the part that our president likes,
but God loves the Whole world, and therefore sent Jesus.
Peter wrote this about God and His desire to reach people:
9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:9
This is why we went to the mission field called “Almaty, Kazakhstan.”
This is why we planted a church on the mission field called “Istanbul, Turkey.”
And this is why we are here, today, with River of Life…
because God doesn’t want anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
It used to be that in order to reach a Buddhist, we had to go to a country where Buddhists live.
Now, we live in a neighborhood with two Buddhist temples within three miles of us.
And we have two families in our church who came from a country where the majority of people are Buddhist.
It used to be that in order to share the Gospel with Hindus, we had to go to India. But now, there is a large Hindu center 4-5 miles from us, and we have a family that used to practice Hinduism, but now follows Jesus in our church.
It used to be that we had to travel to the Middle East in order to share the gospel with Muslims, but now, we have a mosque one mile to the South and another one being built three miles from here (and another 6 miles from here, and plans for more). We have in our church, a former Muslim, who is the only Christian in her family.
It is safer to share the gospel here, than to share it in some of the other countries of the world.
When we lived overseas, we told many people that we were serving in Kazakhstan because someone else had not gone there before us. The same in Turkey.
And in the early part of the 20th century, it was understood that the Muslim world was able to be reached by the Church, if only the Church would send missionaries to reach them.
You see, our predecessors did not send enough missionaries to reach the Buddhists, the Hindus and Muslims when we had a better chance and reaching them.
So, what has happened?
I believe that God has sent them here.
And as we reach out to these people from around the world, they will have the ability to reach out to their family and friends back home.
THINK OF THE INFLUENCE WE HAVE HERE IN LAKESIDE TO REACH THE NATIONS FOR JESUS.
There are those who might mutter and complain about OUR vision,
and Let them complain.
But we must be willing to reach out and love this community.
AS BELIEVERS IN JESUS, WE ARE SO GLAD THAT JESUS REACHED OUT TO ZACHAEUS, AND THAT HE REACHED OUT TO US.
Jesus spoke to Zacchaeus, and reached out to him.
It wasn’t comfortable
It wasn’t popular
But look at Zacchaeus’ response:
“Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
Who among us?
Who of our clients?
Who of our neighbors?
Who of our co-workers will change?
We need to be ready,
and to listen to the Holy Spirit, to know how and when to reach out and call to people so that they will know and follow Jesus, too.
The disciples walked away from this, amazed, and shared this story with each other so that when Luke was writing his gospel, this was included.
There were others who were too offended that Jesus did things differently from them.
Let’s be people who say, yes, we want to follow the Holy Spirit as He is guiding us in this church to reach out to those who need Him.
In order to do this we must be FAT Christians.
2 out of 3 is not enough, but we need to be 3 out of 3.
So, when the world, the flesh and the devil whisper in our ears and try to lead us away from God’s Purpose, let’s decide according to the reason that Jesus came:
To Seek and to Save the Lost