Biblical Foundations 29: Elevating Others 4
Loved ones—we are in week 31 of learning from the Bible what God’s purpose is for this local church and really for all Christians—what does it mean to elevate God, elevate community (e.g. other Christians) and elevate others (e.g. non-Christians).
We are in week 4 of learning what it means to elevate others. Last post we dug into 2 Corinthians 5 where God reveals that His people are “ministers of reconciliation,” “ambassadors” and representatives of Jesus in a foreign land—earth!—that is not our home. God makes His appeal to non-Christians THROUGH US—be reconciled to God! Go from enemies of God to friends and children of God through repentant faith in Jesus Christ! Not just better manners but new men and women! This is a scary and dangerous and uncomfortable mission, but it is glorious—it is the “love of Christ” that compels us to persuade others, to tell them the Gospel with our words.
Oh loved ones, this is the primary mission of Christians toward non-Christians, the primary purpose of our horizontal mission: to tell others about the grace & Truth of Jesus Christ with words:
John 1:40-46 (HERE): Look at the “knee-jerk” reaction of Andrew meeting Jesus—he goes and tells his brother Peter! Look at the first reaction of Philip—he goes and tells Nathanael!
- Just as a full pitcher’s knee-jerk reaction to continuously being filled is to spill over its edges onto everything around it, the knee-jerk reaction of being filled with the grace & Truth & love & forgiveness & new life of Jesus is to spill over into the lives of others by telling them! Though the following sentence is a grammatical nightmare, it is a spiritual dream of beauty: A being-filled pitcher can’t NOT spill over! 🙂 This is one of the main reasons why daily prayer & Bible reading, daily personal confession to the LORD and praise to Him, are so important—this isn’t just “holy homework”, it’s how the LORD fills us up and compels us and lovingly drives us in our mission!
Look at so many of those who were healed by Jesus—they couldn’t stop telling others about Him, even when He specifically commanded them not to (Mark 1:40-45)! 🙂
Oh what a glorious mission to elevate others—Jesus said “The harvest is plenty but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field” (Matthew 9:38). Oh loved ones, but how we are like children who play hide&go-seek in cornfields; it may be a fun game in the physical fields but it is disgraceful in the spiritual fields. May we not play but proclaim & serve & harvest!
Loved ones, we also learned last week that since Christians will appear before the Judgment Seat of Jesus—not to send us to hell if we weren’t good enough but to determine our rewards, the quality of our heaven—this humbles & motivates us to focus on Christ’s mission for us—trying to persuade others of the grace & Truth of the Lord Jesus.
Another Bible passage that reveals this is 1 Corinthians 3:8-15 (HERE).
The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.
10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder [it is even the grace of God that enables us to obey Him!], and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
Does anyone want to enter heaven like that, as one diving in at the last moment through fire? That isn’t exciting, loved ones; that is excruciating. We should desire to enter heaven with a character of scars that was transformed through trials to be more like Jesus, but many of us are content to enter heaven with a clogged mind full of useless knowledge of various t.v. shows, celebrity gossip, and athletic statistics…
Isn’t it better to enter heaven humbly with a crown of gold & diamond, laying at the feet of Jesus the good deeds of our true mission that He did through us by grace, laying at the feet of Jesus as a gift our character, like a crown full of diamonds, our character that the Holy Spirit transformed, through our trials & obedience on earth, to look more and more like Jesus Himself?
Oh that God would bless us to enter heaven that way, laying such a crown at Jesus’ feet and to have all heaven (Romans 8:18-19) focused not on us or our crowns but on Jesus, praising & worshipping Him saying,
- “Lord, You did THAT in and through m.j., him, through Christians, through THEM?
- You played such beautiful music through such ordinary instruments as those?
- You took those Charlie Brown trees and transformed them into oak trees, redwoods, of righteousness?
- You turned those lumps of coal into THOSE diamonds?
- You brought those dead/sinful souls back to life?
- Truly You alone are AWESOME and You alone are worthy of worship, God Almighty!”
I love this quote, “No Christian, when they see Jesus face to face, will wish they had sinned more” (Matt Smethurst) None will wish we had played it safe more, had watched t.v. more, had told LESS people about Jesus’ grace & Truth.
My friends, whether we want to or not, we get ready for April 15th every year, our financial audit from the government. We may not particularly enjoy such a date, but we do prepare for it—we don’t bury our heads in the sand and pretend it won’t happen! And oh the happiness when it is over! Oh how we eagerly anticipate a tax refund! How much more should we prepare to stand before the Judgment Seat of Jesus, not for Him to determine if His children will go to hell but for Him to determine the quality of our heaven! Oh how we should eagerly anticipate His rewards, His refund, of our imperfect and humble service! Oh to simply hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into your Master’s happiness” (Matthew 25:23)!
In a spiritual sense, many of us just want God to let us stay in the basement in His family, hanging out in the rec room, sleeping in and playing video games/watching t.v. all day. Our sinfulness wants Jesus to save us & then leave us alone until heaven so we can live our own way, just CHILLING…
But if we are honest, deep down, don’t we want MORE than that? Though it is scary at times, dangerous at times, difficult often, don’t we want our heavenly Father to invite us out of our comfort and into our CO-MISSION, not hanging out alone in the basement but laboring WITH HIM out in the fields, not chilling but being refined in His FIRE?
- Though I’m sure farming is hard work, there must be a sense of joy, of satisfaction, of anticipation at harvest, bringing in tall corn, ripe soybeans, golden wheat, etc. All the hard work of the previous year has happened, all the early mornings and late nights, have occurred with this goal in mind—THE HARVEST! The bringing in of the fruit, of the crops! Is there a farmer on earth that is uninterested in bringing in the harvest!?
Well loved ones, there is a reason that the Lord Jesus uses this imagery to teach us about our primary role towards non-Christians: Jesus said, “The harvest is plenty, but the workers are few. Therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest field.” Thus God calls this not just work but ministry!
Please look at John 4:31-38:
31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”
32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”
34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.
[Please know that it isn’t easy for me to proclaim sermons like this to you: I hear you—you’re tired, you’re just trying to make it each day with all of your responsibilities, it’s hard enough getting laundry done each week and bills paid, all this is overwhelming, how do you have the time or energy or competency for this mission from Jesus?
But truly partnering with the LORD is like food for your soul—though it does drain us in one sense it fills us in another sense! That’s what Jesus is saying in the verses above! He literally had the weight of the world on His shoulders but the love of the Father COMPELLED HIM one step at a time to fulfill His mission! It was FOOD for His soul!!!]
Jesus continues in John 4:
35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. [telling others about Jesus with our words helps us share in the gladness of GOD!!!] 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”
Oh loved ones, the harvest is PLENTY—there are people out there made in the image of God for whom the Lord Jesus died and rose again, people who may not realize what God has done for them, may not realize how much they need Him, and how much He loves them. But the harvest is PLENTY—there are so many…what a privilege, what an honor, to be in our Father’s harvest field gathering in sinners to eternal life, partnering with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit as God makes His house full of sons & daughters, full of our brothers & sisters in Christ! “Blessed are the feet that bring good news!” Isn’t being a part of this so much better than playing it safe and hanging out where it’s comfortable and easy?
Some of you might be thinking, “Well I don’t like this feeling. Are you saying that Im not supposed to be serving the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting those in prison, etc.? Am I only supposed to verbally share the Gospel with people & that’s it?”
No, of course not. As we see in the Gospels, Jesus did both, He proclaimed the Kingdom of God and He healed the sick/fed the hungry (HERE). Not “either/or” but “both/and”!
But if you get an uncomfortable feeling from certain passages of God’s Word, that’s a good thing; don’t try to get rid of that feeling!
- When you work out, the trainer pushes you PAST the point when you feel tired, when you are sweaty, when you are sore, when you want to stop. The trainer/coach doesn’t let you STOP once you get that uncomfortable feeling; to stop at that point would be to leave you as you are. If you only lift weights when you can handle the weight, if you only run/bike when it’s easy, at best you will just maintain where you are—you will not get stronger. Think about even the phrase “getting in shape.” Everyone is in SOME kind of shape. So the idea of “getting in shape” is really CHANGING the shape that you are in, getting into a NEW shape. And shape-changing physically is not easy, is not comfortable, is difficult and tiring.
The same is true spiritually. If we get uncomfortable at a Biblical passage and then just change the topic in our minds and don’t go back to that passage, then we won’t get into the shape that God the Father wants to transform us into. With the Holy Spirit’s help, we need to do a few more reps in God’s Word, a few more push ups in the Scriptures, a few more situps in the Bible though we are screaming for rest. We need to dig deep into those passages and allow God the Father to change us, transform us, mature us through His Holy Spirit.
And for many of us, that means a subtle or substantial shift in our definition of serving non-Christians, in what it means to Biblically elevate others.
That uncomfortable feeling is part of our time on earth as Christians—that’s why Paul says,
“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to WORK OUT your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13).
Growing/maturing as a Christian on the way to heaven is obedience that contains fear, contains trembling, contains some spiritual nausea, some throwing-up of false beliefs and actions of half-truths, some re-breaking of bones so that they can heal straight and strong and true, contains spiritual Charlie-horses and cramps and tendinitis and all the other difficulties that come w/marathon training. BUT IT IS WORTH IT! JESUS is worth all that!!!! 🙂
But am I saying—really, is the Bible saying—that you should stop meeting the earthly needs of others? No, I don’t think so at all. I don’t know that we need to lower the importance of meeting earthly needs; I believe we need to raise the importance of meeting eternal needs.
Psalm 35:3—when David is faced with terrible earthly suffering and trials, what does he ask of God? To remind David that the LORD is David’s salvation! “Say to me, ‘I am your salvation.’” At that time David didn’t know how God would deliver David from his earthly situation, or the LORD would rescue David in the ways that David wanted. But David focused on what is more important: he asked God to remind him that the LORD had delivered David from his eternal situation, that God had saved David & purchased heaven for him as a free gift of grace through David’s descendant Jesus in the future!
2 Corinthians 6:1-2:
As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain.
2 For he says,
“In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you.”
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
Please note the urgency! The focus! A specific mission!
Loved ones, what an undeserved privilege: we are the Body of Jesus Christ, we are His hands & feet on earth!
We are also His voice—He doesn’t only do through us, He speaks through us as well. Jesus’ message of Truth to the world cannot only be communicated through actions, it must also be communicated thru words.
I know this is a a lot, a big mission! This is why I am literally stumped and perplexed when church-attenders say they are bored with Jesus, bored with Christianity, bored reading the Bible, bored following after Him.
I could understand you being afraid, tired, overwhelmed, feeling inadequate…but bored?
With this mission before us, with this great harvest field, with this Savior, we’re bored?
Following after Jesus as sheep amongst wolves is boring, predictable, mundane, routine?
Every moment we are one breath away from heaven, from seeing our Savior’s physical face, and we’re bored?
Looking for opportunities to share the Truth of Jesus amidst spiritual forces opposing us is boring?
I honestly don’t understand that at all. I believe that not following Jesus into His mission for us is boring (just like a bird kept in a cage is probably bored because they were meant to soar), but loved ones if you are learning to submit to Jesus, die to yourself and your desires each moment and follow Him into His mission field–locally and globally–you simply cannot be bored.
Psalm 40:9-10: “I proclaim [WORDS!] your saving acts in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, LORD, as you know I do not hide your righteousness in my heart [no PRIVATE religion/relationship with God, no keeping Him to ourselves!]; I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help. I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness from the great assembly.”
May we dare to do this today and every day, in the power of the Holy Spirit standing on the rock of God’s Word…