Biblical Foundations 30: Elevating Others 5

Leaving Prison (8-8-16)

We continue looking to the Bible to understand what it means to elevate others—to serve non-Christians. In the first part of this post, we will continue to look to Scripture and see how telling others about Jesus with our words—being His witnesses—is even more important than serving their earthly needs with our actions (though BOTH are important!).

In the second half of this post we will begin discussing how we do this mission when it simply feels overwhelming, impossible, just a job for missionaries/pastors, too much too handle when we have enough trouble just getting out of bed in the morning.

But first, serving non-Christians…oh loved ones, if we intentionally serve non-Christians at all (and that’s a big IF!), how we love to only focus on their earthly needs. My friends, without realizing it even Christians are prone to be “practical atheists.” We may say we believe the Bible but we often live as if this life is all there is. We often act as if the only real things are those which we can see, taste, touch, hear, and smell with our five senses.

  • I think this is why so many Christians are trying to cram in as much fun, as many experiences, into this brief earthly life as possible. How many bucket lists contain learning to submit ourselves daily to Christ and take up our crosses and sacrificially follow Him? We often just aim for travel, skydiving, etc. Maybe we are afraid that we will miss out somehow if we don’t have these experiences on earth, as if missing out on earthly fun means missing out on our only chance at fun…oh how we forget that eternity will be longer and more amazing than the best experience on earth.

And so our danger in only serving the earthly needs of others is that we think that this time on earth is all that matters, that this life & its needs are really the most important thing…this is often subconscious; we don’t often realize we are doing it. We focus only on the person’s 100 years on earth but never verbally tell them about the One Who can give them 100 trillion infinity years in heaven…

John 4:7-15 NIV:

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Look at this woman at the well. She only wanted Jesus to meet an earthly need, but He focused on her spiritual need! She didn’t even know that Jesus had Living Water to offer her until He told her…Do our non-Christian friends even know that Jesus offers them Living Water to quench the deepest thirst of their souls?

Luke 14:15-23 NIV:

15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’

18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’

19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’

20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’

22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’

Oh how I WISH I could say to Jesus, “What You ordered has been done.” Oh loved ones how I miserably fail every day at going out to the streets and alleys to invite people into the family of God through repentant faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord!

23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.

This word “compel” in the Greek has a meaning to relentlessly persuade, to urge morally, as if by an authoritative command—the KING has decreed: receive Jesus as Savior!

Romans 10:12-17 NIV:

12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to [telling] them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

16 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?”[c] 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

We can and should serve people’s earthly needs, but we must eventually, in gentleness and respect but also in boldness and Truth, share with them verbally the word about Christ, the message of the Gospel! We cannot hide behind only telling people about Jesus through our actions!

Look at how the Lord Jesus Himself describes the primary purpose of His mission from the Father:

Luke 4:14-21 NIV:

14 Jesus returned to Galilee [after 40 days of fasting & temptation by the devil] in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

    because he has anointed me

    to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

    and recovery of sight for the blind,

to set the oppressed free,

19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

The Lord Jesus says that Isaiah 61 is directly written about Him, that God the Father has chosen/anointed Jesus to do what…to proclaim/preach good news! To say words of Truth to people that will set them free, not just in an earthly sense but in an eternal sense!

  • Yes Jesus healed people’s earthly diseases; this is a type of setting free, but that’s not what He is talking about in these verses! If you are in a literal prison and are set free from your individual cell, you are still in the larger prison/penitentiary. It is nice I’m sure to be set free from your cell where you sleep, but that is not the end or the main aspect of your freedom; you need to be set free from the prison itself, the main gates outside!

So even the people who Jesus physically healed, they still needed to be set free from the larger prison of sin, of wickedness, of rebellion against God, of judgment and wrath. THAT is the biggest focus of Christ in His ministry. Remember, the most amazing single act He did was not a physical healing, was not a physical feeding of thousands—it was dying on the cross, which is primarily concerned with eternity, with salvation, with the forgiveness of sins.

There are so many more Scripture verses we could talk about on this our mission, but let us move to the last portion of this post; let me share something very important that I read last week: The Lord “Jesus gives us an identity, not just a task” (Trevin Wax–please click HERE for the full article). Telling others about the grace & Truth of Jesus is not just something we do, it’s who we are.

But many Christians today don’t really realize who they are now that they are “in Christ,” now that they have received Jesus as their Savior & are reborn to follow Him as their King. You must know that you are different now, a new creation in Christ, a new creation that is ABLE to live out this scary mission because the Holy Spirit now lives in you, because your old guilty self is literally dead and your new forgiven self is alive in Christ.

It seems that many church-attenders come to Jesus to make them happy, not to make them holy. Oh what a difference. The former will not be able to live out this Jesus-mission because doing this does not usually make us happy; it makes life harder, not easier, it will cost us our earthly reputation and some earthly friendships, to tell people there is a hell and only one way to avoid it; to tell people there is heaven and only one way to get there.

This mission is crushing—it’s overwhelming—if we look at Jesus as an addition to our old life/old beliefs/old goals. Many of us, without realizing it, look at Jesus as an after-market addition to our lives, like having a car and then buying a spoiler, a sunroof, or new rims. The old car is basically the same, but we come to church for a few enhancements. We come to Jesus merely to polish up our behavior. We will not be able to live out our Jesus-mission of Matthew 28, Acts 1, and 2 Corinthians 5 if we have such a view of Jesus.

  • In that case, even if we do tell others about Him, we will bring them to Jesus to simply get externally enhanced like us, we will bring them to Jesus to just get some cosmetic surgery when what they need is a total heart transplant. Our old sedan is simply not made to go off-road into such dangerous terrain of telling others about Jesus for eternal life—we need Him to make us into an entirely new car. And that is exactly what He says in John 3 is necessary to enter the Kingdom of God—to be made new by Christ Jesus.

The only way to truly live out this Jesus-mission is to bring to Jesus our souls—our rusty, sinful souls—and cry out for Him to make us totally new, to rip out

  • the old transmission,
  • the old body,
  • the old wheels,
  • the old seats,
  • the old GPS (Goals Pertaining to Sin/Selfishness),
  • the old paint color,
  • the old suspension,
  • the old radio with its favorite channels,
  • the old antennae, etc.

and to cry out in repentant faith for Jesus to completely replace us with all new parts—new Spirit, new nature, new goals, new man, new woman, new beliefs, new power, new allegiance, reborn as Jesus says in John 3, as is stated in John 1, literally born of God and adopted. As He then transforms us into a 4×4 we are now able to go off-road and follow Jesus and His mission for us.

  • Our new GPS—God’s Power in Scripture, God’s Power in the Spirit—leads us not to our old locations/hang outs of sin but our new destinations of holiness, service, witnessing, evangelism, sacrifice, cross-carrying, etc.

All of that to say, we must KNOW our new identity in Christ, we must understand what He has done for us and in us and to us when He opened our eyes to receive Him as our Savior & follow Him as our King—to live this mission, we must not see ourselves as crawling caterpillars anymore but flying butterflies.

We must not look at being a Christian as “collecting” Jesus, adding Him to our other souvenirs along the highways of life, adding Him to our buffet plate of beliefs and goals and principles, using Him to get where we want to go. That is Christianity for many, but that is not Biblical Christianity, that is not what Jesus died for.

We must look at being a Christian not as collecting Jesus but as “being collected by Jesus,” as Him choosing us before we ever thought of choosing Him, of Him working through us to fulfill HIS goals, not the other way around, of Him making us totally new as we realize we are utterly sinful and cry out to Him for true forgiveness and reconciliation and new life,

  • of Him changing us from caterpillars to butterflies, not for Him to give us tips on better crawling but for Him to make us totally new, making us flyers, giving us a new perspective, power and purpose that is entirely not about us at all and that is more and more all about Him.

The New Testament is full of this identity-revealing revelation for Christians–here’s just one example:

1 John 2:12-14 NIV:

Reasons for Writing

12 I am writing to you, dear children,

because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.

13 I am writing to you, fathers,

because you know him who is from the beginning.

I am writing to you, young men,

because you have overcome the evil one.

14 I write to you, dear children,

because you know the Father.

I write to you, fathers,

because you know him who is from the beginning.

I write to you, young men,

because you are strong,

and the word of God lives in you,

and you have overcome the evil one.

Yes! Talk about iron rations for the soul! By reminding them of their new identity in Christ John is helping those Christians to live out their identity following Christ no matter the cost, no matter how overwhelming it feels or is! (Thus much of 1 John focuses on walking in the light—obeying Christ!)

Luke 3:21-22: God the Father, at the beginning of the Lord Jesus’ public ministry, affirms Jesus’ identity to Him! “This is my Son, Whom I love, in Him I am well-pleased!” What strength Christ must have derived from the Father’s Word during His forty days of testing and fasting and temptation in the desert wilderness (please note that the devil attacked Jesus IDENTITY in the desert: “IF You are the Son of God…”)!

Please remember 2 Corinthians 5 from last week: right before it tells us of our new mission, it reminds us of our new identity, that we are NEW CREATIONS of God through our faith in Christ, not just an enhancement of our old selves!

The New Testament is full of this specific information about who we are in Christ, but we don’t read, so we don’t know who we are, and since we don’t know, many of us don’t go…

Closing Challenge

And so the biggest questions for all church attenders is this—not will you add this one more huge new task to your plate, but are you new? What is your identity? Have you received this new nature from Christ? Or have you just “believed” in Him in the sense that you believe He exists but you haven’t cried out to Him to totally knock down the old you in order to rebuild the new forgiven you, conforming to HIS image and HIS character instead of your image, your character, the culture’s image, the culture’s character?

I believe Mayo Clinic has great surgeons…but I’ve never gone there for surgery.

Oh how tragic if that sums up the spiritual conditions of many church-attenders,

Merely believing in Jesus but not crying out to Him in repentance for a total heart transplant.

Is Jesus merely an upgrade to your original order—I have my goals and plans and I want to “super-size” my goals and plans by having Jesus bless them like a lucky rabbit’s foot?

Or have you cried out to Jesus to CANCEL your old order—to cancel your own goals and plans and sins and beliefs and actions?

Have you cried out for Him to become your order, that He Himself will be your goal, your plan, your life, your desire, knowing & honoring & worshiping & glorifying & obeying Him alone?

That is the only way that we can live out this fearful and fantastic mission,

this telling others about Jesus and the Gospel with our words and with our actions…