Sermons

Harbor Light 2.0 - RESCUE

Pastor Terry Inman

1-8-12

 

Just about every couple of weeks I get upgrade notices for my I-Phone applications. Typically they fix bugs, make the programs more functional and introduce new features. I suspect they may also have ways of getting more of my information. Operating systems get upgraded constantly.

Harbor Light 2.0 is our version of an upgrade of our four purposes. The next four weeks we will refresh our reason for gathering and serving as a very diverse group of followers of Jesus Christ.

Most of us are familiar with these purposes.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·      <!--[endif]-->Rescue: Guiding people to shelter in Christ.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·      <!--[endif]-->Recover: Embracing God’s Healing presence.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·      <!--[endif]-->Rebuild: Connecting people with each other.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·      <!--[endif]-->Release: Embowering people with a purpose.

For some these purposes may be new. We all need some re-visioning to make these mottos our motivations. We also need clear plans and measurable goals so we are functioning according to our mission.       

This week our Pastoral staff will be doing an offsite team consultation. Our goal is to strengthen our collaborative efforts to more effectively fulfill these purposes.    

The church has one primary mission and that was clearly stated by Jesus, the head of the church, to his disciples over two thousand years ago.

“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matt. 28.19 (NIV)

It is very clear that we are called and co-missioned to make disciples. Disciples are simply followers of Jesus Christ. Disciples believe in Jesus, belong to Jesus, and behave like Jesus!

Jesus defined disciples more by what they do than what they profess. There are at least four things that make a disciple.

According to the gospel of John true disciples (1.) live out the teachings of Christ. To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are reallymy disciples. John 8.31 (NIV)

To, “hold to” is to stay, remain, dwell in, or live in. It is to begin and continue to follow Christ and his teaching. Jesus said, “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” John 15.10 (NIV)

Disciples really love each other. “By this all men will know that you aremy disciples, if you love one another.” John 13.35(NIV)

He was not talking about warm feelings even though it is nice to like people. He is talking about preferring, serving and caring for one another. It took Jesus’ first disciples a long time to get that down.

Disciples are spiritually successful or productive. “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to bemy disciples.” John 15.8 (NIV) 

This is more about our character than our performance. Luke says it this way. “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit.  Luke 6.43 (NIV)

A disciple’s life should produce the same results of his master or mentor. Paul calls this the fruit of the Spirit. “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Gal. 5.22-23 (NIV)   

Disciples are willing to give their whole life to following Jesus. “If anyone would come after me, he must himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9.23 (NIV)

Many persecuted believers in closed countries continue to die for Christ. What Jesus asks of all of us is to repudiate self-centeredness and live everyday of our lives for him and his purposes.

That’s what Jesus was trying to say to the wealthy politician who wanted to impress Jesus and the crowd with his goodness. He told Jesus he had kept every commandment since child hood. He couldn’t imagine there was anything else he could possibly do to earn heaven.

Jesus looked at him and lovingly said. “One thing you lack, Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”  Mark 10.21(NIV)

 

The bible says, “ His face fell and He went away sad, because he had great wealth.” Mark 10.22 (NIV) His perks, power and wealth were more important to him than following Jesus. He had no idea that following Jesus was much more valuable than his success and all his cool stuff. 

We all have things we struggle to “give up” in order to follow Jesus! Discipleship is a growth journey. It was a process for the original twelve disciples and it is for us.

The “Reveal” study of best practices that promote discipleship identifies four stages or development they call a Spiritual Growth Continuum.

A profile of our church in 2008 indicated 9 % of our respondents were “Exploring Christianity”. These are folks that may not have made a commitment to follow Christ but are sincere seekers.

Another 38 % of our respondents said they are “Growing in Christ”. They are early in their spiritual journey and working on getting to know Christ.  

Those indicating “Close to Christ” made up 27%. They have an intimate relationship with Christ and depend on him for daily guidance. 

The “Christ-Centered” were 26%. They would say Christ is the most important relationship in their life and he influences everything they do.

It’s amazing that we had two times the national average of growing or Christ-centered disciples. However we were somewhat lower than the national average in seekers and new followers.

Our four purposes are the commitments we make to help people follow Jesus and become what he defined as mature disciples. I am so grateful that we have a spiritually mature congregation but we still have a way to go to reach out to those still missing security in Christ.

That leads me to the first of our four purposes we call “rescue”. It is how we guide people to shelter in Christ. The bible term is “save”.  

Jesus’ mission statement is simple and succinct. “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” Luke 19.10 (NIV)

This statement comes at the end of a story Luke tells about an encounter Jesus had with a successful but very secular and not so popular tax collector. Zacchaeus was short of stature but not short on curiosity.

He really wanted to get a look at Jesus so he ran ahead of the crowds and climbed up a tree for a better view.

When Jesus saw him he called him down and invited himself over. Hospitality was a huge form of acceptance in that culture and very few people in that crowd would ever thinK of entering this agent’s house.

It was scandalous. The bible says the people were muttering their shock that Jesus would welcome this notorious “sinner”. Zacchaeus was actually the head of the local tax office. He was probably Jewish but collected Roman taxes and got paid by what he could exact from his own people.  

Tax collectors were shunned by the righteous as pagans. To give you some idea of the prejudice, Luke records the prayer Pharisee.            “God, I thank you that I am not like other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like thistax collector. Luke 18:11(NIV) 

This tax collector was definitely a lost soul. Jesus confronted the culture and rescued him from his self-interest and rejection. Zacchaeus was so overwhelmed by Jesus’ willingness to enter his house that he quickly and openly repented. Luke says he took a stand, gave half of his wealth to the poor, and offered to quadruple the returns of any one he had swindled.

Jesus said to him and his ememies, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” Luke 19.9-10 (NIV)

Most people would never identify themselves as lost and they would probably be offended if you told them they were lost. But the lost really matter to God. They matter so much that he wants us to seek them until they are no longer lost but found. That’s what we mean by rescue.

God did not have good things to say about the shepherds of Israel who ignored the lost. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for thelost. Ezek. 34.4 (NIV)

The prophet Isaiah describes the Lord this way. “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isa 40:11(NIV)

In Matthew’s gospel Jesus tells a story about a man who was so concerned about a lost sheep that he left His herd to search for the one. When he found it he was happier about the one he found than all the rest.

“In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.”

Luke expands on that story with three, “lost and found” parables; a lost sheep, a lost coin and a lost or “prodigal” son. In each case the finder invites his friends and neighbors to “rejoices” over the found. (Luke 15)

Also in each case Jesus makes this conclusion. Likewise, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”  

In the final familiar story of the wasteful and wayward son the Father says, “this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he waslost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” Luke 15.24 (NIV)

We need to have a lot more fun in Church. This is a happy hour where lost folks are found and finders get very excited. Every Sunday needs to be a party where short tax collectors and rebellious kids are welcomed home.

Rescuers are not so righteous they are the lost that have been found. They are so happy to be accepted and welcomed that they can’t help themselves. They just have to help rescue everybody they can.

Do we have some cool new strategy or evangelistic event up our sleeve? No but I have a fresh passion to see hundreds of new seekers and followers added to the family this year.

The plan is simple. Just do three things: Prayer, Care, and Share.          Pray for the people around you at home at work, at school, or in the community. Ask God to bless them. Ask God to give you the opportunity to connect with them.

Then care for them. Serve them in some way. Pray for their real needs. Then at the right time, share the reason why you care. Tell them your own God story. “Give a reason for the hope with in you”

There are so many ways we can help rescue the lost. Rescuers are Heroes! They are heroes because they risk their life for others. It is a risk to rescue people but there is no joy like saving a life spiritually!