My New Year's Resolution
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
December 30, 2007

 

Main Passage: John 1:35-51 (NLT)



VIDEO – BLUEFISHTV.COM - RESOLUTIONS

Today is December 30, and I know that a lot of people will be making a lot of resolutions over the next couple days for 2008. Perhaps you’re one of those people that make resolutions each year. Perhaps you make the same resolution each year. For some reason, it just never seems to take.

But whether making resolutions is an annual thing for you or not, there’s one resolution I would encourage all of you to make this year. It’s the same resolution I’m making myself. It’s actually a two-parter, and it’s this…


Resolution for 2008 – Invest and Invite

That’s the resolution. Invest and invite. Invest in the lives of people who are far from God and invite them to do something about it.

Let’s break it down. Let’s look first of all at investing. What do I mean when I encourage you to invest in someone who is far from God?


Invest:

Invest your prayer

You know people who are far from God. You know people who right now are headed for a Christ-less eternity. Jesus has made every possible provision for them to change direction, but right now their still on the pathway toward eternal death in Hell. And so the first thing you need to do is pray for them. It’s not all you need to do, but you definitely need to start here.

Pray for them. Pray that they will become receptive to hearing the Good News about the hope, the forgiveness, the life that’s available in a relationship with Jesus. Pray that they will understand that they desperately need Him. Pray that they will respond to Jesus. And pray that God will use you in whatever way He deems best to be part of the solution. But pray.

Let me ask you, how often do you pray for those who are far from God? Do you understand that your prayers reflect your values? You know, it’s okay to pray for your personal needs. In fact, God encourages us to do that. But if all I ever pray about is me-centric, then something’s wrong. I need to be praying beyond myself. I need to be praying for those who so desperately need an encounter with God, even if they don’t realize it!

When you pray in private, when you pray with your spouse or with your family, when you pray with your small group… what do your prayers tell you about your values?

You need to invest prayer in those who are far from God.



Invest your time

The way you spend your time speaks volumes. Are people who are far from God important enough to you that you’ll invest your time in them?

There’s a guy who Jesus healed. And after Jesus healed him, he wanted to travel with Jesus. He wanted to hang around with Jesus and the disciples 24/7. But Jesus said, “No, I don’t want you to do that.” It’s in Luke 8… Jesus told the man…

Luke 8:39 (CEV)
“Go back home and tell everyone how much God has done for you.” The man then went all over town, telling everything that Jesus had done for him.

Now, I know a lot of Christ-followers like that man. All they want to do is hang around with other Christ-followers. And that’s not really a bad thing. In fact, we need those kinds of relationships where we can support each other, pray for each other, help each other grow, and worship God together. That’s all good.

Where it become a problem is when you no longer have any contact with those who are far from God. I think Jesus would tell you and me the same thing he told that man… “Go back home and tell everyone how much God has done for you.”

And the thing is, that takes time. And it doesn’t often happen by accident. You’ve got to set aside time when you can interact with people who are far from God.

It’s no secret that I spend a lot of time at places like Tim Horton’s. Why do I do that? It’s not because of the coffee. In fact, when I started, I didn’t even like coffee. There are two main reasons I spend a lot of time there.

One reason is that I like to prepare my messages for Sunday when I’m surrounded by people who are far from God. It reminds me that ultimately my messages are being prepared for them.

And the second reason is that it gives me opportunities to meet and interact with people who are far from God. From the people who work there to the regular customers. I’ve had people come over to me there and ask me to pray with them, ask me for advice, I even had a Muslim friend there who needed some help.

If I didn’t purposefully carve out time in my day to go places like that, I’d have very few opportunities to meet with people who are far from God. In my line of work, it would be very easy for me to insulate myself on every side by other Christ-followers.

That works for me. But for most of you, you’ve already got built-in opportunities to interact with pre-Christians. You might have some in your family, you probably work with some, you meet up with them when you take your kids to all the things they’re involved in. So when those opportunities arise, do you take advantage of them? Do you invest time in building those relationships and establishing a foundation for you to impact their lives with the love of Christ?


So you’ve got to invest your prayers, invest your time, and…


Invest yourself

Okay, this is really a catch all. I don’t know everything that may be required of you to build those relationship and open those doors so God can move in and change lives. But I do know that whatever it takes, it’s worth it.

Here are a couple verses. First, here’s what the Apostle Paul said in the New Testament book of First Corinthians…

1 Corinthians 9:22 (NLT1)
I try to find common ground with everyone so that I might bring them to Christ.

Whatever it took, he tried to find common ground with everyone so that he could reach people who were far from God and bring them closer to Him. He was willing to invest himself.

And here’s what Jesus said about this…

Mark 8:35 (NLT)
“If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.”

Jesus says, even if you have to invest yourself to the point of death, it’s worth it in order to share the Good News.

A few weeks ago on 60 Minutes, there was a feature on the Christian community in Iraq. This is one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, dating back to the first century. But over the past five years, they have been decimated.

People in Iraq and in several places around the world face death everyday because of their commitment to Jesus and to telling the Good News about Him.

In comparison, I feel like a wimp complaining about any persecution I face. But the truth is, there is persecution even here. There’s the political pressure to remove all hints of Christianity from public life, there’s the recent popularity of Gnostic teachings, there’s the increased profile of atheists who wrongfully dismiss believers as intellectual morons, there are all the movies and TV specials that try to erode the foundations for our faith. And yes, there are those who are beat up and killed because of their faith even here in North America.

Every year, there are 100 Christian churches that are burnt to the ground by arsonists. You try to find one other organization that losses 100 venues to arsonists every year. And then just a few weeks ago, there were the shootings at the missionary center and a church in Colorado. The people who died there gave their lives for the sake of the Good News.’

Now, odds are, it’ll never come to that for you. But what are you willing to give up for the sake of the Good News? Are you willing to invest yourself, whatever that means, so that you can bring people to Christ?


Invite:

So that’s the first part of the Resolution. Let’s resolve to Invest in the lives of people who are far from God. The second part of the resolution is to Invite them. So let’s take a closer look at that. What does it mean to invite them? What do we invite them to? Well, one thing is to…


Invite them to Church

A few years ago, Thom Rainer released the results of an extensive survey he did focusing on the people he described as being Unchurched. Rainer himself is the author of about 15 books and is the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. (Just think of just how big that man’s business card must be.)

Well, Rainer and his colleagues interviewed several hundred people in both the U.S. and Canada who do not attend church, and this is what he discovered…

“Are Christians inviting non-Christians to church? The heartbreaking answer is ‘no’. Only 21 percent of active churchgoers invite anyone to church in the course of a year. But only 2 percent of church members invited an unchurched person to church.”
~ Thom Rainer

And that has to rank among the most frightening things I have ever read. Think about it: out of a hundred active churchgoers, 21 of them will invite someone to church. But 19 of those people invited to church will already be attending church somewhere else. What’s the point?

Because we’re not here to swap sheep with other churches. We’re here to depopulate Hell. We’re here to reach the unchurched. That’s our priority. Or at least, it should be. We need to start inviting the unchurched to church.

Here’s another surprising statistic from that study be Rainer…

“82 percent of the unchurched are at least ‘somewhat likely’ to attend church if they are invited.”
~ Thom Rainer

Can you comprehend that? 8 out of 10 of your friends and co-workers would be at least somewhat likely to come if you invited them. 8 out of 10.

Just think about it. In Charlottetown, there are over 32,500 people. Add in Cornwall, Stratford, Winsloe, and York, and you’re well over 40,000. Statistically, only about 15% are attending church. So on any given Sunday morning, only 6000 are attending a church… any church. That means that 34,000 are watching TV, shoveling their walks, taking their kids to hockey or just sleeping in.

And according to Rainer, 27,880 of those people are at least somewhat likely to attend church if they were invited… many are very likely. There are people just waiting to be invited to church. They’re eager to come. Rainer discovered that they even feel guilty for not attending church. But nobody’s asking them. Nobody’s inviting them.

Which is why we need to resolve that we are going to invite them. Invite them to church. Secondly…



Invite Them to “Matthew Parties”

[Luke 5:27-32 (NLT)
Later, as Jesus left the town, he saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up, left everything, and followed him.
Later, Levi held a banquet in his home with Jesus as the guest of honor. Many of Levi’s fellow tax collectors and other guests also ate with them. But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with such scum?”
Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.”]


This is a throw back to our “Just Walk Across the Room Series from about a year ago. Do you remember what Matthew Parties are? Let me refresh your memory.


In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 5, we read about how one day Jesus saw a tax collector sitting at his tax booth. And in that era in particular—I know things are different now—but in that era tax collectors were scumbags. At least, that’s how most people saw them. And this guy named Levi was one of them. And yet Jesus told the guy, “Follow me.”

You know Levi better by his other name, Matthew. Well, Matthew took Jesus up on that offer and began following Him. Which completely confused all his friends. I mean, think about it. His colleagues probably thought he’d lost his mind. Why on earth would a successful businessman like Matthew ditch his career and traipse after a homeless rabbi?

And there were probably days that Matthew wondered that himself. What had he gotten himself into? Here was Matthew—a newly converted disciple of Jesus. He had chosen to follow Jesus, but he was trying to figure out what that meant for him.

And then he started to recognize that he had a deep, deep desire to expose his friends and family members to the acceptance and love, the purpose and hope, that he’d found in the person of Jesus Christ. Problem was, he hadn’t had time to go through the disciples’ official Evangelism 101 course. He was too new in his faith journey to have memorized the handy formulas for sharing his faith. But there were all of his old buddies standing there in their tax-booths—the same spot where he used to work… just a few days before!

So here’s Matthew, feeling kind of outnumbered and unequipped to reach out to his old friends. He knew their lives would be so enriched by knowing Jesus, but he had no idea how to get that introduction made. And just then, he decided what to do. And you won’t believe what he did… he threw a party!

He was good at throwing parties, so that’s what he did. But not just any party. It was a party where he could stick his old tax-collecting buddies in a room with his new friends—the Christian ones—and just see if some of the good stuff might rub off on the ones who had yet to taste the grace of God.

Now remember, Matthew could have become consumed by his new life and his new friends and just left everyone else to themselves. But Matthew chose differently, didn’t he? He chose to prioritize people outside the family of God… people who needed an ounce of acceptance, a little Christian friendship, a taste of grace.

And he also chose to see the potential in his tax-collecting friends… the same way Jesus had spotted potential in him. I mean, really, who would have given Matthew—a scumbag of a tax-collector—half a chance of ever coming to faith in Christ?

And so Matthew decided to give the same chance to his old friends. He invited them to a party where they could rub shoulders with Jesus and with others who knew Jesus.

Does that sound like something you could do? Sure it does. Any one can throw a party. And it doesn’t have to be some elaborate shindig. Just Next what makes sense for you to do.

If you have kids, you might want to do something connected to the Jack Frost Festival coming up shortly. Maybe invite a few families back to your place after an event there. Or if you play pool, you can arrange to get together at Dooly’s. Or maybe go shopping as a group and stop for coffee afterward. Do something that makes sense for you.

But just be careful not to overwhelm your friends who are far from God. In fact, aim to have more people who are far from God than there are Christ-followers at the party. You don’t want anyone to feel ganged up on. It’s just meant to be a social event, not a pressure cooker.

Okay? So that’s a Mathew Party. Try throwing one and inviting your pre-Christian friends. And finally…


Invite Them to Know Jesus

Inviting people to church and getting them around other Christians is great, but the real goal it to invite people to Jesus.

There comes a time you’ve got to make “the ask”. Think about a salesman. We’ve all seen our share of them over the past month. What’s a salesman there to do? Well, they’re there to make sales, right? But what if you were in a store looking at getting a brand new plasma screen TV and the salesman came over and told you all about the benefits of owning this one particular set and all the features in includes and how much better your life would be if you owned it, and what if he had you convinced that this was the set you wanted to buy… and then he just walked away? What if he never actually gave you the opportunity to buy it?

Well, he wouldn’t be much of a salesman, would he? In fact, he probably wouldn’t even have that job much longer!

Now, I’m not encouraging you to use any high-pressure evangelism techniques. Those can do more harm than good. But I am encouraging you to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in your life and recognize that when the time is right, you need to give your pre-Christian friend an opportunity to choose to follow Jesus. Whatever you do, don’t tell them all about the benefits of knowing Jesus and then just walk away. Give them the opportunity to do something about it!

And really, although there are lots of tips floating around to help you with this, there is no right or wrong way. You’re basically telling someone about what Jesus has done for you and inviting them to experience it, too.

In fact, I know someone who has told hundreds, possibly thousands of people about Jesus, and he uses what he calls the FAA approach… the Fumbling Apologetic Approach. He says…

“When the ‘why’ is big enough, any old ‘how’ will do.”
~ John Symonds

Earlier in our Worship Celebration, Karen read a passage for us from John chapter 1. In that passage, you heard about how John the Baptist introduced Andrew to Jesus, and Andrew went and found his brother Simon Peter. The next day Philip met Jesus and then he immediately goes off to find his friend Nathanael and introduces him to Jesus.

Just ordinary people who meet Jesus telling others about Jesus and inviting them to meet Him, too. It’s been part of Christianity since the very beginning.

But the truth is, very few of the unchurched today have ever had anybody tell them about who Jesus is. They’ve never been told what it means to accept Jesus into their lives. They don’t know how to become a Christian. Which, of course, isn’t really all that surprising. After all, if Christians are reluctant to do something as simple as inviting someone to church, what are the chances they will go as far as to explain who Jesus is and how they can come to know Him?

Romans 10:14 (NLT)
But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?

Listen. Here’s the bottom line. Every person needs Jesus—no exceptions. And it’s up to us to tell them.

The eternal destination of our friends and loved ones depends on it. Jesus is the only way to God the Father and into Heaven, so whether people are aware of it or not, they desperately need to hear about Jesus and come to know Him personally. Their eternity hangs in the balance.


So there you have it. That’s my New Year’s Resolution. Invest and Invite. What do you think? Will you adopt that as your own resolution, too? I hope so. Let’s just not allow this resolution to fade away like most other resolutions. Let’s keep this one all year long.


 

 

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