PRS — SHARING
by Pastor Mike Fortune
November 14, 2009
Introduction Video: YouTube: Fishing Fanatic
Pray, Read, then Share
- What you’ve experienced with God [Psalm 66:16; Daniel 4:2; John 4:42]
- Because sharing benefits all [Luke 8:38-39; Romans 2:4]
- And pleases God [1 Peter 2:11-12]
There are 126 pages in book Steps to Christ, but there are three big ideas behind it. Pray. Read. And Share. That’s how you become and stay Christian. If we want the Holy Spirit to help us navigate our lives, then we need to do our job. And our job is to pray, read, and then share what we’re experiencing with God from our praying and reading. This is point number one.
But what is prayer? And for what are we reading? That’s what we’ve been talking about the last few weeks because for years Christians have limited prayer to making requests or advising the Almighty. And in spite of how crazy it must seem sometimes to an omnipotent and omniscient God, both of these are perfectly appropriate ways to pray! For Jesus told us in Matthew 7:7 to ask and you shall receive. And in Luke 18's parable of the persistent widow, he actually chides us for not being persistent enough in telling God what we think he should do!
So yes, it’s always okay to ask and even tell God anything. Because it is the inevitable relationship with God that we learn to value as much as he does when we do so. And when we learn to trust him, we can learn to love him. And when we love him, then we start seeing and hearing God speaking back to us all over the place. And as a way to review, for those of who you weren’t here, what were a few of the ways we concluded from Scripture we could still hear God speaking back to us all over the place? Yes, nature was one. Whether we’re studying the stars or the moon or even the dance of the honeybee, we can from them learn to practice the presence of God—not just in church or before meals, but 24/7! Especially outside these walls! Which is one reason, by the way, you should all come to our church retreat on December 11-13. It’s free. Though we are looking for 50 donors willing to chip in $20 each. It’s only 20 minutes away, but in nature you can hear God in ways you can’t elsewhere.
And if we listen, we can hear him speaking to us not just through nature, but also through providential circumstances. Remember the story of the door handle I told you? About how it would take hundreds of dollars to fix but I got a brand new one at a junkyard?! Skeptics says that was a coincidence. But through the eyes of faith in an active God who is continuing to reveal Himself to us, I see them as ways he’s still keeping company with me!
And then there’s music. But not just church music. All music is Jesus music, whether it’s overtly Christian or supposedly secular, if it draws you closer to God and is consistent with Scriptural filters God gave us like Psalm 150 and Philipians 4. Which is still a big surprise to many of us, but it shouldn’t be, because God has been using supposedly secular poetry and musical lyrics for thousands of years to convey spiritual truth. There are at least four examples of this in Scripture itself. And to prove it, I gave you a CD of my fave Jesus songs for today. Which we ran out of that last time, so Shawn made more so see me afterward if you still want one.
But why does God want us to pray and keep company with Him through nature, providential circumstances, and music? The answer is because He’s crazy about us! As God keeps telling Mack, the central character in the very thought provoking book we’re discussing on Wednesday nights called The Shack, God keeps telling him, “I’m especially fond of you!” And he uses a myriad of ways to convey that hoping one of them will reach us. And when one does, it opens us up to experiencing more of God in our daily lives than we ever thought possible!
One of the most time tested ways to do that is through reading the Bible for a relationship and not just research. That’s why Jesus compared himself in John 6 to the manna that fell from heaven in Exodus 16. And why it’s important for us to read the Bible for a relationship with God at the beginning of your day, according to your appetite, because the entire Bible is primarily about knowing Jesus.
But worse case scenario, what if we didn’t understand all that? What if we still thought prayer is primarily about lists and requests and advising the almighty? If we did, can you see why we would be so very disappointed when God in his infinite wisdom answers our prayers differently than we persistently asked? And what if we didn’t treasure the inevitable relationship that results from trusting God with everything in our life? Can you see how not trusting leads to not loving? If God is not enough for us, whether we ever get everything we want or think we supposedly deserve, we’re going to keep looking him as a heavenly Coke machine instead of a heavenly Father. And what if we continue to read the Bible for research instead of a relationship? Can you see how that leads to exclusive lone ranger Christianity instead of the relationships that flourish from small group study of the letters in the Bible originally written to be read and discussed in community?
And finally, if we don’t understand some or all of these things about keeping company with God and reading for relationship, can you see why so many of us are allergic to sharing? We’re like that fisherman in our video clip. Full of info about fishing. But also full of remorse and guilt about never experiencing anything worth sharing about fishing. So this morning, in conclusion of our PRS series, I want to get rid of your guilt and remorse about sharing. Because to become or stay Christian all we have to do is pray, read, and then share what you’ve experienced with God. And this too can be done by Adventurers and Pathfinders and even old geezers like us. Is there a club for geezers too?
Let’s start by learning what the Bible says about how we share. Psalm 66:16 says, “Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me.” Sharing is not primarily about what your church believes, although if you’ve experienced God there, church is gonna come up! Sharing is not about keeping a pile of tracts to hand out, although they can be extremely helpful at times so I keep a pile on some of the most crisis topics I deal with week in and week out. So after I pray and read with people, I can leave them something to share. But sharing is not about giving people more information. If you’re doing it right, you will humbly learn just as much as about them as they are learning about you or God! Bottom line: Psalm 66:16 suggests that sharing is simply telling others what God has done for you.
Daniel 4:2 (NIV) confirms. “It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me.” This becomes obvious when you re-read the story of the women at the well in John 4. It’s describing how the woman went back to her Samaritan village and told everyone about her experience with Jesus. John 4:42 says, “They said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.’”
I love this one. Her words were fascinating. But that’s not why the others believed. Verse 40 says they believed because after she shared her experience with Jesus, they were so fascinated, they asked follow up questions of Jesus Himself. It says they asked Jesus to stay with them for 2 days while they listened. You see, your words, even with those closest to you, in your family or sphere of influence, will be influential mostly in the beginning. But in order for their experience with Jesus to remain fascinating, they need to hear or read it from Him. So they too can say, “We ourselves have heard Him.” This is point number one.
But we should pray, read, and share also because, point number two, sharing benefits all. Including yourself. Jesus said it this way in Mark 8:35. “Mark 8:35 says, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” What did he mean by this? I think it means if my primary purpose for being a Christian is to get myself to heaven, I probably won’t be there. But if my primary purpose for being a Christian is to share the Good News of his everlasting Gospel, then we can both be there. That’s the way it works. Sharing benefits all.
Previously, we said praying is like breathing. Because keeping company with God and listening for him talking back to you is a non-stop 24/7 thing. Then we said reading the Bible is like eating. It gives you your daily bread and strength. And sharing what you’ve heard God say through prayer and reading is like exercise or working out because doing so benefits all—including you! When you work out, that keeps your heart healthy right? It keeps your muscles toned. But if you don’t use it, you what? You lose it! Not right away. But slowly you do. It’s been said that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Well that may be true, but what’s also true, especially with your relationship with God is, absence makes the heart wander. You can fall out of love with God. It happens! God will never do that to you. But if you don’t guard your heart, and stay in community with those who love God, you will do that to God. That’s the way it works! That’s why church, even though its full of hypocrites and sinners like me, is a necessary part of my life.
So sharing benefits all. Starting with you. But not just you. Sharing also introduces others to Jesus that might not ever have experienced the fulness of joy serving him brings on this earth. Maybe they would experience that later, if like Romans 1:20 says, they sincerely followed God to the best of their knowledge, but if what we have in Christ is so great, why aren’t more of us super excited about sharing what we have with others near and far now? There’s a guy in the Bible who totally understood this point number two. All about sharing to benefit all. Joshua and Alex told us his story in Luke 8 during our Scripture reading this morning so I won’t go over it all again. Except maybe the last two verses. Let’s look at Luke 8:38-39 one more time.
This guy had been delivered from a terrible demonic possession from among the tombs. And now he was clothed. Jesus had clothed him. He was in his right mind. And he wanted to go with Jesus. I mean honestly, who wouldn’t? It’s the natural, normal, response of the converted heart. It’s a pleasure to serve Him. Rightly understood, obedience is never a requirement, it’s a pleasure. But Jesus didn’t let them come with Him. Instead, He said, “Go home to your friends and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you.” Luke 8:39 adds, “And he went his way and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.”
Now, why would Jesus send a person to share with people they already know? Could it be that the first goal of sharing is not even to share what Jesus has done for you, but just to get to know some others who don’t know Him? What are their names? Where do they live? What are their needs? Their hopes? Their joys? Their doubts? Their questions? I’m not talking about finding research or dirt so you can target them for baptism. I’m talking about just plain getting to know them for who they are in Christ no strings attached!
But how do we do that? By hanging out where they are. By being with them. By just taking an interest in what they’re interested in. By being their friend. But this takes time. And patience. Two virtues we don’t carry in abundance. Especially with people who inconvenience us or are different than us. We want them to fit in first. Act right. Stop annoying us. Put on a tie. Whatever. And then we’ll be interested in them. But we’ll only stay interested in them if they show an interest in our theological world view. I read about a guy who was going to get baptized, but his friend told him not to because after he got baptized, people stopped being nice to him. While he was being wooed and recruited, they treated him differently than after he decided to join their church. This is not right!
But Jesus took the opposite approach. So much so that He was often accused of being a friend of sinners. Who hung out with gluttons and thieves and prostitutes. Who came home with smoke on his clothes. Jesus incarnated Himself. That means He met them where they were instead of waiting for them to come to Him. And because He was reading Scripture for relationship and practicing the presence of God through constant prayer, listening twice as much as He talked, He didn’t abandon His mission or compromise God’s perfect will and timing and teachings. And if we’re in healthy relationship with him, we won’t either!
Can I tell you something? I’m scared for my kids being raised in a sterilized suburb where everyone is middle class and happily Christian with no questions. I’m afraid they’ll be raised convinced that they can’t reach people not like them. But we don’t have to be scared of sharing with people not like us. We just have to be us. As God made us. And live love and show grace. This is what will lead the most wicked men to repentance. Romans 2:4 says, “Do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?”
Share what you’ve experienced with God. Point number one. Because sharing benefits all. Not just yourself. This is point number two. And finally, and most simply, we should pray, read, then share because sharing pleases God. This is point number three. Robert Fulghum in his delightful little best seller, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, says it was in kindergarten where he learned to flush, wash your hands before you eat, say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody, play fair, and share everything. 1 Peter 2:11-12 says it this way, “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” Sharing what we’ve experienced from God not only benefits ourselves and others, it also actually pleases God. It’s what he wants us to do! The Bible says our good deeds actually glorify God! I think that’s because it’s so odd to see someone share grace that when it actually occurs, it blows people’s minds.
I will never forget when the one-room schoolhouse in a pacifist religious community in rural Lancaster County Pennsylvania was invaded by a local milkman, Charles Roberts, who shot 10 young girls leaving five of them dead in October of 2006. During the ordeal, one of the girls, 13-year-old Marian Fisher, offered to be killed first in hopes that the others would be spared. Within hours of the shooting, the families of the children not only expressed their forgiveness of the killer but reached out to his family, giving food and raising money for his wife and children. Some even attended his funeral!
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God! By the grace of God, it is possible to become and stay Christian. Even in an increasingly evil and often pagan world. Because God is still alive and well. He did not stop talking after the New Testament was written. He is still communicating with us. Speaking to us. Wooing us. Warning us. Encouraging us. Cheering us on . Sustaining us. And yes, challenging us.
So ask and keep asking God for stuff. But whether you get what you want or think you deserve, remember to praise him for keeping company with you. Get in a group and start reading the Bible for a relationship and not just research. It wasn’t meant to be read all by yourself. And then be courageous enough to simply share what you’ve seen and heard God experience with you. It may seem alien and strange at first, but it can be done. By Pathfinders who know where they’re going and for others who are completely lost. Because sharing benefits all. And it greatly pleases our Father who is so very fond of us.