Damariscotta Baptist Church
Thursday, May 24, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

04/22/12 Sermon

Luke 24:36b-48
 

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight O Lord our strength and our redeemer, Amen.

 
In the news this week, Pat Summit, the University of Tennessee’s women’s basketball coach and the NCAA’s all time winningest basketball coach (in both men’s and women’s) announced her retirement.
 

Summit who is only 59 years old was diagnosed late last year with early onset dementia.

On Friday, her only child, Tyler Summitt, said on "CBS This Morning" that his mother is stepping into a new role as head coach emeritus at the school and will be focusing her efforts as spokesperson in the fight against the disease through The Pat Summitt Foundation Fund.
 

And her son added:

"We've always known that God has had a bigger plan for her than just coaching basketball. And so, she's stepping into a new role where she can still mentor her players and be a role model for them."
 

When he was asked how he and his mother will face this challenge, Summitt said, "Well, I think we'll just trust that God has a plan and we'll just take it one day at a time.”

God’s plan…..You know it’s often difficult to remember God’s bigger plan when the ways of this broken and fallen world come and pay us a visit.

Bad news from the doctor, troubles in our job or our relationships, conflict, injustice, the loss of a loved one.

It’s very difficult in the midst of bad news to keep our eyes focused on God’s bigger plan.

In our scripture today, we see the story of the disciples, together in Jerusalem with fresh memories of Jesus’ beaten and bloodied body hung on a cross in humiliation.
 
Their lives had been jolted as they witnessed Jesus become what appeared to be a victim; a helpless casualty to the powers of this world who wrongly and unjustly condemned Jesus and crucified him.

Here the one they thought was the Messiah, the son of God was helpless to the harsh realities of this world.

Where was God in all of this? How could God let this happen?
 
But then as we see in our scripture, behind the scenes God’s bigger plan was at work.
 

While it seemed like the powers of darkness in this world were too much even for God’s own son, we see the risen Jesus come to the disciples showing his scarred hands and feet and having a fish dinner.

In Jesus’ resurrected physical body he shows the disciples and all the world including us, that the unjust, violent ways of the world have no power.

Jesus was not a victim---he was instead part of God’s bigger plan to provide you and me a way to also overcome anything this world throws at us.
 

Because of Jesus’ resurrected body, we’re no longer victims of early onset dementia or Alzheimer’s.

We’re not victims of cancer or heart disease. We’re not victims of injustice or grief or divorce or fear, sin or death.
God’s bigger plan defeats all of this. ------Resurrection wins, end of story.
 
And because of this great news, followers of Christ are freed even when things like early onset dementia come along because we see the bigger picture…………………………………………………(story)
 
2 brothers were watching a circus parade but from different perspectives. One looked at the parade through a hole in the fence while the other was up on a roof.
 

When the brother peeking thru the hole in the fence, saw the ringmaster pass by--- then a clown----then suddenly a ferocious tiger went by and he naturally assumed both had been eaten.

But he couldn’t see the big picture that his brother saw from the roof.

He couldn’t see that the tiger was in a cage and therefore the ringmaster and the clown were protected from danger.

Christians see the big picture. Resurrection gives us eyes to see that when difficult things come we’re not helpless victims. We know the big picture--- that death has no sting; death is not the end of the story.
And that’s important to embrace because as we live in this present world, we need to see the bigger picture in order to follow Jesus’ other message in our scripture.
 

When Jesus came to the disciples, he didn’t just show his resurrected body and say “guys don’t worry; when you die if you believe in me you have nothing to fear-----take care, see ya later in heaven”.

No---Jesus gives them a new commission
 
He says beginning in verse 46: “The Messiah will suffer and rise and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached to ALL nations beginning with the Jewish people.
 

And he says in verse 48: You are witnesses of these things.

The disciples had a job to do. They were to now become a part of God’s bigger plan.
 
Their job was to witness to others the freedom and power of the resurrection to all the nations of the world………………….(story)
 
In heaven, after Jesus ascended, he was approached by the angel Gabriel who saw the marks on his body from the cruel cross and shameful death.

Gabriel said, “Master, you must have suffered terribly for men down there.”

“I did,” He said.
 

“And,” continued Gabriel, “do they know all about how you loved them and what you did for them?”

“Oh, no,” said Jesus, “not yet. Right now only a handful of people in Palestine know.”

Gabriel was perplexed. “Then what have you done,” he asked, “to let everyone know about your love for them?”

Jesus said, “I’ve asked Peter, James, John, and a few more friends to tell other people about Me. Those who are told will in turn tell still other people about Me, and My story will be spread to the farthest reaches of the globe. Ultimately, all of mankind will have heard about My life and what I have done.”
 
Gabriel frowned and looked rather skeptical. “Yes,” he said, “but what if Peter and James and John grow weary? What if the people who come after them forget? What if way down in the twenty-first century, people just don’t tell others about you? Haven’t you made any other plans?”
 

And Jesus answered, “I haven’t made any other plans. I’m counting on them” (Joe Aldrich, Lifestyle Evangelism)

God is counting on us to be his witnesses to others.
 
He has given us freedom from fear, freedom from the powers of this world; and so with eyes to see the big picture we’re to go and witness to others of this same freedom available to all who follow Christ.
 
God wants us to witness that he wants a relationship with his people.
 
God’s bigger plan as it has been from the very beginning in the Hebrew Scriptures has been about God trying to bring us back into reconciliation with him.
 
And thru Jesus that reconciliation is made possible.
 
It’s made possible thru the witness of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Now I know that this call to witness to others that they need to repent for the forgiveness of sins gives you warm fuzzies.

I know you’re chomping at the bit to go and tell your neighbor or co-worker that they need to repent.
 
After all, they are going to be so receptive to those words from you right?------wrong!!
 
As you know, we live in a postmodern culture.

And in this culture people believe that all religions lead to God.

The Coexist bumper sticker---it’s a symbol of the culture says let’s all just get along, so keep your witness to yourself.
 

And it’s worked because we Christians have kept our witness to ourselves.

But that is not the call of Jesus. And we need to understand that because if we don’t we will not follow Jesus’ call to witness. We’ll keep our mouths shut.

But if we keep our mouth shut, others will not be reconciled to God because Jesus is the only way for that to happen.

And Jesus makes this clear in this scripture.
 
The disciples were Jewish. They had believed that because they were biologically Jewish that they were assured eternal life.
 
But Jesus says that they too need to repent for the forgiveness of sins.
 

John the Baptist also said this in the gospel of Luke chapter 3 verse 8. He said:

Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 
 
The scriptures do not affirm the culture’s belief that all will inherit eternal life. Jesus tells us that to be reconciled unto God comes thru following him into eternal life thru repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Only Christ is able to wash away our sins and that can only happen when we repent and turn to a life of following him.

So how do we go about this kind of witness of repenting in this postmodern culture we live in??
 
Well unlike the ways of the past, our witness to repent has to be a conversation not a confrontation.
 
We don’t pull our scripture like a sword and call people to REPENT or burn in Hell!!!

For those of you who participated in the Present Future study you probably recall Reggie McNeal talk about how this confrontational way used to be the Christian’s ace in the hole.

He said you tried your best to convince someone to follow Jesus and when they didn’t you would pull out the Ace card----Do you want to burn in hell???
 
McNeal said if you say that to a postmodern person they will laugh and say “I’ve already been to hell and back, what else you got???
 

The way for us to witness as Christ calls us is the same way that the early Christians did it. It’s thru a relational conversation.

Our vision here at DBC is growing PERSONAL relationships with God and community.
 
We want to grow personal relationships first and foremost. We want to be involved in the community……(Pirate, Holiday wish, divorce care, GSB, hosting different groups.)
 
It’s thru relationships that PERHAPS we might be in a position sometime to share our witness.
 
But what does that witness look like? How is it conversational instead of confrontational?
 
Well because you are in a relationship, it’s natural and thoughtful and grounded in love.
 
You’re not looking for the opening to put a notch in your evangelism belt but rather because you genuinely love and care for others it just happens in relationship.

In that love, when someone is going thru a hard time you thoughtfully ask someone if it’s ok to share how God helped you or changed your life----next you recall your unique story and its elements of repentance and forgiveness and following Christ.

For example, I might say: I grew up going to church every Sunday with my family. I was young when I decided to follow Jesus. As I got older I turned to a life of having fun and partying with my friends.

I met my wife and settled down, had children and began the life of trying to obtain wealth and success. But I was empty and missing something.

In my travels in sales I began to listen to Christian radio and began to read scripture and attend church again. (That was my turning to God).
 
I now had a relationship instead of religion. I was finding fulfillment that had been missing. As I continued to follow Christ I heard the call to go into the ministry where I’ve found joy and purpose.

Our witness to repentance is our own unique story where we were once lost but now found; how we’ve been changed, how we’re now seeking to live a set-apart following Jesus.

This is a conversational witness that listens and cares and shares how the resurrected Christ has given us hope and assurance.
 
It is a witness to God’s bigger plan; how we no longer live in fear or worry but are recipients and participants in God’s plan where we have meaning and purpose in our life.
 

That’s the kind of witness that Jesus calls us to.

To witness to the power of the resurrection; that power that helps us in our times of need; that power that lifts up Pat Summit who is diagnosed with a horrible disease to not be a victim but rather turn it into something that can help others in God’s bigger plan………
 

Today as we continue in this Easter season, if you haven’t yet repented for the forgiveness of sins, Jesus is waiting for you to turn to him where he will wipe the slate clean and give you new life.    He will also invite you to join in his bigger plan filled with joy and purpose.

And for those of you who have received the resurrection but have not followed the call to witness to others, you are being called to repent and to love others where you might witness the difference that Christ has made in your life.
 
God is seeking to reconcile the whole world beginning with you and me.
 

Let us repent and receive forgiveness. Let us follow him in his resurrection as we join in his bigger plan to reconcile the rest of his world……

 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen