September 13th 2015

listen to last Sunday’s worship set.


Pastor Ryan began by telling how when they were on vacation they had friends of friends staying at their house and allowed them to use their bicycles and other stuff.  Recently, Ryan pulled out his bike for a ride and tried to put his helmet on.  It was too small.  But he kept trying to make it fit!  Kelly knew that someone had borrowed it and it would be easiest to just adjust it, because you can pull as hard as you want but it’s not going to fit!  As he took that helmet off, he thought to himself, “I wonder how many followers of Jesus….the gospel that we hear…the gospel that we put forward…the invitation from God….just feels a little bit too small.”  I don’t know if you’ve ever been in church and felt like the message that you were given…or maybe around followers of Jesus and the message that you heard, the invitation you heard, was just felt too small.  Maybe it sounded a little bit like this:  Give your life to Jesus.  Then come to church on Sunday mornings.  Period!  That was it.  As if Jesus saved us from sin, redeemed us from all that was wrong with us, is making us new and the bottom line is come to church for an hour on a Sunday morning!  Okay, I’m all about church, but I’m just going to throw it out there…..if that’s the end game, that’s LAME!!  Is it not?  If the gospel leads us to ok, now you get to come to church for an hour and maybe an hour and a half—-depending on how long-winded the preacher is that morning.  If THAT’S the end game, I just want to throw out to you that we might have missed the point!  If you’ve ever felt like the story’s too small….if you ever felt like the invitation just didn’t fit with all that God created you to be and everything the Spirit stirred inside of you….if church, in and of itself, just felt too small….this message is for you.  If you’re like me, there’s something inside of me that just longs to be part of something big.  To be part of something beautiful.  To be part of God’s redemptive plan.

There’s something in us though, isn’t there? Sir Ernest Shackleton, an explorer in the early 1900’s, put an ad in the paper in Great Britain that says “Men Wanted for Hazardous Journey. Small Wages. Bitter Cold. Long Months of Complete Darkness. Constant Danger.  Safe Return Doubtful.  Honor and Recognition in Case of Success.”   Five thousand people said count me in!  You tell me there’s something inside of us, inside of you, inside of me, that just longs to be part of something grand.  For our story, our little story, to count for something far bigger than our little story.  I don’t think Ernest Shackleton had anything on Jesus.  Listen to what Jesus says:  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, {Every people group.  This message is not just for a select or elite “some”, this message is for “all.”} baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to KNOW {No wait.  That’s what we do in church sometimes, isn’t it?  We want to teach people to KNOW what Jesus says…to memorize Scripture.  But Jesus says no, no, no, no, no. I’m not interested in people just knowing.  Teach people to observe.  Teach people to walk in my way, because that’s where life is.}  …teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matt. 28:19-20)

So something devastating has happened in Christendom over the last 1700 years.  We’ve given that invitation to a select few.  It’s like we’ll send money to people who’ll go and do this.  Which I’m all for….please don’t hear me saying anything else.  I like that.  I’m for missions.  I’m yes and amen.  BUT, please look up at me for a second.  If you’re a follower of Jesus you don’t get the chance to subcontract this out!  This is YOURS as much as it’s anyone’s.  Jesus wasn’t interested in creating some subculture of professional Christians and then the rest of us just go well, it doesn’t seem to fit, but we’ll pull harder, right?!  Keep gathering and they get to live the great story, but the one we get to live we’ve just given snippets of what God is doing.  If you’re a follower of Jesus this is God’s invitation for you:  to be a disciple who makes disciples on mission wherever God has planted you.  Whether it’s in your home or your workplace or in your neighborhood….wherever you go, if you’re a follower of Jesus, you bring the kingdom with you.  So when Jesus was calling his first disciples, listen to what he says and if you want to memorize one verse that gives you a blueprint of what it looks like to be a disciple, may I propose this is a great verse to memorize.  Here’s what Jesus says:  And he said to them, {He’s walking along the shore of Galilee.} “Follow me, {That’s where discipleship begins.  We say alright, Jesus, I want to follow you.  I want to live in your way.  Not just know what you know, but do what you do and live like you live.} “Follow me, and I will make you {This is transformation. This is I’m going to take you from where you’re at and who you are and I’m going to work inside you, by my Spirit, through my Word and I’m going to change you to be something totally different. I’m going to transform you.  But not just you, as an individual, I’m going to transform “all y’all.”  This is a communal endeavor.  So, I will transform YOU, community YOU, to be fishers of men.} ….fishers of men.” (Matt. 4:19)  You started out as fishermen and your mission was in one small sea that you grew up living around and that your boat knew.  And that you knew really well, but follower of Jesus, as you chase after me, your mission goes from being one little pool to being the whole world!

If it feels too small, I’ll propose to you today, we missed it!  We’ve given it away.  What Jesus would have for the whole church has just been embraced by some, but I want to tell you today, it’s for YOU!  So turn with me to 2 Corinthians 5:20.  I want to unpack for us the way that God invites us through the words of the Apostle Paul to the church of Corinth to be a part of His great mission.  I imagine a church, friends, where the mission is so big that it takes every single person to play a part.  That the mission’s so big and so beautiful and so grand that no person in this room can think I get to sit on the sideline and watch the “professionals” do it or the “gifted” do it.  The mission’s so big that every single person in this room, if you’re a follower of Jesus today….you play a part.  I imagine a church of people finding joy in living on mission with Jesus trusting that God wants to use their lives, your lives, for His kingdom and for His glory, by His power displayed throughout all of Littleton, Denver, Colorado and the world.  You want to be a part of that kind of church?  Listen to the way Paul writes to the church at Corinth:  Therefore, {Anytime we read the word “therefore” in the Scriptures, we should ask ourselves what’s it there for.  We’re going to unpack what it’s there for in the rest of our time.} Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.  We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 

Look up at me for a moment.  You are an ambassador.  You carry the name of Jesus.  If your faith is in Him, you carry the name.  Paul writes to the church at Philippi and he says listen, your citizenship, your passport, doesn’t say the country you’re born in.  Your passport, your citizenship, is in heaven!  You carry that DNA.  You carry that kingdom wherever you go and wherever your feet hit.  You are carriers of the kingdom of heaven.  That DNA is in you if you’re a follower of Jesus.  That DNA is in you as followers of Jesus.  Jesus said in the gospel of John after He’s resurrected…..John records these words for us: Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (John 20:21)  You’re a sent person.  You’re an ambassador.  Not some of you.  That’s what makes the story feel way to small.  When we go man, that’s awesome….some people get to live that.  No, YOU get to live it.  Wherever God’s planted you.  Wherever God divinely has you, you get to live it.  An ambassador, in the Roman empire, was someone who would be sent by the emperor to go and do two things:  He carried a message from the emperor.  And he carried authority from the emperor.  So when an ambassador went in to a certain colony or town, he carried a message and he carried authority and for those receiving an ambassador it was as though the emperor himself were coming to meet with these people.  He carried authority and he carried the message.

I was trying to think of the modern-day equivalent of ambassadorship in the U.S.  We’ve had a great ambassador as of late, haven’t we?  (Showed picture of Dennis Rodman)  This is a few months ago, where Dennis Rodman somehow became an ambassador for the United States of America.  He’s like I’ll go to North Korea and hang out with Kim Jong-un.  Everybody in the U.S. is going no, no, no, no.  He can’t represent us!  That’s not what we’re like!  So he carries the flag and he carries the name and not in a way that we’d look at it and go yes and amen that’s awesome.  But because he plays that role he carries that name.  I don’t know about you, but sometimes I look at some followers of Jesus and that looks better.  But make no mistake about it, if you’re His follower you’re His ambassador.  This is not for some, this is for all who carry His name.

I want to give you four things that ambassadors are or that ambassadors do.  Ambassadors, first and foremost, listen to the orders of their superiors.  They do not carry their own message.  They do not stand on their own accolades.  They carry the message of their sending delegates… Rome, they carried the message of the emperor.  When they went, it wasn’t on their own volition.  They carried his message.  Here’s the deal, first and foremost, ambassadors are people who listen to the king.  Because not every message we’re going to be giving is the same.  Not every context we’re suppose to give it in is the same and we contextualize for the people that are listening.  That’s the second thing ambassadors do: They speak two languages.  Ambassadors speak the language of their citizenship.  Which is the language of heaven for you.  And ambassadors speak the language of their culture because we have a message to deliver.  Ambassadors build a bridge between where they’re coming from and where they’re sent to.  This is huge, is it not, for followers of Jesus in today’s day and age.  One of the ways we get to be ambassadors, I think, is in the public arena of art and cinema, creativity.  One of the things you see followers of Jesus doing is abdicating ambassadorship.  Instead of saying we have a message from the kingdom of Heaven of beauty, of grace, of love, of redemption, of a God who’s saying I’m inviting you back in and we’re going to learn to speak your language so we can invite you into this story, what we’re doing is saying you learn to speak our language and come into our story.  So we’ll create Christian movies that aren’t bad, but they just aren’t penetrating in the deepest beauty of the human soul the way that they could be if we’d take our role as ambassadors a little bit more seriously.  We speak in two languages.  We carry the language of our citizenship and we speak to the language of our culture.

Third, ambassadors are never off duty.  You never get to a place where you’re like alright, I’m going to punch the clock.  If I’m a follower of Jesus then I’m a follower of Jesus at home, in my neighborhood, in my workplace.  Someone tested my follower of Jesus-ship this week.  I was dropping my son off at the bus and this dog ran up to me and he was slobbering.  I had just left a dog who was running up to me slobbering at home, right?  Fended him off, walked out the door and was met by a dog running up to me slobbering.  He goops the back of my leg.  His owner runs after him, bends down with a full cup of coffee and pours it all over the back of my legs.  I’m like oh, Jesus, please!!!!  I wanted to punch that clock so fast…..OFF DUTY!  Who do you think you are??  Dog on a leash, hot cup of coffee……   But we can’t do that, can we?   Luckily I didn’t because he walked right down the cul-de-sac right next to me.  So I’ll see him again!  We’re never off duty.  As Paul says:  We carry the aroma of Christ. (2 Corin. 2:15)

Ambassadors are obedient to their sending delegates.  What the king requires and asks of ambassadors they step into with everything they have.  David Livingstone, the great African missionary, says this: “If a commission by an earthly king is considered an honor, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?” Friends, you are commissioned by the King, not some of you, but all of you.  Living in this relentless mission of God to redeem, restore, renew His creation is not something you’re called to do.  That’s when it starts to feel way too small.  It’s something we’re called and invited to live…..with every fiber of our being.  Every moment of our day.  There’s no time we punch the clock and are off duty.  We are, if we’re followers of Jesus and disciples of His, his ambassadors.  Something’s happened as followers of Jesus over the course of Christendom.  We’ve seen this mission as a part of our lives.  We go to work and eat our meals and we hang out in our neighborhood and we mow our lawn and we spend time with our family and we do all these things…..and then one of the things we ADD to our lives is….oh yeah, I’m a follower of Jesus so I should probably be on mission with and for God.  That’s way too small!  If you live 10% of your life like this that’s way too small for this grand invitation from this grand God.  This is the way it was designed to be.  Not that part of your life is mission, but that your whole, entire life is one of “sent-ness.”  That God’s designed you, wired you, gifted you…..not to spend an hour sitting in a chair on a Sunday morning.  But to spend a life hearing His voice, embracing His call and stepping into the invitation He’s given you to be part of what He’s doing in His world.  Every moment of every day on every corner of His great globe!  A “missionary” is simply someone who does this….lives on mission…who does this here….listen to their king, Jesus, and as they’re doing this here, He says to them you know what you’re doing here, maybe you go do in China. Maybe you go do in Africa.  Maybe you go do somewhere around the globe.  It’s not categorically different, it’s the same mission in a different place.  It’s a mission not for some, but it’s a mission for all.

Here’s what I want to do.  I want to go back and unpack for you what this looks like in the life of the Apostle Paul.  And how he gets to this point of this massive gospel, this beautiful invitation and this calling for you and I AND him to live as ambassadors for and with Jesus.  What happens in his life to get him to this place.  Verse 14 of 2 Corinthians 5.   For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.  Here’s what Paul says:  The motive for ambassadorship at the forefront of his mind is one thing:  Christ’s love controls us.  In the Greek, it’s this picture of somebody being tied up or hemmed in.  Or somebody who’s backed into a corner and all options are taken away.  It’s an interesting way of looking at the love of God, isn’t it?  Paul goes listen, I am so absolutely surrendered….it’s a picture of being in a strait jacket where Paul is going I would love to do something other than this but I can’t. His love so compels me that I go out into the world as His ambassador.  I want to live as an ambassador.  I don’t know about you, I do.  I want to follow Paul’s lead in this and find the fuel for that.  The energy for that.  The motive for that and the love that God has for not only you, but for His great creation.

If you look at this closely, here’s what Paul does.  He gives you a foundation for this love.  He says we have all died.  He’s talking about the death that you and I are given through just being human.  It’s called “original sin.”  That we are in a desperate spot.  Without God’s intervention we would be absolutely desperate, desolate and have no hope in the world of reconnecting ourselves to the God of the universe.  Paul says that everybody, all have died.  And if we’re going to understand the love that God has for us, we first have to understand the desperate need that we all find ourselves in.  And then he says this: We concluded this: that all have died and that one has died for all.  Who’s that one?  Jesus!  So the offense of all dead is met by mercy and grace that’s just as big and he goes and for everybody mercy and grace is available through the work of Jesus.  Yeah, we’ve sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but by His grace and by His mercy hope, redemption, is available not to some, but is available to all.  Paul says it’s that message that has tied me up!  I can’t get over it!  He says I was in desperate need and Jesus has matched my desperation with His matchless grace and mercy.  That’s good, isn’t it?  It ties Paul up.  Our impact on the world is preceded by our devotion to Jesus.  Our impact on people’s lives is preceded by our care for their soul.  His love starts to get inside of us and we see people, not just through the natural lens, but through the supernatural lens of what’s going on inside their soul.  Early followers of Jesus were marked by this love.  You read about early followers of Christ, the church, in the first through the third centuries….where they were living and where they were being the church was absolutely ravaged by plagues.  When a plague hit, most people and even family members were put out, quite literally, in the gutter, because it was feared the plague would come and take out their home.  Early followers of Jesus were known for going and taking people who were in the gutters and in the ditches—left to die—and take them in and care for them because there was an intrinsic value placed on the human being, by followers of Jesus, because they’re stamped in the image of God.  They would invite them into their homes and all the writings you read on the church….what it says about them is that they were not afraid to die.  There’s no fear in death, no guilt in life, just the power of Christ in them.  This shaped the early church.  Their love did.  Friends, will our love shape this culture?  Shape this church?

I read this week that the U.S. is going to be welcoming 10,000 refugees from Syria.  Then I read a lot of people are afraid of the security breaches that could be possible because of that.  I’m going to get up on my soapbox and say, “Is there potential for harm in that?”  Yep, absolutely.  Was there potential for harm in people bringing somebody stricken with the plague into their home?  Absolutely.  So I’m not saying we shouldn’t be wise and I’m not saying we shouldn’t be doing our due diligence, but I’m also saying that if we don’t open our homes, if we don’t open our lives, if we don’t open our doors then we are categorically not the church!  We need to be the type of people that say to the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow there’s room for you because our God cares and we believe that we need to fill this gap.  We know it’s dangerous, but the love of Christ has tied us up!  It’s backed us into the corner.  He’s been so good to us….how could we not be good to those around us. Maybe it’s modern day slavery or sex slavery that you just go as I listen to my Father speak to my soul..that’s what His love is compelling me to step into.  Maybe it’s issues of hunger or issues of clean water…whatever it is for you as you listen to your sending delegate where’s He sending you?  What role is He asking you to step into?

Here’s the way Paul continues:  From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh.  Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.   So he goes once I just thought Jesus was this normal, homeless Galilean who was wandering around preaching.  But Paul goes now that I’ve met Him I don’t view Him that way anymore.  Verse 17.   Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away {In the Greek it’s the aorist tense which means it’s a done deal!}  …and behold, the new has come.    This “new has come” is in the perfect tense in the Greek which means it’s an action that happened at a definitive point in the past that has implications that reach all the way into future.  The new has come!  That’s great news!   So Paul starts to look at the world differently.  He not only is compelled by the love of Christ, but he starts to see the world around him in a different way.  Here’s what he sees.  This is good news.  He sees the world through the lens of Kingdom potential.  He looks at himself first and goes I was one driven by zeal for the law and now Christ has redeemed me and I’m compelled by love.  He goes He’s made me new. This is just for free:  Did you know that followers of Jesus are simply maturing into who they already are?  We’re not trying to be somebody different.  God’s already planted the seeds of the kingdom, new birth, new life, into our souls.  We’re not trying to be different, we’re just trying to become and be all that God has said we already are.  Paul looks at the world and goes that’s the way I see the world now.  I see the world through new birth.  I see the world through new potential.  I see the world through….what if the kingdom got ahold of that area and started to drill down.  What if the kingdom got ahold of that person and started to redeem them and renew them and what if they gave their life to Christ, maybe they too could go from zealous for the law to preacher of the Kingdom.  I sense for Paul that this potential is like a tidal wave that overwhelms him, where he goes oh my goodness!  We see the world differently because of who Jesus is and what Jesus has done.

I think sometimes we see the world maybe in a different way than Jesus would have us see it.  We see it as a marred thing.  We see it as just simply evil.  Jesus sees it as oh, what if my kingdom came?  What if my will was done, right here on earth as it is in heaven?  What if my people carried that kingdom and spoke that word and what if I started to redeem and renew and make whole?  You tell me that’s too small of a story!  I just think we lost the prophetic imagination.  We can’t see it anymore.  I think we’re sorta like….I don’t know if you followed this or…..there’s this court reporter in mid-August who did a rendering of Tom Brady sitting in court.  It wasn’t good enough for people to think Tom Brady walks on water.  I thought it was fine.  But for everybody else they thought it didn’t look good enough.  Even Jane Rosenberg who did this rendering said, “I want to apologize to Tom Brady for not making him as handsome as he really is.”  She went on to say, “It’s hard to capture that in a short amount of time.”  I think this is how we view the world oftentimes, though.  That it’s evil.  I don’t think we see it the same way God does.  What Paul says is now I see the world through kingdom potential.  Do an interesting study and read through the gospels and listen to the way the gospel writers talk about the way that Jesus sees.  He sees Matthew sitting on the sidelines.  He calls him out of his tax collector’s booth and into the kingdom.  He sees things that aren’t and calls them into things that are.  And He invites you and I to see the world the same way.  Will you give people value that they intrinsically have as human beings?  And see the kingdom potential in all. When you see people differently, you start to imagine different possibilities of ways you could reach them and hold out the hope of the Gospel.  We do.  That’s the motivating factor.  We love Jesus, we see kingdom potential, but if we lose sight of the kingdom we lose sight of the passion and power that’s behind sharing this beautiful good news.

Paul goes on saying this:  All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us {Look up at me for a second.  That’s YOU!  He gave us…He gave the church, people who are citizens of Heaven, people who are sent in the same way Jesus was sent….He gave US…} …gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  That’s good news!  You’ve been entrusted, you’ve been given, you’re carriers of the good news.  Paul says in Romans 10:15:  Blessed are the feet of those who carry the good news.  That’s you!  You’re carriers of the kingdom wherever you go, whatever you do.  In your neighborhood, you carry the good news.  You declare it and you deed it.  You declare it and you live it out.  Both.  In your families, in your homes, in your workplaces….wherever you go you’re on duty….for your joy and for His glory!  Not a person in this room who’s a follower of Jesus is outside of the realm of that!  I love how we see the father-heart of God in this.  He longs for people to be reconciled to Him.  He made a way that all people could be reconciled to Him. During the crucifixion where was God?  He was in Christ….redeeming and restoring His good and beautiful creation because He’s for it and He loves it and He’s inviting you.  You get to persuade.  You get to carry the beautiful message.  Here’s the gospel in one verse (verse 21): For our sake he made him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  The reformers called it “the great exchange.”  It’s great if you’re on our end.  I think God got the short end of the stick, but praise Him for His mercy and for His glory and for His providence in reaching down into a life like mine, drilling holes into my soul and planting the seeds of the gospel, the hope of the kingdom and the glory of God.  Oh, man!!

You carry the message of God’s loving embrace.  I love the way Eugene Peterson puts it in his paraphrase of the Scriptures called The Message:  Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.  That’s the message. God’s already done everything on His end to forgive you, to reconcile, to bring you back.  He’s already taken care of it.  If there’s any blocks to you moving towards God or thinking He’s for you or in a relationship with you, it’s in YOUR head.  It’s not in His heart.  He’s already done everything it takes.  Paid the price you could never pay to give you life you could never earn.  To launch you on mission bigger than you could ever imagine.  We have a number of people in this church that are beautifully living out this story.  I want you to hear from Ruth and Don Nichols.  {Video plays.  Ruth and Don followed God’s direction and started New Song School and help establish a church for the Vietnamese community.}  Don and Ruth are here.  Your faith is inspiring.  You’ve lived a big story….not because you’re great, but because God is great.  You’re really ordinary people….to the glory of God.  But your faith……through that God has done great things.  I want to say that to all of you.  This is not an invitation for some, this is an invitation to ALL.

You may be wondering where we go from here.  A few pieces of encouragement for you.  Believe that God wants more from you and for you than just coming for an hour on Sunday.  He does.  His mission is way bigger.  Would you use your gifts and step into it.  Maybe a baby step is you participate in “Attend 1/Serve 1.”  You come and one service you serve here in a variety of different ways.  One service you come and worship.  Maybe you can give an hour and that’s all you can give.  I get it.  Maybe you’re a part of our third service team that’s going to relaunch that service right here 4 o’clock next Sunday and you want to be a part of something that’s really just getting going.  Maybe you go to your local park and start to interact with people in your neighborhood.  Maybe you share your faith with people in your workplace, in your neighborhood, in your family.  Maybe you have some of your neighbors over for dinner.  Maybe you service in Whiz Kids or the Food Bank, two awesome ministries.  Maybe you just go before the Father and say, “Here I am.  Would you use my whole life to be a part of Your relentless mission?”  It’s an invitation for all, not just for some and when we don’t embrace it the story feels too small, but I can assure you it’s big enough!  Mission isn’t something we do, it’s a way that we’re invited to live….because we’re convinced that one day, at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is God to the glory of God the Father.  So, Lord, we want to live our lives with that day in mind.  Lord, we believe that living as people who are ambassadors is not something we get to subcontract out.  It’s something that we get the joy of living in as your followers.  Would you remind us of it today?  Would you compel us, tie us up, with your love?  Would you give us a kingdom perspective….what could happen if your kingdom invaded in every corner of the city, of our homes, of our workplaces….give us a kingdom perspective and a prophetic imagination…..what could happen if…???  And Jesus, remind us that we are carriers of this beautiful news.  That we are friends with God, because you’ve taken down every barrier by your cross.  We love you.  Send us out as ambassadors for you.  Amen.