Chris Hodges - Salt and Light
What's going on, everybody? Did you miss me? Well, it's good to see you. If you're new to our church, Tammy and I have been away for a few weeks, and it's so good to be back home. Love you guys so much. Pray for you every single day, watch every single service. Don't we have some amazing communicators in our own house, everybody? I thought every Sunday was spectacular, and it's so good to be back. A big hello to all of our campuses. We are one church that meets in 23 different rooms all across the great state of Alabama and in Columbus, Georgia, to the men and women in the Alabama Department of Corrections. Love you with all of my heart, pray for you every day, so grateful that you're along for the ride with us, as well. I have to give a special shout out though.
Sunday number four, my first chance to acknowledge that our Southwest Campus, the former McCalla Campus is now in a brand-new paid for facility. Come on, put your hands together. Come on, say a big hello. God bless you guys. And one of the things you guys ought to consider doing is go do a little field trip. Take a Sunday and go see some of the different locations. Right now we are in two other projects that are nearly complete. And again, we build all of these with cash, completely debt free. We have, just in a few weeks we'll move into our brand-new Woodlawn campus facility, and in a few weeks, yeah. And then we're doing a complete remodel of the Grandview facility at the former Health South Conference Center, and we're so excited about that.
So, exciting things, and we have other projects going on, in Alabaster and other places, and God's good, and thank you so much for your incredible generosity that allows us to lead this way. And nearly 40% of what you give is able to go outside of these walls to help other people and those that are hurting and those that have never heard the good name of Jesus. And so thank you, thank you, thank you. I'm excited about this season that we're in, as a church, July is a very exciting month. I have some pastors coming in a few weeks, about 3,000 pastors coming. We're going to pour into them. We actually have an event that's called a Pastors' Kid Getaway, PKG. We'll be ministering to some PKs, some pastors' kids and things like that, but there's two events that I want you to know about that we're very excited for you to be a part of, and one is, of course, is coming this Saturday.
You already saw it on Highlands News, but let me take a few moments and just share my excitement about Serve Day. Once a year, we call the entire church, whether you have that gift of outreach and that's your thing or not, we just say one day of the year let's all serve. Let's all find some kind of project indoors or outdoors. You go to that Serve app and find the one that's nearest you. It'll tell you everything you need to bring. We do have your uniforms out there and especially for those of you who have paint-covered ones from last year. Go ahead and get you a brand-new Serve shirt out there in the foyer, everybody that's going to be a part of this coming Saturday. I'll be out there. I'm going to try to hit as many projects as I can.
And we also put together a little booklet, kind of an old school, giving you something to put in your hands and to read some things about how to be a part of a serve project, where they are, why we do this, so you can grab one of those out in the foyer. We're very excited about it, and my desire, let me just be very clear, my desire is for all of us to do something this Saturday, just even, if it's even for 15 minutes, go to your neighbor, bring them some fresh baked cookies. I mean, everybody could do something and just show the love of Jesus to the people around us, and we think it's an amazing, amazing thing to do. The Serve app, by the way, you paid for that. We built it out, and then we gave it away, and more than 2,000 churches globally will be serving on that day, as well. Come on, put your hands together and say a big praise God for that.
And then we are less than 3 weeks away from a conference that we do once a year, strategically placed right before school starts, where our students are not going to attend an event. This is a time with Almighty God. I have personally selected all the pastors, speakers, worship leaders, and with one clear goal in mind, and that is I want our students to have, a God encounter to meet with God and have just a powerful time in the presence of the Lord. And your job is to make sure, parents, get all your students registered. We have hundreds of other churches joining us, 12,000 students will join down at the BJCC. It seems as though sometimes our church is sometimes the very last to register, and I think it's because you know you can, but this really is kind of the cutoff this weekend, and so we would encourage you to do that.
As always, with any Highlands event, you just need to know this, if you're new to our church, you need to know this. Any Highlands event, if money is the reason why you're not coming, that's not a good enough reason. We build into every event scholarship money. We'd be happy, if you'd just let us know the need, and your student wants to be there and money's the reason, we're happy to help you guys. Go out into the foyer, and there are tables out there at every location where you can get information and register your kids, or you can just go online. You'll see Motion Conference right there on the home page. We're very excited about it. In fact, we're actually benefiting this year from the fact that Birmingham is hosting the World Games. We've already had an incredibly secure event. We hire extra security for the event, build perimeters around these facilities. But the World Games even took it up to another level, and we're benefiting from the new protocols that are in place down there at the newly renovated BJCC.
So, parents, it's a really spectacular event for our kids to be a part of, and we'd encourage you, register, register, register, register, register, okay? You got it? Everybody say, "I got it"! All right. I want you to open your Bibles today, and you can look in Luke chapter 19. It's where we're going to begin. Would love for you to jot down some notes, as well, or maybe get your phone out and take some notes. I'm going to start today a short little two-part series on something that I know is on the heart of God, and it's not necessarily one of those messages that you think, "Man, that was just for me today". You may not feel that. In fact, this wouldn't be the topic you would choose to want to hear about, but I am 100% sure that if Jesus himself had a chance to stand on this stage and speak to his kids, speak to the people that love him, I know for a fact that this is what he would talk about, and it's been five years since I brought a series of messages on sharing our faith.
And I understand that one of the major goals of Christianity is evangelism, that we reach people that are far from God. Jesus himself said in Luke chapter 19 that the Son of Man, speaking of himself, came for this reason: to seek and to save those that are lost. And if you're new to our church, you would need to know that one of the hallmarks of our church is that we've never been a church for church people. Can I get a better amen? We've always wanted to build a place that are people that are far from God could come and experience not only God, but us, and be comfortable and feel accepted, to be in this place, and so they could hear and kind of kick the tires of Christianity. And over the years, we have done everything short of sin to reach people that are far from God. And to God be the glory. God's blessed in an amazing way.
In fact, I want when you hear this, don't give me no golf tournament clap. When you hear this, you've gotta respond like heaven will respond. The Bible says that when one person gets saved that all the angels in heaven rejoice. Just this year, in the first six months of this year, 12,365 people, come on, have given their lives to God. Come on, give God a praise! That's what I'm talking about. You know what that means? That means people are hungry for God, everybody, and that isn't hands, like I see that hand. No, no, this is cards. This is names and addresses of people say, "I need God in my life. I'm ready to surrender my life to the Lord". And so I don't talk about it a lot. In fact, over the past two years, we couldn't say a lot, because we really weren't in a place, with the pandemic, to tell you to bring somebody, sit next to you. Bring somebody that you know to sit next to you in church. But I believe it's time to do that again.
In fact, this fall, I've asked the Lord for just a harvest of souls. In fact, in August, we're going to spend 21 days of prayer, and we're going to pray for people that are far from God. We're going to pray for every church that preaches his Word in our area, just to grow with people that are hungry for God. And then in September, I'm gonna have a series that you helped me with. At Easter, I asked you what are some topics that you want to talk about. And, man, the topics that we got about just things that you want to know what the Word of God has to say about that, this is gonna be a very perfect series for your friends. And then, of course, every November we do this series called "At the Movies," where we take movies that have redemption built into the story, and we preach through the clips.
And so there's a lot of opportunities, but I just wanted to kind of set it up, especially with Serve Day coming up, and I want to give you two things today. I want to give you four reasons why this is important. I'm going to show you Scripture. In fact, I probably have too many Scriptures today. I've got a lot to cover. And then I want to talk to you about something I've really never shared about before that'll help us be effective in this area, and you have to wait for that one, okay? But the first, why do we share our faith? Let me give you four reasons.
And the first is because this is our calling in life. Now, I don't know if you knew this or not, but this is why you're on the planet. I mean, before you find Jesus, your whole life's about finding Jesus. But after you find Jesus, your whole life's about sharing Jesus. You need to know that. I have young people ask me all the time, "Pastor Chris..." They call me PC. "PC, what's God's will for my life"? Very simple. Jesus's words, he said, "Let me tell you why you're here". Now, is that clear, everybody? Okay. Couldn't find a better verse than that one, but hope that one will do. All right? "Let me tell you why you're here. You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth..." In other words, salt makes things taste better. But he says, "Here's another way to put it: You're..." In fact, read the yellow out loud, every voice.
Come on, every campus, here we go. "You're here to be..." That's what you're here to be light. And by the way, the light can't, the light doesn't do much when there's already light present. Everybody's fussing about, "Oh, my God, the world's just gone crazy, and it's just, oh, Lord Jesus, it's just so bad right now. Just, Lord..." No, this is our time, everybody. That light shines best in dark: go get a flashlight, turn it on, on a sunny day in the middle of the day. Watch what happens. Zero. Get a flashlight in the darkest place you can, and you'll have a lot of friends, everybody. Right? The darkness. "You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. And if I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting on a light stand.
Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand..." Say the next word out loud. "You need to..." Shine. That's what Saturday is all about, by the way. We're going to go to some of the darkest places, places where people are hurting, places where the grass is too high, and paint needs to be on the walls. And we're going to smile, and paint, and sweep. And why? This is your calling in life. That's why. "Keep open house; be generous with your lives. And by opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven".
Now, there's some people say, "Well, I like to keep my faith private". That may be your opinion, but that's not what the Bible says. The Bible says that our faith is actually supposed to be very public, and there's even some who say, "Well, I just think, you know, I've been told that the Lord's already played it all out. He predestined this person to go to heaven and this one to go to hell, and it's already worked out, and you can't do anything about..." That's not true, everybody. In fact, 2 Peter says, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you," make clear here, "not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance". This is God's will. This is God's will for people, and this is God's will for our life.
Here's reason number two. We share our faith because people need the Lord. So, they can't get to heaven without Jesus. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life, and you can't get to God except through me". And I think sometimes we forget the fact that heaven and hell are real places. Like, we don't grow to be bigger. We grow because heaven and hell exists, everybody, and people's lives matter. And sometimes I think we just need to be reminded of the fact that this is not a game. We're not playing church here. This is people's lives in the balance.
John chapter 3, verse 17, "God didn't go into all the trouble of sending his Son just to make people feel bad, pointing an accusing finger at them, telling them how bad they are. He came to help. He came to put the world right again. And anyone who trusts in Jesus is acquitted". So, everything you ever did goes to a zero balance. "And anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person's failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him". I mean, this really matters, that people need the Lord. People need the Lord. Are you ready for this?
Here's reason number three, and that is we share our faith because I believe people want the Lord. I truly believe that without God, people are miserable. Even I was talking to an atheist. In fact, I had so much fun on my break, everybody. I had five different conversations with five different people, where I had an opportunity to share my faith, and they were all at different places in, spiritually. And one even went so far as to say that they were an atheist. And you say, "Well, then, they're not on a spiritual journey". Oh, yes, they are, because even people who say, "I don't believe in God," they can't do anything about the fact that there's a piece of God on the inside of them. They're made in the image of God. You can't do anything about it. In fact, Ecclesiastes says that God has put eternity in everybody's hearts.
So, whether they like it or not, they're gonna think about it. So, I love messing with them a little bit. So, he said, "Well, I've got, 'cause, well, I don't believe in God". I said, "Yeah, but don't you miss him"? And they're like, "Yeah, he..." Because they can't get away from it. And this I know, too, that everything the devil has to offer, everything that's not of God will eventually lead to a life of misery. To put it in the prodigal son metaphor, it'll put you in a pig pen. You follow your own way or the world's way, you're going to end up in a pig pen, and it's gonna be this moment where they kind of come to their senses and realize, "I don't want to live like this". In fact, I told one person, they said, "Well, I don't think I'm ready". I said, "Well, I'll be right here. I'll leave the light on. You go try it your way. I want to be the first phone call you make when you're ready to come back".
And check it out. They're gonna come back. They'll realize it at some point, why? Because Jesus offers life abundant. Jesus said in his own words in John chapter 10, "I came so that (people) can have a real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of". They desire that. I had a conversation with a very successful business woman on the break, and it's just so funny how God had set up these different conversations. And I was just talking to her a little bit about, and from her perspective, all she knew about any religion was the religion. Like, the person of God had never been worked into the equation at all for any religion. So, up to her it was just which institution will you belong to, or what set of beliefs will you believe? Had no idea of that. So, she was quizzing me. She was very, very successful, so she was quizzing me and was just baffled by how many of you show up on a Sunday. She said, "Now, you have how many campuses"?
It's like she goes, "Then what's a campus? Like, what do you mean a campus"? And I was so, you know, "They have their own pastors and I broadcast". "Like, you broad...what"? And she goes, "And how many, how many? And y'all are building what? And you have a college"? And just she couldn't understand it, and she looked at me, and she finally, she goes, "Why? Why do they do it? Why do they go"? And I really felt like God gave me, I said, "Because they don't want to build a church. They want to know God". We don't give them religion, we give them relationship with God. And you could see her whole face... yeah, come on, give God praise, yeah. And her face changed. Her face changed. She went, "Ah". She goes, "I think I'd like that". And I talked to her. She didn't receive the Lord that day, but she... come on, y'all. She got closer. She was on home plate, but I think she's on second base, maybe third, everybody. Just one little single will get her on in. Right, everybody? That's right. But this is, people want, they want the Lord.
And here's the last reason. I had eight, by the way, 'cause I done break, everybody. I had eight. But I had, I only had time to give you four. And that is we share our faith because I was once lost. Like, somebody shared their faith with me. Now, my story, if you know my story, I was raised in church. So, I was never unaware of God or church. I just didn't know God. And I walked the aisle at seven, signed the card, got baptized. I met my church, but I didn't know God at all, at all. So, I, you know, as a teenager I started doing, you know, crazy things. I wasn't horribly bad, but I wasn't good either, you know, and I was just kind of getting in trouble, and living what I thought was a normal kind of teenager life.
When my best friend, Bo Mays, if you want to know the person more responsible for me coming to Christ, it was a guy named Bo Mays. And Bo got saved, like radically saved. Made me so mad. He ruined our Friday nights. Literally, I'm at his house spending the night. He's reading his Bible, showing, marking it, showing me. Still like, "Bro, stop. I don't want to read that". "Oh, Bro, listen to this". And he got an 8-track out. How many of y'all remember 8-tracks, everybody? Where y'all at? He said, "Listen to this new song". And he played me some Phil Keaggy, you know, like, "Listen to this". There's like Christian rock and roll. Like, "Bro, I don't want to hear it. Man, I don't want to hear it. Leave me alone". He said, "Come to my church". Like, "Bro, I don't want to come to your church"! He said, "They have pretty girls". I said, "What time"?
And so I went, and they had pretty girls. But what I noticed... I had never seen people worship God like that. I'd never seen people in love with God. I thought they were kind of crazy, and I wanted what they had. I looked around like, "Oh, my Lord in heaven. That looks fun". You know just, you know. And literally I gave my life to Jesus that night and Bo Mays, Bo Mays, he did what it took to reach a guy like me. And I woke up the next day the most on fire Christian in the world. And within a week, I'd led four of my best, Sam Benton, Micah Reed, Benton Reed, and Sam Nixon, and I led these guys to the Lord, and these are my buddies, and I was on fire. Why? Because somebody had reached me.
And Paul said, Paul said, "For Christ's love," the fact that I've experienced this new joy, the love, it compels, I get a case of the can't help its. It compels me, because we were all convinced that he didn't just die for me, but he died for all. And so now I just can't help it. I just want everybody to have, and that's why I'm so excited about Serve Day this Saturday because it's more than just serving. Be clear. We think it's the church's job to meet need, but we don't just meet need. We're not just social justice. We are social justice that also gives them the greatest justice of all, and that is spiritual justice. If you meet their need, but don't help them into heaven, you have withheld the greater gift. And so we give a cup of cold water in Jesus's name. We do what we do for the opportunity, but it doesn't happen that effectively anymore.
And this is what I want to talk with us today. Like, how can we do this effectively? Because, honestly, the studies are showing that people are less interested in us, and in church, and in God than ever before. So, I actually bought several books and did a lot of reading, and they were all research books on the current condition of America, and why they're trending in some directions and away from others, and what's going to happen with the church? And this is, out of all the studies that I've read, the one that struck me the most is the one I want to bring you today, and that is that if they need a Christian who is like Christ, who literally has a quality about them that looks like Jesus, more than 88% of those people far from God will receive Jesus because of that Christian. But the opposite is true, too, that if they meet a Christian who doesn't look like that, they probably, more than 88% likely to never receive Jesus, that the greatest factor in the determination of someone finding God or not finding God is us.
It's us. It's not the message. It's not the Bible. It's not the beliefs. It's not the doctrine. It's us. And that's why the Bible talks so much about us not just being Christians, but being transformed, regenerated is the theological word, regenerated Christians. Now, as we know God, God starts doing a work on the inside of us. And as he does, people are going, "What happened to you? In fact, that's not how you normally are. Like, what happened to you? What are you... I don't understand. You used to not...why are you... what's going on"? And that's what the Bible talks so much about, the fruit of the Spirit or the work of God on the inside of us, and I'm calling us to that process. I know it can't happen in one message, but we have to embrace the fact that we're supposed to allow God to do such a deep work in our lives that it makes our lives attractive to others.
In fact, Galatians, which talks about the fruit of the Spirit, and "The Message" says it this way. "What happens if we live God's way"? And then it answers it. "He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard, things like..." I used to not like people, but now I just like people, "affection for others, exuberance about life..." Did you know the way you show up at work tomorrow could play a role in whether the people around your workplace find God or not. If you come in all mully grub like everybody else, "Lord, just rainy days and Mondays... Always get me down". You come in, "Hey, what's going on"? And have some Krispy Kremes with you. Come on, somebody. Where y'all at? That won't hurt either. Serenity.
I was talking to somebody not too long ago, and they just, they were troubled, and I just... John Maxwell gave me this line. It's just a great line. I just said, "Man, I wish you had my peace". And they looked at me like, "Well, I wish I did, too". Tell me about it. 'Cause when they know that we're all living in the same world, going through the same things, but we're not all reacting the same way. They're going to want what you have. "When we develop willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, a conviction that a basic holiness permeates my life now, we find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not being unfaithful to people, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct my life".
Like, I'm not... I have self-control, one translation says. In fact, in another translation, they called it joy that overflows, peace that subdues, patience that endures, kindness in action, faith that prevails, gentleness of heart, and strength of spirit. When that starts working, people are going to go, "Wait a minute, wait a minute, what's up? What's up with that"? And here's the whole message in a sentence, and this is what I'm calling all of us to. Like, when you go out to eat this afternoon, that when you have your family around you this afternoon, when you go to work tomorrow and when you have Serve Day, would you please just keep this one thought in mind, and that is "I want my life to be so attractive that people who know me but don't know God will want to know God because they know me". I'm gonna say it again. "I want my life to be so attractive that people who know me but don't know God will want to know God because they know me".
And you would need to know that this is God's plan, too. Like, let me say it this way. This is his Plan A, and he doesn't have a Plan B. I have so many Scriptures I could've shared with you, Scriptures like, "We are his ambassadors, and God makes his appeal to all of humanity through us". Ephesians says it this way, that it is God's intent that everything that God is, the manifold wisdom of God be made known through his church. Like, you're the plan. You're it, I'm it, and people are either longing for God, if they meet us, or they're not. So, how do we become the kind of people... how do we be salt and light? Let me give you three things that will help out, I think. And the first is you have to go through life realizing God is creating moments. I had to realize that even though I was on break, that God would create moments. I had five of them. I had five different people, five different moments.
In fact, four of them, on their own, didn't even bring it up, started asking about some of the projects that we're involved with here at the church, specifically Highlands College. And I have four of the five wanting to come this fall to see the kids. "Like, can I come see this thing you're doing? I want to come". Like, yeah. They say, "Well, can I come now"? I say, "No, no, you can't come now. The kids aren't here. Just wait till they... wait till they get... when they come in the fall, I want you to come see". And you could see this hunger to be a part of something as meaningful as raising up young leaders to go change the world. It's like I love that. One person, they make more than $50 million a year. And they say, "I'm miserable". In fact, he said it to me this way. He goes, "I have a lot of money. I have a lot. It's a lot". He said it just like that. "It's just a lot". He said, "I'm tired of going to places that don't do anything. Can you show me something that will make a difference in this world"? I said, "Oh, I can show you some stuff". I said, "Let's talk, let's just talk about it".
Y'all thought I was on break. I was, little bit. But you need to understand that your steps are ordered of the Lord. Like, the restaurant you're going to after service, God knew it. And if you'll allow him, he'll create an intersection with somebody there. And he's looking for somebody to be tuned in to God enough to be the hands and feet of Jesus. The Bible says in Proverbs, "In our hearts, you think you're planning your life, your schedule". No, God establishes your steps. And if you'll understand that, you'll realize that God will create those moments. All you have to do... look, look, look for them, look for them, look for them. I mean somebody will say something like, "Man, my kid is this, and my wife is, and my... I think..." And those are moments God, when they say something like that, that's an opportunity for us to step in and say, "Well, tell me more. I'd love to know. How can I pray for you"? "Well, I don't believe in prayer". I say, "Okay, but if you don't mind, I'll still pray for you". "Okay, I think I'd like that".
Here's the second thing. First, we understand there's moments, but the second word I want you to focus on, I want you to refocus on your manners. Now, before I teach this, you need to know that the person speaking to you needs to hear this as much as anybody in this room. I'm pretty nice most of the time to most people. I'm barely saved when I'm driving a car. Where y'all at? Where y'all at? Right here, barely saved, barely. In fact, 21 years ago, we started the church. We made one decision, and we have held this decision, and we will never change this decision, and that is we will never, ever, ever, ever, ever have bumper stickers. We're not doing it, just not doing it. I've seen y'all drive. People would just go straight to hell if they saw... it should not happen, right? So, I'm being funny and serious at the same time. Because we have to realize our manner, the study is true, our manner makes a difference.
So, if 88% meet a Christian who really has the joy, and the peace, and the love, and the attitude, and exuberance, and the self-control, and all the fruit, that makes them want that God. Eighty-eight percent of the people who meet that kind will find Jesus. Well, then, I think it's pretty important that we say, "God, help me with my manners". This Saturday, your paint is important. Your manners are more important. The attitude with which you go up and down with the brush is more important than the brush itself. Are you following me, everybody? It's our manner. What kind of manners? Positive not negative. I'm so sick of the negativism in this world, the divisiveness. I was laughing with the team. I don't do my social media. Somebody else does it. I hope that doesn't disappoint you. If you want to be social, social media is not the place for me. And everybody, the only people that comment on it are the people who want to pick everything apart and be as negative as they can.
The whole world has gone all negative, y'all. They mad about... you ever notice, they mad about everything, all the time, and you're doing it wrong, and you're... ah! You know, it's all the time. And Christians are called to be different from that. Please don't be that person who just, on that, don't do it, don't do it. Why can't you one time type, "I see where you're coming from. You've made a phenomenal point. I'm so glad I read this post. You're amazing". They'll pass out. I had a guy, one of the guys I talked to, he said, "I could never," he said, "I understand you're a Christian". He said, "I could never serve a God who sends people to hell". I said, "Me neither". And that's why He sent his Son. See, you take the negative. "God so loved the world so much that He gave His Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die..." And he'd never had it said to him that way. "Oh, well, I guess you're right". Hey, everybody, let's bring some positive. Can I get a better amen out there?
Let's bring some positive. Common ground, not battle ground. If you look for it, you can find something you don't agree with in every person you meet. So, don't look for it. Can you find something you do agree with? Paul said to the weak, he was talking about mentally, and spiritually, and ethically weak. He said, "I just stepped right there into their world, and I became all things to all people, so that by all possible means, I might get the chance to tell them about Jesus". I had a talk with one girl who's just completely is far from God as she could possibly be, and I was looking for common ground. And she... nothing I said. The school didn't impress her. The church didn't... She didn't want to talk about it. I started talking about Serve Day. Eyes perked up. She goes, "Now, that's what the church is supposed to do".
And that's way, okay, I found it. I found the spot. And we talked for an hour about what you're going to be doing this Saturday. Look for common ground. Are you ready for this one? Their perspective, not mine. I didn't ask you to believe it. I'm asking you to understand it. Did you know that Jesus, watch this, in the four gospels, asked 307 questions. He was asked 183 questions of which he only directly answered eight. Selah. Think about that for a while. He 40 times more listened than proclaimed. What would the church look like if we 40 times... I'm not asking you to agree with it. I'm asking you to understand it. Paul was the master of it. He's a master of it. I wish I had time to teach this. And I knew I had too much today. So, I'm so sorry. I hear the music, I hear it. Just stay, we'll end on time. I promise you, I'll work it in. You'll be walking at 5 till, that's right, it's gonna happen, I promise you. I'm a pro. I've been doing this a long time, all right.
I want to teach this so bad, 'cause Paul went to a completely secular city named Athens, and he went and find a... these guys were worshiping idols everywhere, and Paul didn't say, "You idol worshipers". He didn't do that. Look what he said. "I can see you guys take your religion seriously". He complimented them on their desire to be religious. "And when I arrived, I was fascinated. I didn't agree, just", I thought, "You know what? This is very interesting". In fact, I noticed y'all worship a God, and you put on the name of the God, "THE GOD NOBODY KNOWS. So, I'm here to introduce you to him". Notice his approach. Notice his approach. Here's another one. Patience not pressing. Patience. And you don't have to get them saved in the first conversation. They don't have to come to church at the first invitation. Just be patient. I've been working on one guy for three years. He is so far from God. And he once knew the Lord, and he just decided, "It's not for me".
And so I've made every appeal. We're very, very close. I've made every appeal I could possibly make. And his last comment to me, the last time I talked to him was 9 months ago. He just said, "PC, it's so complicated. And I can't even... I know what you're trying to do, and I can't even go there". I said, "That's fine". So, I backed off. I said, "When you want to talk again, I want to be the first phone call. Please, let it be me". And I think he liked that. But I hadn't heard from him for 9 months. Two nights ago, at 11:07 I got a text. Three words: "Thinking about you". That's it. That's all he gave me. And I texted back, "I'm thinking about you, too. You want to talk sometime"? He said, "Deal".
The Bible says, "Don't get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. The Lord's servants must not quarrel, must be kind to everyone. They must be able to teach effectively and be patient with difficult people. They should gently teach those who oppose the truth. And perhaps God will change those people's hearts, and they will believe the truth". Here's the last one, and that is unconditional love not conditional. I love you unconditionally. By the way, love doesn't have to approve. It just accepts. I can accept you without approving of you. I can still... here's my fear. You don't have to... my fear is that we take what we feel about people, and they've made that where I can't reach them. But you don't have to be like them. You just have to like them.
So, it's our moment, our manner and finally we relay the message of hope to the broken world. The last verse, and we'll pray. "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord". In other words, your job is to be in love with Jesus. Okay, you got it? "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander". And that's why over the next season, I want to encourage you guys to share your story, invite people to church, love God. Listen to me. We're going to create some opportunities. We're going to pray in August and September. We're going to go after people far from God. I've asked God for thousands of people to come to know him throughout the rest of this year, and I think that's why we exist in the church. Could I hear a good amen, everybody?
Last slide is a little poem. This is what I want for you. It's a beautiful little poem. "When you enter the beautiful City," talking about heaven, "And the saved all around you appear, What joy when someone will tell you. It was you who invited me here". Let's bow for prayer:
So, Father, I did the best I can to stir your people to what's on your heart, and that's your kids, your lost kids. And God, so help us to be the kind of Christian that where our life is so attractive that they want the God that we have. And, Lord, I pray that you bless us this week, as we serve, not on Serve Day, but every day in every restaurant, at our jobs, at school, even at home, God. Let us be the kind of Christian that makes people want the God that we have. Receive this, church. Lord, I pray, God, for the anointing of salt and light. We will make things better and make things brighter, in your name.
With heads bowed, eyes closed, campus pastors come to the stage. If you're here today and say, "PC, I think you were talking to me. I need that hope, I need that life". Maybe you're here today, and like my story, you've been in church, but you've never met God, or maybe you're a Christian, and you've wandered away from God, and you're ready to come home. I'm not gonna have you stand up or come to the front, but it would be the honor of my life to pray a prayer with you right there where you're seated. But I think it takes courage and conviction and faith to say, "That's me".
At every location, even if you're watching online, there's a place for you to basically, online, raise your hand and let us know, if you're here today and say, "Count me in that closing prayer, I'm surrendering my life to Jesus right now," put your hand up as high as you can, say, "Count me in that prayer". Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. All over, lift it up and leave it up. Let me just see it all over this room. Thank you, thank you. Way up at the top, God bless you. Thank you. God bless you. Thank you back there in the back. God bless you. This is awesome. It's awesome. Slip those hands down just for a minute. And anybody who hears my voice can pray this prayer. Just whisper these words straight to heaven and say:
Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross and paying for what I did. I receive your forgiveness and your love. I make you the Lord of my life, which means you take control. I give you my life, everything. I believe you're the Son of God. I believe you died and rose again, and today I put my faith in you. In your name I pray. (And everybody said a good...) Amen.