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James Merritt - I Couldn't Care More

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    James Merritt - I Couldn't Care More

Why is that somewhere between 90% and 95% of believers have never shared their faith in Jesus with anybody? Never. Not one time ever shared their faith with anybody. Now I've thought a lot about it. Wracked my brain. Why is it that so many followers of Jesus never share Jesus with anybody? And I've come to the conclusion, I think, the greatest problem of all is motivation, because regardless of the source of motivation, be it love, guilt, or fear, I've learned in my life and you know this is true when your motivation reaches a certain level, when your motivation reaches a trigger point, you'll do what you're motivated to do, and actually, you'll do even more sometimes than you're motivated to do. The best book that's ever been written will never be read unless you're motivated to open it, and the best message that's ever, ever been heard will never be heard unless you're motivated to share it.

Now the reason why the early church 2,000 years ago exploded in growth and multiplied across countries and across continents, it wasn't because they had money, they didn't; it wasn't because they had influence, they didn't; it wasn't because they had buildings, they didn't; it wasn't because they had resources, they didn't; they didn't even have a Bible like we do, but the reason why the early church exploded is because people who were transformed by Jesus were motivated to share with other people how they can also be transformed by Jesus. It's what I call the X factor in the growth of the church. That's the series we're in right now. We're calling this the X factor, 'cause I believe it is the missing factor in so many churches, so many lives of individual believers.

Now Bruce mentioned a moment ago that our mission statement is to point people to Jesus and to inspire them to live the cross-shaped life. I want us to be a church that prays for and pursues and practices sharing the gospel with people who are far from God. So, let me just tell you what I'm going to do. I wanna kinda be up front with you. Over the next three weeks I'm going to do everything I know to do. I'm gonna pull out every trick I've got in my book. I'm gonna fire, and I mean this metaphorically, I'm gonna fire every bullet I've got in my gun to motivate us to be the X factor that can take our church to another level and to take individually believers to another level in leading other people to experience what we call life beyond belief.

Now we're gonna do this by doing something that's gonna really help you. At the end of this series, we're gonna put a tool into your hands that is so simple, it is so reproducible, it is so easy to use, we're gonna teach children to use it. Every one of our children are gonna learn how to use this tool. Our middle schoolers are gonna learn how to use it. Our high schoolers gonna learn how to use it. Our adults are going to learn how to use it. However, the best tool in the world is useless if you're not motivated enough to use it. It all comes back to motivation. Now there was a man by the name of Paul. He was, by all accounts, the most motivated, the most celebrated, and the most prolific sharer of the gospel that the world has ever seen. And the reason is he had the X factor. He had that X factor that gave him a passion and a motivation, and the reason why he had it and what drove him is found in a letter that he wrote to a bunch of Christians who live in Rome.

If you brought a copy of God's Word today we're gonna be looking at a passage in the Book of Romans. It's in the New Testament, six books in the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans. We're in Romans chapter 9. Now what Paul is gonna tell us today, what this man says is absolutely so amazing. If it was not in the Bible, I wouldn't believe it. If anybody but Paul had said it I'm not sure I would believe it, and I just wanna tell ya I'm not going to be upset with you if you find it hard to believe either, because what Paul does is he raises three questions that I want all of us to ask ourselves this morning, and it will tell you all you need to know about your motivation when it comes to the X factor. When you answer these three questions, you will then know whether your attitude is one of two, and there's always two.

Too many of us have this attitude deep down that says, "I really couldn't care less whether anybody comes to know Jesus or not". And then there's the other attitude that says, "You know, I couldn't care more whether people come to know Jesus or not". And if you don't know where you are on that spectrum, all I want you to do today is answer three questions. Okay, I wanna do a little mind game with you today. When I put these things up on the screen, these points, I want you to imagine that you're not looking at me, imagine you're looking at a gigantic mirror. So, you're looking at yourself, and you're talking to yourself, so when I put these three things up on the screen here as we go along, I want ya to ask yourself this question. So, pretend, "I'm looking at a mirror, I'm talking to myself and I'm asking myself this question," alright? Here we go. Number one, first question: Am I conscientiously aware of people without Jesus? Am I conscientiously aware of people without Jesus?

Now, Paul makes an unusual statement. As a matter of fact, it's so unusual, you know that Paul wrote more the New Testament anybody else, right? He wrote more books than anybody else. You read everything he wrote in the New Testament, he makes a statement in this chapter. He never, ever makes it anywhere else again. Now listen to what he says in verse 1. He said, "I speak the truth in Christ, I am not lying". Paul never does that. Paul just assumes that everything else he wrote that you know he's a man of integrity, he's a man of his word, and what he says is true or he believes it to be true. And yet in this instance he feels like he's gotta say, "Look, now I want you to know something, I'm a go get out in front here, I wanna defend what I'm about to say. I'm telling ya you're gonna find it hard to believe, you're gonna shake your head, you're gonna be very cynical, but I want you to know I am not lying".

As a matter of fact, he says it negatively, he says it positively. He says, "Look, I am telling you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I am not lying". And what he's about to do, he's about to share how desperate he is and how burdened he is that his Jewish brothers and Jewish sisters and his Jewish family come to faith in Jesus Christ. And to make sure that you're gonna believe what he's about to say, he goes on to say this, he said, "My conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit". He says, "Listen, what I'm about to say to you I'm telling you, I've got a clear conscience of what I'm telling you. I know I'm telling the truth. I want you to know that I'm telling the truth. I really do have the kind of burden for people without Jesus that I'm talking about such a great burden, my conscience is clear, alright"? The mirror's going back up, ready? Ask yourself this question: "If I really said I have a burning passion for people without Jesus, to come to know Jesus, would I be telling the truth? Would I have a clear conscience"?

Now can I really say that and know that is true, because in the way the we live and the activities we involve ourselves in and the way we conduct ourselves, we oughta be showing unbelievers that we care about them. So, when people on the outside who just observes your everyday life, people that you live next door to, people you work with, people you play golf or fish with, people that you know. Could they look at your life on the outside and without even you really kinda trumpeting it, would they know, "You know what? You got a passion for people without Christ. You've really got a burden that someone like me comes to know Christ". So, my question is: Does your conscience right now bear witness, I mean honestly, does your conscience bear witness that you are constantly conscientiously aware of people without Christ who need Christ?

Now, Paul goes on to say this. He says in verse 2, he says, "I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart". We'll come back to this in a moment, let me just say this. Paul said, "I've got a burden on my back that I never get off. I never take it off; it never comes off. I've got a grief in my heart that never disappears, I carry it everywhere I go. I have this burden and this anguish about people without Jesus". Now, look, we've all got concerns, okay? Everybody's got concerns. I've talked to two people today that had great, great concerns. Some of us have financial concerns, some of us have physical concerns, some of us have relational concerns, some of us have emotional concerns, and some of us have political concerns, okay? I get that.

Here's my question, and I just wanna be honest. Do we really have a spiritual concern for people who are not going to spend eternity with God? Do we really have a spiritual concern for people who do not have a relationship with God and will not spend eternity with God? You know, I've got a conviction. You know what I believe oughta break our hearts more than anything else? Here's what oughta break our hearts: Whatever breaks the heart of God. Nothing breaks the heart of God like people without God. Nothing breaks the heart of God like people without God. So, the question's very simple. "Am I conscientiously aware of people without Jesus"? Are people without Jesus even on the radar screen of my heart? Ask the question, give the answer.

Second question, mirror's back up. You're asking this question: "Do I continuously care about people without Jesus"? It's one thing to be aware that people without Jesus, do I continuously care about people without Jesus? Paul's heart for people without Jesus was broken, and it stayed that way. Paul said, "You know what? The burden never leaves me. I never take a vacation, I never get a break from caring about people who are far from God". So, he says again, "I've got great sorrow," and that word "unceasing" means unceasing, it never ends, 24/7, "unceasing anguish in my heart". Paul had a concern and a care for people without God that stuck to him like superglue. It never ever went away.

Now, if you're like me, you run hot and cold, I do. I mean, it's easy, you know, I hear that testimony from that sweet little girl that gets me fired up, or we'll hear a testimony of someone that follows Christ in baptism, that gets us fired up. We'll hear a testimony of someone that was so lost, I mean, just lost as lost could be and they get saved and that gets us fired up. And then you know what? The fire goes out. We get busy with other things in life, we let other concerns get in the way and that really don't matter and we just kinda forget. You know, the most important thing about anybody we'll live next door to, anybody we're married to, anybody we're a parent of, anybody we work with, the most important thing about that person is do they know Christ or not? And we kinda lose sight of that, and listen, I'm gonna kinda meddle a little bit. It's so easy for us to think about so many things that are spiritual and it's good and they're fine, but we're thinking about all these other spiritual things and totally forgetting about all the people who are not even in a spiritual ballpark.

Now I'm telling you, it blows my mind how we can think about all these things that are spiritual and that are good and we just kinda forget about all these people that don't have a spiritual clue about anything. So, we've got people, you've seen them I know them, you may be one of them, you go to your Wednesday morning women's Bible study, you go to a men's Bible study on Friday morning or you read your Bible, or you love to read books about theology, and you love to talk about the things of God and that's all well and that's all good. And in the meantime, we're fiddling while Rome is burning. We don't even have on our radar screen these people who do not know Christ. We don't really see the forest for the trees. I believe the gospel of Jesus oughta be like a spiritual tune you can't get out of your head that it's on you all the time. And I believe that our passion for people without Jesus and our love for Jesus oughta permeate the way that we live, it oughta saturate the words that we use, it oughta infiltrate the work that we do. So, my question is, "Do I continuously care about people without Jesus"?

Third question, mirror goes up. You're asking yourself, "Will I compassionately share with people without Jesus"? Will I compassionately share with people without Jesus? Now let me just stop. I'm kinda gonna get ahead of myself here, 'cause some of you start checking out about 3 minutes. Just confession time, I'm fine, don't misunderstand. I'm not about to jump off a bridge or you know, take cyanide, it's not that. I'm good, but it gets weary as a pastor when you don't just preach your heart out, you preach your guts out and you know that there are gonna be people out there that go, "You can preach it, you can scream it, you can yell it, I'm not doing it; not gonna do it. You can tell me how great it is to read my Bible, I'm not reading it. You can tell me how God answers prayer, I'm not praying. You can tell me how it's more blessed to give than it is to receive, I'm not giving, okay"?

I'm not fussing, I'm not mad, I'm not angry. I'm just telling ya, it gets weary. This is one time I'm a do everything I can not to let anybody off the hook, nobody, 'cause you're gonna see this in a minute. I don't understand how we can look in the mirror and say, "Christ has changed my life. This life with Jesus is so rich, it is so wonderful". I've been saved since I was nine years old. I'm telling you the little song that I sung as a kid is true. Every day with Jesus is better than the day before. I fall more deeply in love with this man named Jesus every day of my life. I cannot imagine a day without Jesus, meaning and hope and purpose and joy and peace. That's what I get every day when I get up, that's what I have when I go to bed. And many of you are sitting out there saying, "Yeah, man. That's me too". Then why don't we share that with somebody else? Why don't we want them to have the same life that we have?

And that's why what Paul was about to say was so hard to believe, because what Paul was about to assert, I'm a be honest with you, if it was not in the Bible and it was not Paul who said it, I'd be the first one to say, "I don't believe that. I think you're blowing smoke. I just absolutely think you don't mean what you just said". Because what he says next is something I do believe what he meant, I just find it hard to believe that he said it, you ready? Listen to what he says in verse 3: "For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race".

Absolutely one of the most astonishing things I have ever read anywhere in Scripture. As a matter of fact, as I would study commentaries and read about Bible scholars on this passage, it would blow your mind how many Bible scholars, they twisted, they turn, they did every hermeneutical gymnastic, tried to make Paul say something that he didn't really say, because they looked at it the way I looked at it. They said, "Surely he didn't mean what he just said, or surely he didn't say what he just meant". Because here's what he said to put it very bluntly. He said, "I would go to hell if it meant my Jewish brothers and sisters would go to heaven. I would give up my relationship with Jesus if they would get a relationship with Jesus. I would give up my eternal life if they would get eternal life".

That's what he said. I mean there was nobody at that moment in time, there was nobody on planet earth that wanted Jews to accept Jesus as their Messiah and their Savior and their Lord more than he did. But you think that's amazing, let me tell you one other little factoid that makes it even more amazing. And if you don't know your Bible history, let me kinda break you in. As much as Paul loved the Jews, they hated Paul. You say, "Why"? Well, see, Paul used to be Saul, and Saul used to be the fair-haired golden boy of the Jewish race, because there was a time in his life, he not only didn't believe in Jesus, he hated Jesus. He had one goal in life, "I'm gonna stop this Christian movement in its tracks. I'm gonna kill the church if I do it with the... if it's the last thing I do. I am going to absolutely kill the church".

He became the number one persecutor, the number one prosecutor of the church. He even loved it when he could stand by and see a great man named Stephen stoned to death because he believed in Jesus. Nobody hated Jesus, nobody hated the church, nobody hated Christianity more than he did. Until he met Jesus. Jesus has a way of changing everything and I mean like that. Saul, the persecutor, the prosecutor, becomes Paul the preacher. And all of a sudden, the very Jesus that he hated is the Jesus he loved more than anything in the world. And the very message that he tried to stamp out the fire of, he began to pour kerosene on. And all of the sudden, he goes from being the Jew's best friend to public enemy number one.

As a matter of fact, it got so bad Paul would go from city to city preaching the gospel. You know what the Jews would do? They'd follow him, they'd stir up mobs, they'd get him arrested, they'd drive him outta those cities, they'd get him stoned, they'd get him beaten. They'd even send teachers in behind him to say, "What he said is not true; it's a lie. Don't believe anything that he said". You may not even know this, he had a contract out on his life. 40 Jews got together we're told in the Book of Acts and said, "We're not gonna eat anything else or drink anything else until this man is dead. 'Cause we're gonna kill him. If nothing else happens, we don't get anything else done in life, we are gonna kill this man".

All over Asia Minor there were posters hanging on trees with his picture on it. It said, "Wanted dead, forget alive". He was Benedict Arnold. Greatest traitor to Judaism to ever live. They despised him more than they despised these Pagan Gentiles. He was Lex Luthor to Superman. He was the number one arch enemy of the nation of Israel, and they finally got their wish, they finally got his head chopped off in Rome. And yet, Paul looked at these people who hated his very insides and said, "I would gladly give up my salvation if it meant your salvation. I would gladly give up my eternal life for your eternal life. I would gladly forfeit my own salvation if it would deliver you from God's condemnation".

Now, be honest, he knew what he was asking was impossible, he knew it was not possible for him to do that, and besides that he knew if he did go to hell, it wouldn't necessarily take them to heaven. The point is he was simply saying was this, "I am so conscientiously aware of people without Jesus, and I so continuously care about people without Jesus. I will do anything, I will go anywhere, I will pay any price to compassionately share with people about Jesus". Now let me just be very honest with you. I have never come to that point in my life. I'm not just gonna tell ya I have, I haven't. I've never come to the place in life where I said, "Well, yeah, I'd go to hell if it meant you'd go to heaven. I'll give up my eternal life if you'll take eternal life".

I've never done that, and I'll be honest I don't think I ever will, but I will tell you this. I want that kind of passion. I want that kind of heart. I want that kind of burden for people without Jesus, and you say, "Well, pastor how could Paul make that statement". And I wrack my brain, you know, "How could Paul make that statement"? And it hit me. You know why Paul could make a statement like that and mean it? Because he was so full of Jesus. You say, "Why? I don't get it". Paul could say it because he was so full of Jesus because that's exactly what Jesus did. Jesus took your hell so you can take his heaven. Jesus took your condemnation so you could receive his salvation. Jesus went to where he does not want us to go so that we would never have to go there.

That's exactly what Jesus did, and see unfortunately, let's just all be honest, I'm in this crowd, I'm with ya. I'm not preaching to you, I'm preaching with you and at me, you're just getting in the way. Too often I really do deep down have this attitude: "I really couldn't care less". I know this makes a lot of people uncomfortable. I understand that. It may be even enough for some of you to say, "I think I'm gonna find me another church". That's okay. This is what separates the men from the boys. This is where the rubber hits the road. This is what it's all about.

It's not about tithing, it's not about money. It's not about religion, it's not even about coming to church. It's not about any of that. It's this X factor that says you know what? I am not gonna have this attitude anymore that says I couldn't care less. God give me the attitude that says I couldn't care more. So, I'll just leave you with this. When God sent Jesus to die for us, you know what he said to you and me? "I couldn't care more about you". When Jesus Christ died on a cross, you know what he said to you and me? "I could not care more about you". And when we share it with others how they can be connected to God through Jesus Christ, you know what we're saying to them? "I could not care more about you". My question, and we're done: how can we not care more for others knowing that God could not care more for us?
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