Stepping Out of Our Comfort Zone to Love the Lord and Love the People
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Today I ended my sermon saying that the evidence of joyful trust in the Lord is not just experiencing an abundant, eternal life for ourselves. The evidence of joyful trust is reflected in a willingness to take risks to step out in faith and courage to love others as Jesus loved us—sacrificially laying down our lives in service of others.
This winter and spring, we spent 20 weeks immersing ourselves in Romans, which is an expanded account of the good news of Jesus Christ. I hope that many gained a greater understanding and appreciation for all that is true of those of us who have been saved by grace through faith in Christ alone.
Joyful, confident trust can grow as we become assured that we have been forgiven of our sin and received the presence and power of the Holy Spirit who is transforming us into the image of Christ. We really are living in the kingdom of God right here, right now. We have nothing to fear, so we can step out in faith to love and serve the Lord and the people!
This can take many forms as we live out our vocations—loving and caring for our families, caring for friends and neighbors and others whom God puts into our lives, generously giving our resources to the mission of the church and needs of so many, faithfully doing our work for the glory of God and the good of others.
Another way that may be less comfortable for some of us is sharing the good news of Jesus not only in deed but with our words. If we are honest, this is something many of us fear. Maybe we fear not being able to do it well or answer questions that may arise. Perhaps we fear being judgmental or appearing intolerant. Or it may be that we simply fear what other people will think of us. The truth is, fear reflects a lack of joyful trust in God. What can we do to transform our fear to faith?
Sharing the good news in word is a practical place to apply what I said today. If we do have fear, then we need to name it for what it is and understand the reason for it. Then we can choose to fix our eyes on Jesus and what he did and focus our minds on the truth of his word in order to allow the Spirit to transform us. We can talk to God honestly in prayer asking for his help and trusting him to change us.
As we grow in our appreciation of the goodness of the gospel message and the glory of our God and all he has done and continues to do for us, the Spirit will transform our minds, emotions, and will. As he does this, the Lord transforms our fear to faith. We become the kind of people who love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves.
The conclusion of Romans (chapters 12-16) makes clear that we are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices as we love the Lord and love others in his name. Many of us know that we are called to be witnesses to Jesus in this world. Yet research shows that most of us are reluctant to actually talk about our faith to others. But we can’t wait until we have no fear. We really can choose to be courageous in stepping out to share the gospel.
I think in this regard, many people view themselves as spectators watching others play the game of living and serving in the kingdom of God: “It’s not my responsibility. I do other things in the body of Christ.” But in truth, there are no spectators in the kingdom. We all are in the game, so to speak. And the ball (the good news of the gospel) has been passed to us by Christ himself.
So what are you going to do with it? What are you going to do now that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been entrusted to you? Denying it’s in our hands, standing still, dropping the ball, or doing nothing are options but not good or faithful ones. God equips and empowers us to be fully engaged in his work in the world. We simply need to step out in confident, courageous, joyful trust.
I want to challenge each of us to get in the game of not only living but sharing the good news, not only in deed but also in word. One very concrete action step to loving the Lord and loving the people would be participating in the upcoming Gospel Communication 101 on Mondays, July 13, 20, & 27. Zoom Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87063012183
Jim Singleton, a long-time pastor, seminary professor, and friend of Pastor Pete, will lead us in this three-week series: Your Story, The Story, and Their Story. His aim is to increase our comfort and understanding in a way that will reduce our uneasiness or even fear and give us handles on how to talk about the good news.
This really is an opportunity to engage in our mission of becoming more like Christ together for the world. My hope and prayer is that we as a church will choose to make time to allow the Holy Spirit to deepen our commitment and better equip us to participate in the work of Christ in the world.