Today we are continuing our conversation through questions and topics that were submitted to us. We have talked about loving others and valuing relationship with people who see the world differently than you and about why we should listen to Jesus, desire to please God, and follow the nudge of the Holy Spirit. We talked about connection with God. We talked about human sexuality–and the goal (what our world is asking for/needing) is to work on having valued relationships with people that believe differently than you. We talked about responsibility and boundaries. Next week we will end the series by talking about the concept of not knowing how to do “this”--anxiety tied to trying, not trying, failing, or not knowing.qi
And as we have talked through these questions and topics, I feel that sometimes there can be an expectation when a question is asked–the expectation of an answer. Sometimes it is important to meet that expectation, but…
This is something that we as the Corner Church Pastoral Team walk out with a lot of intentionality. What the pastor thinks, or what “we” think,’ or what the answer is–these things are not bad, but sometimes they may not actually help us in being a healthy body of Christ. What do you think? I don’t know, but here is what I am supposed to say. What do you believe? I don’t know, but I have to say this or I will be ostracized. What are your thoughts? I don’t know, but my world has taught me to lie in order to keep the peace. How do you live it out? I don’t know, but I know what I am expected to do, and I do my best to make people believe that I am there.
Our goal is process, not just simple answers. The process is so important–probably more important than simply having or knowing the answers. Jesus was constantly inviting people to process:
If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? (Matthew 5:46)
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.” (Matthew 6:28)
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3)
He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. (Matthew 8:26)
Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?” (Matthew 9:4)
When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Matthew 9:28)
Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3)
This is not something that Jesus did on occasion. This was the pattern we see Jesus following in the Gospels–an invitation to process.
Questions are also in the Old Testament. In Genesis 3, God asks where Adam and Eve are. My faith says He knew, but He asked, “Where are you?” In Isaiah 6, God asked, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” Here I am, send me. More invitations to process…
So, today we process! I want you to think of some of your favorite teachers in your past.
What did your favorite teachers from your personal history do in order to stand out from all the others?
One more question from our school history before we dive into our question/topic today. This is leading us to where we are going. This is not about specific teachers, but about learning.
What are some attributes of a teacher that make it hard for you to learn?
What are some attributes of a teacher that make it easy for you to learn?
Today, we are hitting on another theme that came out in our submitted questions and topics–the overarching topic of connecting others to Jesus. How do I connect non-believers to Jesus? How do I connect my children to Jesus? What is a seeker church? What is the assurance of salvation for me and for others? Why does Jesus want people to be in relationship with Him?
We started off today talking about the good and bad of teachers from our past. And in the same way, we have the opportunity to be part of the GOOD OR BAD in connecting people to Jesus.
Last week we talked about the tension between responsibility and boundaries. That conversation is key to our conversation this week. Last week we ended with these dialogue questions: What might help you better understand the motives behind your response to boundaries? How might that understanding impact your responsibilities and boundaries?
Motives for our responsibilities. Motives for our boundaries. Let’s start with an overarching motives conversation:
What are some of the long-term and short-term results of doing good things out of bad motives?
I feel the razor's edge in this. Good motives are not a requisite in doing good or in good things having positive impact. Good motives are not a requisite in growth, improvement, health, improving. And yet. Bad motives tend to turn people away from good things eventually. Bad motives have a direct impact on the good thing that is being done. And bad motives tend to be eventually found out and displayed, and that display can be painful for those that were impacted by the good things.
Jesus highlighted motives as He shared about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in the temple in Luke 18:
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)
In Luke 9, Jesus addressed motives directly. The disciples were bickering about who would be the greatest in the kingdom of Jesus:
An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.” (Luke 9:46-48)
If you want to be great, welcome, love, serve, and connect with… the least! But Jesus didn’t stop there. In the same breath in Luke, Jesus also addressed exclusivity.
“Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:49-50)
The motive of exclusivity, of power, of prestige. Motive is complex. Motive is important. We could do a whole series on motives–but not today!
So for the sake of processing, let’s talk about some of the impact of “bad” motives for connecting people to Jesus. Now, connecting people to Jesus is not bad. But that doesn’t mean that there is no potential for bad motives for doing it. And a bad motive doesn’t need to be malicious in order to necessarily be bad. It’s so complex.
There can be a paralyzing moment that says, I can't do anything that I don't have good motives for. Motives and obedience sometimes are at odds. Please don’t oversimplify this complexity. But let’s process. These questions are about a single motivator, which is very rare in the real world. But for this moment and for this processing, let’s focus on the singular motivator.
What are some of the long-term and short-term results of trying to connect people to Jesus with the sole motivation that the person connecting is fully responsible for the salvation or condemnation of others?
What are some of the long-term and short-term results of trying to connect people to Jesus with the sole motivation of trying to impress or gain status in the eyes of other followers of Jesus?
What are some of the long-term and short-term results of trying to connect people to Jesus with the sole motivation of trying to earn good standing in relationship with God by doing so?
We could go on and on.
I want to take a moment now to process how: How do we connect our closest loved ones to Jesus–our kids or our friends? How do we connect our coworkers or neighbors or communities to Jesus? Whether we’ve known them forever or we’ve just met, how do we connect people to Jesus?
The how has to be tempered with what we talked about last week–responsibility vs boundaries. It’s not easy to do.
So what is helpful? What if we look to Jesus? What did Jesus say about how to connect people to God?
In John 13, Jesus was with His disciples celebrating the Passover meal together. Passover was about celebrating or commemorating God’s delivering of His people from their slavery in Egypt. In the midst of this regimented, planned, ritual-filled meal, Jesus got up and washed the disciples’ feet.
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:12-17)
Jesus humbly served. It was not just an external action but an internal perspective. Then we jump down in the text and see Jesus giving some clear direction.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Not just love, but love as I have loved you, so they will know that you are My disciples.
Later, after Jesus’ arrest, death on the cross, burial, resurrection, and appearances to many people, He had a last-words moment before ascending into heaven.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
Make disciples. Baptize. Teach. I will be with you. Making disciples means entering into relationships to help people to trust and follow Jesus.
Let’s process. Focusing on what Jesus said, let’s dig deep into the foundational hows:
What are some key foundational hows in connecting people to Jesus?
Today we have walked through a lot of process. We could have simplified it a lot by just giving two answers: You need to connect with Christ. You need to be connecting others to Christ. Done.
But what does that do?
Today we talked about great teachers and what made them great in your eyes. We have talked about how there can be good and bad motives in connecting people to Jesus and how those motives have impact. We have talked about what Jesus told us to do. We have talked about our desire to connect with God and how that impacts how we connect others to Christ. We are going to end with two questions that are not easy.
Why do you desire to be connected to Christ?
How does your answer inform how and why you connect others to Christ?
Take It Deeper Questions
- Read John 13.
- When have you been unusually dirty? How did it happen? How did you clean up?
- What did Jesus exemplify in washing the disciples feet?
- What does it look like for you to do likewise?
- Why was Jesus’ “new command” revolutionary?
- What if He was serious about these two things: serve others as He served and love others like He loved? How are you challenged, encouraged, confused, and/or compelled?
Bible Reading Plan
- 1 Chronicles 1
- 1 Chronicles 2
- 1 Chronicles 3
- 1 Chronicles 4
- 1 Chronicles 5