I remember when Karen and I first moved into a home together. When we got married we were in a little church parsonage apartment at our former church. It was fine for me – a nice bachelor pad, complete with a stacked washer and dryer right next to the refrigerator in the kitchen – but it was a bit cramped for the two of us, especially since right next door the church had a single family home parsonage. After four months in the apartment, we made the move and began to set up house. At the time I wouldn’t exactly describe myself as a handyman. An ambitious project for me back then was to hang a picture with two nails and make it reasonably level. Aside from painting rooms and doing one floor refinishing project, there was very little we did in that parsonage. It was a great place to stay, and we made it homey, but it wasn’t ours.
Our perspective changed in a big way when God called us here to Redland and we bought our first home almost 8 years ago. Suddenly we had a home that was ours. Well, mostly the bank’s, but still ours as homeowners. Karen and I found ourselves refinishing cabinets and putting in tile floors. We installed a nice patio and put down wood floors. Rooms were redone. Closets were framed out. Lights and outlets were put in or replaced. Doors were installed. And my collection of tools grew from a little two-drawer chest to a modest work room. My ability to hang a level picture is still in question, but if it’s hung poorly I can at least build a closet around it.
What changed for us? You might want to say it was that I started collecting more tools, or you might point out that over time I learned more skills; but those were symptoms of the home improvement change rather than the cause. You might suggest that after a couple of years of marriage, my charming personality alone wasn’t enough for Karen and that the atmosphere needed some improvement. That’s surely part of it, but the real difference for us was that we went from a place that wasn’t ours to a home that was ours. It was permanent. It belonged to us. Any changes we made to it were for our benefit, including a better price when we sold it a couple years ago. We had the mindset of owners rather than renters.
It would be foolish to rent a home or apartment and also invest thousands in renovations. You’d probably get in trouble with the owner anyway, but regardless, all of your investment would be lost when you moved. This is just common sense.
Here’s some more common sense that we believe from the Bible: We know from God’s word that for Christians after this life on earth we have eternal life to look forward to with God. In other words, after these 80 or so swings around the sun when we eventually pass away, there will be unlimited swings around the sun that we will have to enjoy life with God! Or to put it another way, we’re all physically renters right now. Spiritually, we are owners. The question is whether we are investing in our rented space – our earthly life – or in our owned space – our heavenly, eternal life.
So today as we wrap up we will talk about this task of sharing our faith and how it aligns with God’s vision for us. We’ll see a faith sharing lifestyle is doable – you can do it! – that it’s necessary, and that it truly is beneficial. It’s good for us, and it’s good for others. In the Gospel of Luke we find an event so powerful that it caused some of Jesus’ followers to focus on eternal ownership rather than temporary rental. Jesus had a vision for these men, and it was much bigger than their own visions for themselves. That is true for us, too. Jesus’ vision for us points us to eternity. We are going to call this, “grander vision living,” as Bill Hybels does in his book. Turn to Luke 5. We will read verses 1-11.
Today we finish up a four week series on evangelism that our pastor, Mark Adams has been teaching us. Pastor Mark is away with 16 other Redlanders on the Kenya mission trip, so today I am finishing the series with a broad, exciting look at what awaits us when we live out the name of this series and “just walk across the room” to share our faith. Our goal through this series is simply this: That you have become encouraged to share your faith more. That means that you feel a greater sense of urgency that it needs to be done. It means that as you remember the impact of the gospel message in your own life you want to see it impact others, too. It means that you take an honest look at yourself and ask whether you are investing more energy into this temporary, rented life or into your permanent, spiritual life. If we live by Jesus’ vision for us, those investments will go toward eternity. Let’s read Luke 5:1-11:
One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Grander vision living prioritizes people
I don’t know about you, but the major shifts in my life have taken a fair amount of planning, so this about face on the part of these disciples is a big deal! They pulled up their boats and simply walked away. But that’s the point. Peter, James, and John were faced with such a monumental shift that what was once appealing to them – what was once their livelihood, their bread and butter – no longer even mattered. Jesus had a vision for their lives that was far grander than their own had ever been. His vision for ours is no less grand. This first lesson became abundantly clear to the disciples. Grander vision living prioritizes people. Listen to what Bill Hybels writes about this moment as he imagines what Jesus’ larger conversation with the disciples might have been like:
Hey, guys! You think that was something? You think netting a bunch of scaly underwater creatures was fun? Try thinking a grander thought for a second. . . . Listen, how about multiplying the fun-factor you experienced in the last few minutes by about a thousand! Not that there’s anything wrong with catching fish. I know you’re trying to earn a living, and taking fish to market day in and day out to earn a few dollars is as good a way as any. But instead of netting a few dollars, just imagine landing a few destinies.
The disciples’ own destinies were involved, too. Their investment strategy went from this rented life to their permanent ownership. Hybels mentions a “fun-factor” in the miracle, and there was certainly more amazement that you can pack into a roller coaster, but I doubt Peter ever described this event as “fun.” If we really want to get at the heart of what happened that day, then we need to look at Peter’s reaction. Before he followed Jesus, he asked him to leave. The catch of fish made Peter aware of his own sin before a holy God. The nets may have been breaking, but Peter was broken. The boats were nearly capsized, but Peter had sunken. Jesus had broken through in his life.
Many of us have had moments when Jesus broke through, showing us that his vision for us was much grander than our own. It can start with some of the simplest things. For Peter it involved nets overflowing with fish. For me it involved a scoop of mashed potatoes a boy served me at camp. It helped me see that God could use me, and it drove me to my knees. For some it may have been a car accident or a medical diagnosis. For others maybe it was the birth of a child or a position change at work. Has that happened to you? If it hasn’t, ask God to break through and show you that grander vision to live.
The effort to share our faith is a direct result of an eternal perspective on life. You can net dollars, or you can land destinies. We know that God drew those fish into the disciples’ net. But we need to know that God still draws fish into nets. You just need to lower them into the water. You just have to walk across the room. Open your mouth. Then step back.
The point is that sharing our faith is doable. You can do it! Your job is not to get fish into the net. You job is just to lower the net. Sometimes people talk about sharing their faith, and it brings up the spiritual gift of evangelism. Some people use an argument that goes something like this: “I do not have the spiritual gift of evangelism; therefore I do not have to share my faith.” This is interesting, by the way, because we don’t use this excuse with other gifts, do we? We don’t hear people say, “I can’t be an usher. I don’t have the gift of service,” or, “I don’t put money in the offering, because I don’t have the spiritual gift of giving.” No, there are things we do as Christians regardless of whether we have additional gifting in that area. If you have taken a spiritual gift survey in the past, you have probably seen evangelism on that list. There are some people who question whether evangelism should be on that list, though.
Ed Stetzer is one of those people. Stetzer is pretty well known in the North American church scene as an author, pastor, and church planting strategist. While the office of evangelist is listed as a position in Ephesians, the other passages on spiritual gifts do not list evangelism. He notes often seeing a quote that is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, which you might know, too. “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.” Stetzer doesn’t like this quote, because, Francis never said it and it isn’t biblical. He has no problem agreeing with the need to live as Christians so that our actions line up with God’s word, but his point is that the Bible is filled with the command for all of us to share the gospel, using words. As a comparison, Ed Stetzer asks us to evaluate the saying, “Feed the hungry; when necessary, use food.” Feeding the hungry only makes sense when using food, and sharing the gospel only makes sense when proclaiming it with actual words.
Although Ed Stetzer doesn’t think evangelism is a spiritual gift, I want you to know that I emphatically do think it is (and I think he would agree with the point). I believe that evangelism is a gift that was given to all of us. The moment that you surrendered your life to Christ so that you could begin investing in what was permanent rather than temporary, you were given the gift to share that same destiny-shaping message with others. Sure, some might have it in fuller measure that we would recognize, but that doesn’t change the fact that the same power of God that changed your life can change the lives of others through you. That is a gift!
Grander vision living fuels faith
This gift is one that benefits you the more you use it, too. Karen and I have made that transition where we tend to ask for practical gifts for Christmas or birthdays now. I have to say, it’s great! My wife actually asked for a vacuum cleaner for Christmas one year. Gifts that result in clean floors are wonderful. Imagine how I felt when she asked for cupcake tins. It’s probably similar to how she felt when I asked for the electric smoker so I could make delicious, smoked meats. Have you ever asked for a gift that was more on the helpful side of life? The joy in those gifts is that they help us to accomplish something and sometimes better our lives.
That’s how it is with sharing our faith. Living with an eternal perspective – that grand vision living that seeks to impact destinies – has an incredible impact on our spiritual lives. Grander vision living fuels faith. As a matter of fact, I will go so far as to say that in almost every case a person’s witness is directly correlated to the vibrancy of their faith. You show me a person who has been a Christian for more than two weeks and is thrilled, excited, and growing in their faith, and I am positive you will find that they are actively sharing their faith with others. And if you find a person who knows all the facts but is going through a dry period or going through the motions, then you are sure to find someone who hasn’t been sharing their faith. Evangelism is like Miracle Gro sprinkled onto our spiritual lives.
People who regularly share their faith actively will pray more fervently; God’s word becomes more alive to them; they are more open to the needs around them and in their family; they look at life differently; they feel more alive; their focus is eternal. Does that sort of thing sound appealing to you? I know that during the most vibrant spiritual seasons of my life I have embraced that grand vision living and sought to impact eternity. Those have also been the most important seasons in my life. And then the dry seasons in my life have been marked with a profound absence of faith sharing and an increased focus on things that don’t really matter. I’m more selfish than usual, inwardly focused, and easily irritated. Can you relate to that?
Last month I took a trip down to Florida to visit with my sister and her family. On the flight back I was blessed to enjoy one of those seats on the plane that gave me a person to speak with on either side of me! As I enjoyed the cramped sensation of my own elbows touching each other, I had a very good conversation with a woman who happens to live in Olney and works in Bethesda. We chatted off and on throughout the flight, which had a significant amount of turbulence. During one very bumpy stretch of air, knowing that I was a pastor, the woman remarked that it was a good thing she was next to someone who had a direct line to God. I was able to tell her that she had the same access I have. I invited her to participate in our upcoming churchwide yard sale, thinking that might be a good entry point for her to get connected to people at Redland. After we parted ways, I found myself praying for her and others. There was a vibrancy to it. That vibrancy happens whenever I share my faith, and it can fuel your own faith when you share yours, too.
“Start small…but start.”
What we are talking about today might look simple, but it feels difficult. Bill Hybels describes an annual Christmas Eve party he holds. Most of the people he invites are non-Christians. Many of those have never shown any interest in spiritual things, while the other non-Christians attend his church every now and then. Hybels adds a third group, a small cluster of growing Christians from his church. They know they are attending the party with a mission in mind. Hybels writes why the parties went so well:
The single greatest reason that the party was such a success was because the Christ-followers I’d invited…did exactly what Christ wants all of his followers to do: they took a walk across the room…When [they] first arrived, they gathered in little…circles, safely huddling together…But then, after about twenty minutes, it happened – and I was so proud of them when it did. One by one, they looked around the room and started excusing themselves from each other’s company…And then slowly they turned and walked…I knew how fast their hearts were beating, how dry their mouths were becoming, how curious they were about what would take place once they said, “Hi.” The discussions instantly began to light up. I was so grateful that the Spirit was opening doors!
These Christians were willing to make an investment in eternity. They weren’t experts at it, but I think they would give this advice: “Start small…but start.” If we want to be good at sharing our faith, we have to be willing to start sharing it. A person who is out of shape is nowhere near ready to run a marathon, but if they are willing to go to the track, they can complete a lap around it.
We have made an opportunity for you to take that first step and make that start. On April 8 we are renting out a theater showing for the movie, The Case for Christ. If you are looking for a good step to take, a good first start, this could be it. Hopefully you have heard the soft whisper of the Holy Spirit giving you a name or two of people whom you could invite to see this movie with you. Invite them. Watch it with them. Then talk about it together. I have invited a couple people to the movie with me, including the woman I met on the plane. We are praying for a packed theater and numerous follow-up conversations afterward. Take that Saturday and invest it in the eternal rather than the temporary.
Here’s what we can know about sharing our faith. First, sharing our faith is doable. This is something that you can do! Remember, you don’t have to direct the fish; you only have to lower the net. Be a willing mouthpiece that gives God a chance to work though you. Second, sharing our faith is beneficial. If you want a quick jolt in your faith, just share it. It helps you in your faith, and it can impact the eternity of someone else. Third, sharing our faith is necessary. We talked about evangelism being a gift for all of us. It’s a great invitation! But it’s also a command. God has taken the most important message and entrusted it to us. This reminds me of a book by Dwight Robertson. The title is You are God’s Plan A: There Is No Plan B.
Carrying out that Plan A is what happens when we embrace Grander Vision living. Our faith is fueled, and people do become the priority. In the late 1930’s the nation of Germany was aggressively expanding in Europe. It became a time of terror for the Jewish people there, whose rights were slowly stripped away. As we now know, this led to the horrific genocide of 6 million Jews at the hands of the Nazis. Yet we don’t hold contempt for every member of the Nazi Party. There was one man, Oskar Schindler, whose heroic efforts to save as many Jewish people as he could was made into the movie Schindler’s List in 1993. Schindler’s ceramics factory became a haven for over a thousand Jews. Since their wages were set by the government, Schindler initially hired them because they were cheaper labor than the Polish. But over time, his perspective shifted from away from the temporary, and it affected the destinies of his workers. He committed his vast resources to protecting the Jewish people, and those efforts cost him ever increasing bribes to officials to look the other way instead of carrying out execution orders. Eventually, Schindler was penniless, and the war was over.
There is a clip of the movie that is worth watching. It shows Schindler lamenting not that he was out of money but that he hadn’t saved just one more person. “I could have gotten one more,” he said, “And I didn’t.” Suddenly the other things in life no longer matter when what is most important is revealed. We have the same perspective change when we start living for the permanent over the temporary; when people become the priority. Are you willing to take that step across the room? Are you willing to begin altering destinies?
 Hybels, Bill. Just Walk Across the Room, p 173.
 Hybels, Bill. Just Walk Across the Room, pp 198-199.