We are finishing up our series called GIVE this week. Brief review. We started by GIVING THE MANGER ANOTHER LOOK because in the manger we see the GIFT of God in our Savior Jesus Christ who gives forgiveness, eternal life and everlasting peace. Then, last week Pastor Zeratsky reminded us that this message of Hope is the greatest gift that we can give. If you remember he challenged us to make that our New Year’s Resolution: to spend 2018 giving the message of hope to others.
That’s great…but…to whom?
Because sometimes you don’t know who to give a gift to. It’s like that period after Christmas when you survey the gifts that you have and there’s that one gift – that one gift that you just can’t wait to regift. Maybe it’s the Nose Flute or Bacon Flavored Candy Canes or scented candle number 17. You don’t want it, but you aren’t really sure who would want it…so you scour Facebook and look through your address book unto you find Crazy Uncle Lou and look – his birthday is coming up in March!
The message of Jesus is a gift that’s meant to be regifted.
Who are you going to REGIFT it to?
Today our goal is to do a few things (1) learn who to give the Gospel to and (2) get some tips for sharing it. Before we begin, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Who to Give the Gift To
The lesson comes from Isaiah 60. It says this, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.” This is an imperative from God. It’s a command. Specifically, a command to the His people – us. “Arise! Shine!” Or the more modern version: “Get off the couch, stop watching Netflix and get back to sharing my message!!!” God is urgent. God implores us to be urgent. God implores us to do this now.
Why? “Darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples…” (v.2) This is not a literal darkness. Go ahead. Look outside. There isn’t a blackout now, nor was there a blackout in Israel at the time of this writing.
It’s a spiritual darkness. And it’s a BIG Program.
Did you see the weather charts this week? The charts were filled with a different shade of blue to reflect how cold it was throughout the country. In fact, the blue just seemed to cover the entire United States – especially a deep, dark blue up in in the Midwest.
If there was a weather chart showing where this spiritual darkness has covered people, it would look just like that weather map! Across the United States, into Canada, down to Mexico.
Anywhere there are people – there are people covered in spiritual darkness.
People who cannot see the Way to heaven.
People who don’t know who God is or where to find him.
People who have had their eyesight obscured and they cannot find forgiveness and peace.
People who need Jesus.
And that’s where you come in! Because “Darkness covers the earth, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.” This is originally a reference to Israel. Jesus was born a Jew. The message about him started in Israel. It was first vocalized to a bunch of shepherds “out in some fields nearby Bethlehem.”
But the message has left Israel.
It has made its way across the ocean.
It’s in Raleigh.
Dear believer, it’s in you.
Think about it. You were in darkness, but now you have the Light.
And it’s awesome.
Maybe you remember what that’s like:
To catch the first glimpses of the way to heaven.
To find light in the midst of a very dark time.
To see your Savior revealed for the very first time.
To know the peace and forgiveness that you’ve always searched for.
You have the Light. It’s Jesus! Now God implores you – share that light because there are people everywhere who need that light! And God is very serious about bringing that light to all people.
Backtrack about 2000 some years ago. Jesus had just been born in Bethlehem. But we’re not in Bethlehem. We’re hundreds of miles to the east.
A couple of guys – probably older – are taking their nightly look up into the sky. They’re chatting about life. About their favorite sports teams. About whether or not they should order a pizza for later that night, when suddenly,
“Hey? Did you see that?”
“Something…up there. It’s different.”
“Over there? That’s just Orion’s belt.”
“No, no. Over there? It’s new. It’s bright.”
The man rushes over to the table and rolls out a chart. He looks up. He looks down. He looks up. He looks down. He looks up and squints, then looks down and using a compass. It continues until…
“Aha! Look. It’s different. Something. Different. A star. A new star. Some kind of NEW incredible celestial event!”
The others look down at the chart.
Then, up at the sky.
Then, at one another.
Until one of them thinks out loud – “You don’t suppose…”
Another rushes over to a large chest. He opens it up and rifles through the scrolls found within like a bunch of wrapping paper rolls after Christmas. Until final, he stops. He brings one over to the group. He unfurls it.
“A star will rise out of Judah, a scepter will rise from Israel.” Numbers 24:17
That star? It’s the star of the Messiah. If we follow its light, we will find THE Light.
And so they do. They pack up. They load the camels. They set off on a journey. They travel miles. They travel months. They travel years. All the while, the star thing? It keeps moving. It keeps guiding them. It keeps showing them with its LIGHT the way to THE Light.
Until eventually, it stops over Bethlehem. No longer a stable, but a house.
And… On coming to the house, they saw the child Jesus with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. (v.10)
God cared so much about getting the message of the Light to those wise men from way out east – not even Israelites-- to see the Light that He intervened in the natural order of things and created a miraculous, traversing, celestial sphere to unmistakably guide them to Jesus!
God still wants that message to get to people everywhere.
Only he doesn’t use a star anymore.
Now? God will be using – you.
II. Tips on Giving the Gift
That’s what “Arise and Shine” means. It means “Go and share the message of Jesus with the world.”
That might sound a bit intimidating. You might think, “how am I supposed to get the message of Jesus across the world to Timbuktu?” You don’t need to think so big. God doesn’t require any one of us to single handedly share the message of the Gospel with all people everywhere. Remember – He’s the One behind the message. He’s the One getting it to all corners of the earth through the many stars – aka believers – that he places throughout the world.
You don’t need to bring the message to everybody.
But… you do need to shine in the part of the sky God puts you.
Look at the rest of this section from Isaiah 60 – there are a few hints for how to go about “shining” and bringing the message of Jesus to others.
1. Look Up
Because it is so easy to think, “who do I possibly know to share Jesus with?” For some reason, we tend to get this picture of people in African tribes far away or Tibetan colonies with malnourished children as the only ones who need to hear the Gospel. (And to be fair they do). But you know people who lives much closer to you than that who need to hear the Gospel.
See what it says in verse 4, “Lift up your eyes and look about you: All assemble and come to you…” Originally this is a reference to Israel. They are the one in whom Jesus first shows up and when he does – all eyes turn toward the city to learn about him!
But Jesus no longer lives in Jerusalem.
Now Jesus lives within you.
If Jesus is living in you, people will notice and come to you.
Look up. Pay attention. Don’t miss it.
That mommy playdate where your friend asks, “You really do seem to have it all together. Why is it?” Look up. Share Jesus.
That buddy who asks what you are doing this Sunday. Look up. Share Jesus.
That child who says they are sorry for doing that wrong thing. Look up. Share Jesus.
The teen who confesses that they hate themself and don’t think anyone could love them. Look up. Share Jesus.
That coworker with tear filled eyes who shares with you that her boyfriend broke up with her and its making her feel unloved. Look up. Share Jesus.
That brother who’s having a beer with you and laments that things aren’t so right in his life – what is he missing? Look up. Share Jesus.
That guy at the coffee shop who looks a bit cold and a bit rough and seems like he is in need of a friend. Don’t miss it. Look up. Share Jesus.
2. Think Multi-culturally
Because it is so easy for us to be under the impression that the only people we will be good at sharing the Gospel with are those people who look and act exactly like us. If that were the case, I’d be preaching to a group of middle aged white males who enjoy Doritos a bit more than they should.
But our commission from God is not just to teach the Gospel to those who look like us, but those who don’t look like us too. Verse six implies that very truth. Look at how multicultural it is: “Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come.” Those wise men weren’t from Israel. They are from the East. Arabia? India? China? Who knows? But they weren’t Israelites searching to hear the message from more Israelites. It’s a multicultural vision, stirred on by God’s Almighty hand, proving God’s desire to bring this message to many.
God’s point to you: Don’t just sit around waiting for people who look just like you to share the message of Jesus to. Share it with those who look different.
But Pastor. I really don’t know that many people who are different culture than me. I really don’t know that anybody else lives in our cul de sac of a different culture. We all have the same color houses as the H.O.A. told us and we all have the same color of brown in our skin.
If that’s the case, here’s a challenge for you – don’t just think multiculturally, but live multiculturally.
Did you know Raleigh is diverse? According to the last U.S. Census, Raleigh was only 55% Caucasian – and that’s all different types of Caucasians – with a plethora of African Americans, Asian Americans, Latino Americans and others. Another interesting stat – only 41% of people in Raleigh grew up in NC! 13% are from outside the United States.
You don’t have to take my statistical word for it. Drive up and down Falls of Neuse. Keep your eyes open. There are people of all different cultures and backgrounds all around. Look at the food. By my house there’s a Vietnamese Noodle shop that opened up near the Japanese Sushi place next to the Puerto Rican Latin Quarters across from the Italian and Mexican restaurants. And I’ll never forget the time I was canvassing through the apartment complex over on Sandy Forks and in the same day I had the opportunity to speak with a refugee from Iran, greet a family from Iraq, converse with two sisters from Nigeria, make jokes with a man from Mexico, learn about a Japanese grandfather and have tea with a group of about 12 from Tibet.
Raleigh is global. There are people of all cultures who need to hear the message of Jesus. But how can you bring it to them if you don’t go near them.
So, here’s the challenge. This week – Live Multiculturally. That is look for opportunities to converse with someone who looks a bit different from you. Maybe they’re at Food Lion – maybe they are at Walmart. It doesn’t matter. Say a prayer – have confidence in God’s blessings and make conversation.
Or maybe you know someone like that who lives on your block. Pack up some Christmas cookies and go next door to greet them and wish them a good 2018.
Or maybe you know someone like that at work – ask them to grab lunch with you and YOU pick up the tab.
Live Multiculturally. Think multiculturally so that you can shine multiculturally.
3. Share What Enlightens You
And what will I share Pastor? Simple. Share what enlightens you. That was the call to arms from Isaiah. The people are in darkness, But the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. You know Jesus is the Savior. You know about his forgiveness. You know about the peace that his grace has given you with God.
It’s not that hard. Let me ask you – What’s that on the wall? (A cross). Who was on it? (Jesus.) What happened to him? (He died) Why? (To take away my sins.) And what happened three days later on Easter? (he came back to life.) And what does he promise will happen to all who believe in him? (They will live with him in Heaven!)
Your kids know the answer.
You know the answer. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Speak the truths that God has spoken to you!
And don’t be afraid.
Don’t’ be nervous about messing up.
Don’t be nervous about what you’ll say. Remember the promise: “The LORD rises upon you.” Because God literally has risen upon you. His message hit your ears, the Holy Spirit worked on your heart and he is with you wherever you go.
And he will be with you when you share the message of Jesus.
4. Have Fun!
Because it really is a blast to watch God transform people’s lives through the message of salvation in Jesus. In fact, that’s exactly what Isaiah describes: Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy (v.5)
It’s kind of like what happens when you show someone your favorite movie. (Have you ever done that?) Usually you set the scene. You get some popcorn, you turn down the lights. You give them a comfy pillow. Then, you sit down to watch – but you aren’t watching them. You turn your head towards them and you watch to see if they laugh at all of the jokes that you laugh at. (This happens to my wife and I all of the time. I had to keep rewinding and showing Julianna scenes a 2nd or 3rd time because obviously you missed it – that was hilarious!)
We love to share movies with people because it gives us joy to see them joyful!
How much more with the message of Jesus! I’ll tell you it is one of the coolest things in the world to watch someone “get it”, to watch them “see”, to watch them step out of darkness into God’s Wonderful light.
Case and point – Roberta. Roberta was at Brighton Gardens Retirement Home. She wasn’t one of the residents there…she was a worker. In fact, she wasn’t even supposed to be listening – she was supposed to be working. To be honest, she didn’t get to hear all of the little service that I do there on Mondays. I didn’t look at her more than once – as a passing acknowledgement…
…but something afterwards was up. She came to talk with me. She looked distraught. She told me about how her 1st husband and she got divorced. She told me about how he had hurt her. She told me about her second husband and how he had just left her, and she suspected infidelity. She told me about how hard it was to raise a son by herself. She told me about how she felt depressed and unloved and alone.
And I got nervous as I listened.
And I got frightened.
And I remembered: “Arise. Shine.”
Roberta, there is one man who loves you.
There is one man who will never leave you.
One man who – when we left him – went to a cross and died --- giving up his life for you.
Because of him.
You aren’t alone.
You aren’t unloved.
You are forgiven.
And I smiled.
What a privilege!
Brothers and sisters – Arise; shine; for your light has come and thick darkness is covering the peoples.
Arise; shine; share the message of Jesus -- #GatherToTheGarden. Amen.