Bursting the Bubble (7/16/17)

Isn’t it amazing how we enjoy blowing bubbles no matter what age we happen to be? A $1 bottle of liquid can keep us entertained for a long time. The problem with bubbles is they typically only exist for a few seconds before they pop. The interesting this is, though, that bubbles don’t burst themselves. An outside force putting pressure on the bubble service pops it.

Last week I challenged us to wrestle with whether or not we’ve ended up in a “Christian bubble.” The four main steps that take us there are:

1) We become Christians. This is a good thing.

2) We become part of the church. This too is good.

3) We become part of the Christian bubble. We quit associating with non-Christians. Evangelism is something the church does. It isn’t something we need to do. Many people start “going to church” instead of “being the church.”

4) We become Jonah. We run away from sharing the Gospel with the lost because we think they don’t deserve it.

By this point, we don’t realize we’re living in a bubble because everyone around us is living in it too. This type of faith isn’t what God wants from us. This bubble needs to burst.

Paul is writing to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:1-13. Look closely to how he says Christians should live.  “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.

11 Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”

Serving Jesus isn’t supposed to be easy or comfortable. It involves risk, helping people we’d rather ignore, giving everything to Jesus and, unfortunately, suffering.

Since Paul says we should serve Jesus as soldiers serve their commanding officers, let’s look at the hymn Onward, Christian Soldiers. The first verse says:

  1. Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before. Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe; forward into battle see his banners go! Refrain: Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before.

We are in a spiritual war that has been raging since time began. The Bible tells us we’re supposed to join the battle. However, if an army is going to win, it has to prepare to fight. It has to Mobilize.

Acts 13:1-3 says “Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.”

Saul and Barnabas didn’t carelessly march off to war. They mobilized to fight through worship, fasting and prayer. We have to do the same thing.

Verse 2 says:

  1. At the sign of triumph Satan’s host doth flee; on then, Christian soldiers, on to victory! Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of praise; brothers, lift your voices, loud your anthems raise.

An acquaintance of mine does highly classified work for the military. While he is very careful to never divulge anything he does, one day he did say, “If we ever get to the point we need to use the things I’m working on, we’re in big trouble.”

Armies are always working at improving their weapons because technology makes the old ones obsolete. Many Christians think we need to have the same approach. We don’t. God has already given us the Method we need to use.

Matthew 16:13-20 says, 13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.”

Look closely at verse 18 – “…I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” What is the purpose of gates? To keep the enemy out. Where are the gates located? Hades.

What’s Jesus saying here? The church isn’t supposed to take a defensive position and wait to see what happens. It’s supposed to attack the gates of Hades. What weapons do we use? Jesus said he will build his church. The church is to attack the gates of Hades. It’s under his leadership that we go on the offensive. Our weapon is the power of Jesus in and around us.

Verse 3 of Onward, Christians Soldiers says:

  1. Like a mighty army moves the church of God; brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod. We are not divided, all one body we, one in hope and doctrine, one in charity.

The church is to Move as it Matures. In Ephesians 4, Paul writes that as we grow in our relationship with Jesus, we won’t be like infants who are misled and deceived by false teaching.  He then says in Ephesians 4:15-16 – “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

The simple truth is the more mature Christians are, the better they work together and step out in faith for Jesus. Immature Christians are more prone to division, selfishness and fear. There is simply no substitute for spiritual growth.

Verse 4 of the hymn says:

  1. Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng, blend with ours your voices in the triumph song. Glory, laud, and honor unto Christ the King, this through countless ages men and angels sing.

We need to Maximize our Christian witness to others by proclaiming and praising what Jesus is doing in our lives. Many people in our nation, and unfortunately in our churches, have a small view of what Jesus can do in their lives. Jesus should be transforming us into the people he wants us to be and we should be telling others about it. In Luke 19:1-9 – “Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Zacchaeus changed after he met Jesus. We should be changing too. The world needs to hear us praising the things God is doing in our lives through his Son. Unfortunately, American Christians have a reputation of being judgmental, hypocritical, apathetic and placing comfort over conviction. In many ways, this reputation is deserved. It’s affecting our witness in the world Jesus calls us to reach with the Gospel.

In his book, Culture Making, Andy Crouch says there are many reasons the Christian vision isn’t transforming the world. One is because of “an ineffectual, ‘disembodied’ Christianity, one that makes little difference in culture or even, all too often, in the life choices of its adherents.”

Sisters and brothers, our Christian bubble won’t burst itself. We have to sell out to Jesus and be obedient. We must mobilize for spiritual war, use the methods God gives us, move with maturity and then maximize any opportunity we have to share the love of Jesus with others.

When we do, Jesus will burst our Christian bubble and we will see God work in ways we never imagined he could.