Today we are continuing our series, “One Here, One There, One Everywhere.” When we first came up with this idea, it sounded to me like a Dr. Seuss book so we decided to go with it. Last week I dropped a few Dr. Seuss facts on you that you may not have known, and today I want to give you a couple more:
- You probably already know that Dr. Seuss’ real name is Theodor Seuss Geisel. So why didn’t he just sign his name Theodore Geisel? Theodor Geisel attended Dartmouth College, graduating in 1925. At Dartmouth, he wrote for the humor magazine “The Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern,” eventually rising to the rank of Editor-in-Chief. However, while at Dartmouth, he was caught drinking gin with friends in his room. When the Dean found out about it he insisted that Geisel resign from all extracurricular activities, including the college humor magazine. To continue work on “The Jack-O-Lantern” without the administration’s knowledge, Geisel began signing his work with the pen name “Seuss.” Thus, Dr. Seuss was born.
- Here’s an interesting note: later in 1956, Dartmouth awarded Geisel with an honorary doctorate, finally justifying the “Dr.” in his pen name.
Dr. Seuss felt as though his purpose in life was to write and he would do anything to fulfill that purpose, including changing his name. Dr. Seuss was focused; he wasn’t going to let a little thing like suspension from school stop him. He had a passion to write, to educate, to teach little ones to read. He wasn’t going to get hung up on little things. That story about Dr. Seuss reminds me of a verse in the Bible. It’s one of my favorites. It shows the same drive and determination that Dr. Seuss had but with a more important purpose:
19 I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23
Dr. Seuss had a purpose to write and educate; Paul’s purpose was to save, to rescue, to reach people with news that would restore their lives. He would do anything for that purpose. To fulfill this purpose, he was willing to be beaten and shipwrecked and imprisoned. He became all things to all people so that he would save them. One here, one there, one everywhere. Turns out that Paul’s purpose is our purpose as well. We are called to reach one here, one there, one everywhere. We are called to do that with the same drive and passion.
There is a verse that we have based this series on in Acts 1. These are Jesus’ very last words before he went to heaven.
6 They gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. Acts 1:6-9
They were in Jerusalem, so Jerusalem is the “here.” Judea and Samaria were on the outskirts of Jerusalem; that was the “there.” The ends of the earth is “everywhere.” “Here, there, and everywhere.”
I was sitting in my office with Paul (not the Paul who wrote this letter to the Corinthians, just Paul, my associate pastor) this last week and I asked him this question. I already knew the answer, but I asked him anyway. I wanted to see if he got it right. Of all the places that we reach out, which is the hardest? Is it hardest here, in church on Sundays? Or is it hardest there in our community? Is it hardest everywhere, in Haiti and Belize and Mexico. We both came to the same conclusion: the hardest is definitely “there.”
- It’s not hard to reach people when they come “here.” When people walk through our doors at church, we have home court advantage. Plus we have donuts.
- Reaching people “everywhere” is not that hard. In fact, it’s exciting. When we go to Haiti and Belize and Mexico it turns into a party and every time I go God does something amazing. Plus, a week later, I’m back here.
- But “there” is harder. “There” means reaching people at your office. “There” means connecting with people who don’t go to church in your neighborhood. “There” means brining up God on the softball field.
Getting people from “there” to “here” is important but it’s hard. Really hard. These verses contain two words that I think could transform how we fulfill the purpose that God has called us to. I highlighted them for you so they should be easy to spot: “Restore” and “Witness.” Today I’d like to talk about how we can help restore people so that they will want to go with us from “there” to “here.”
The word “restore” in this passage means “to make complete, to make perfect.” I love a good restoration project. Last year my wife found a beaten up coffee table at a thrift store that I restored. She’ll say that “we” restored it because it was her idea to buy the table but don’t let her fool you; it was my blood, sweat, and tears that made that table into the conversation piece it is today. This is what God wants to do in our lives. He wants to take us from beaten up and broken down to fully restored. He doesn’t want to break us apart and turn coffee tables into pencils and toothpicks. He wants to restore us to the people we were designed to be.
Jesus’ disciples asked Him in this passage when he was going to restore Israel because that’s what God does; He’s a restorer. Jesus said “no” to restoring their country for the time being because he wanted to focus on restoring people to God. God is all about restoring. Church is all about restoring. Listen to these statistics from the National Bureau of Economic Research. Statistically speaking, regular church attendees:
- commit fewer crimes
- are in better health
- live longer
- make more money
- drop out of high school less frequently
- finish college more frequently
…than those who don’t attend church at all. Now, who’s going to church on Sunday? Here’s why I think those stats are true: When God restores a life it becomes better in every respect. It becomes fully restored. It’s proven statistically.
Unfortunately, in my study I found another set of statistics too:
- Of the 84% who knew a Christian only 15% thought their lifestyle was any different
- 72 percent of the people interviewed said they think the church “is full of hypocrites”
- 87% of people outside the church labeled Christians as judgmental
God wants us to restore people in our community. Unfortunately, too often people see our attempts at restoring as judging. We need to change that. Here’s the first way we can get people from “there” to “here”:
Stop Judging and Start Restoring
Our world sees us as judgmental, and you know what? They might be right. It’s sort of in our Christian DNA. If you are a Christian you may have heard of Romans, Chapter 1. In this chapter, Paul (Bible Paul, not Associate Pastor Paul) is talking about all of the different ways that sin can take over our lives and how easy it is to get caught up in judging people.
Before I start reading let me give you a definition of sin. Sin is simply missing the mark of God’s perfection. Most people think of the word sin in and of itself is judge-y. Actually the word sin is a restoration word. God wants the absolute best for us. He wants us to live life to the fullest. Sin is simply missing that. He wants what’s best for us and we miss it.
In Romans, Paul talks about how sin drifts into our lives. He’s talking here about wicked people and the way sin sneaks in:
God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.–Romans 1:24-27
Paul starts the way most people start when it comes to talking about sin. He begins with the great big noticeable sins because that is what we do. Christians are known for pointing out obvious sins. Back in the 50s this churches used to talk about those people who made difficult decisions that lead to divorce. Back in the day if you were divorced your church could turn their back on you. These verses have also been used by Christians to point to people who got pregnant before they got married. These are the verses that are used today by most Christians when it comes to talking about homosexuality. We could take the rest of this message and debate the homosexuality issue; it’s the discussion of the day. Christians from the same congregation can sit in the same room and some wouldn’t call it sin, other people would. As far as I’m concerned I’m not responsible for making that call, thank goodness. I leave that up to God. However, according to these verses it seems pretty obvious what He thinks; that homosexuality is missing the mark of what God originally intended. But before you get all high-and-mighty because you aren’t missing the mark in that way, don’t worry because there are a lot of other ways that I’m sure that you are. Check out the next set of verses (the one that the finger-pointers tend to ignore):
Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.–Romans 1:28-32
This list is so strange because it points out areas of sin that we would all agree are big huge problems like murder and being a God-hater and inventing ways to do evil. Then in the next moment it points out to something that we all have in our lives but we tend to overlook it. We don’t make a big deal about our own stuff but the big noticeable stuff we are more than willing to weigh in on.
This is when we are at our most judge-y. Notice how the things we judge the most are the most obvious. The things you cannot hide:
- You can’t hide your divorce.
- You can’t hide your unwed pregnancy.
- You can’t hide being gay.
- You can’t hide your DUI.
We make a big deal about the obvious things but we overlook the ones that are easily hidden. Here’s just a few off the list:
- We don’t make a big deal about envy. It’s pretty much expected. Somebody gets a new car we like it so we want it. Somebody has a better house we think it’s cool; we work hard to get it.
- On this list is strife. Conflict, anyone? Did anyone reading this have a spat with someone today?
- My favorite on this list is “disobedient to parents.” I bet no one reading this has ever struggled with that or has kids who do. And yet, you don’t see Christians marching against those who are disobedient to parents.
Here’s the point of this passage: We are all wicked.
Now look with me at chapter 2. Most Christians who simply want to judge people, stop with chapter 1. It’s a great list. We can carry it through life like a traffic cop and write down everyone’s infractions. Who wouldn’t want to do that? It makes us feel good, but when you do you totally miss the point of these next verses:
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.–Romans 2:1
Paul’s point is very clear. Who are you to judge somebody else? The things that they struggle with, you struggle with. You might have a different sin on your list, but let me tell you something you do is definitely on this list. This theme continues throughout the book of Romans. In Chapter 3, Paul says there are none who are righteous. In chapter 7, he declares that he is the worst sinner and no matter how hard he tries to do good he fails. And all of these verses about sin and failure lead up to Romans 8:
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.–Romans 8:1-2
The How-To Guide
All that sin talk was to get us to the point where we all realize we need…wait for it… restoration. All of us. Every single one of us. Listen folks our job is not to judge the people around us. Our job is not to be on the lookout for the big obvious sins that we can point at to tell people how wrong they are. Our job is to deal with our own stuff and love the people around us and then let God restore them.
Let me give you some simple ways that we can be involved in God’s restoration project (turns out you’ll already pretty good at them):
- Stay close to God and let him restore you. Start with working on you.
- Get in relationship with somebody out “there;” somebody who doesn’t go to church.
- Don’t point out their mistakes; don’t try to fix them. Just be their friend.
You can do that, right? Here’s some ways that you can be a friend to someone out “there:”
- By calling them
- By giving them a card on their birthday
- By taking them to a ball fame.
- By bringing them soup when they’re sick.
- By sending them a stupid Snapchat of you with a bunny face.
God simply calls you to be friends with someone out there. You do the relationship and let God do the restoring. Get out of your church bubble and just be friends. That’s our role in the restoring process and it turns out we are already good at it.
Now go out there and make some friends.
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