Reaching Out

14 10 2007

by Pastor Norman S. Lao

Text: John 1:1-3, 14 Introduction

1. A man once prayed like this:
Lord, bless me and my wife
My son John and his wife
Us four and no more.A childless couple prayed:
Lord, bless us two,
And that will do.An old bachelor prayed:
Lord, bless only me,
That’s as far as I can see.

2.  The preacher was called to hear the reading of the will of a wealthy member of his church who had died. The preacher and the man’s family members were all very disappointed to hear the will which read, “BEING OF SOUND MIND AND BODY, I SPENT ALL MY MONEY ON MYSELF.” (both illustrations are from a sermon by Steve Shepherd)

Sometimes this is the self-centered picture of the church.  The church, generally speaking, is so engrossed with itself that it has lost its interest or desire to reach out to the world.  We have forgotten that God created the church to be an instrument whereby He could reach the world with His Love.  When the church becomes selfish and self-centered the Love of God is hindered from touching the World.  The increase of wickedness ensues and we are reaping the consequences of our actions.

Our theme for this month is Reaching Out.  Reaching out has, for us, always been a picture of giving or extending help.  It is like a man reaching out for someone who is about to go over the cliff or someone who is going down under the water.

One of the hindrances of people in becoming Christians is the Doctrine of the Incarnation.  Almighty God becoming a frail human being. They just can’t believe it.  For them, it is impossible.  And it has become a stumbling block for many people.  But if you think of it, NOTHING COULD BE MORE LOGICAL.  It is the most logical expression of Love that could ever be.  Love can go to “impossible” lengths, to extreme lengths to save the object of its love.

A man from the city went to a farm for some business.  There he happened upon a big anthill in the middle of a farmland.  Curious, he went over and examined the hill.  There were millions of ants each doing a specific task.  There were worker ants, soldier ants, ants who were taking care of little ants, and all kinds of ants going about their daily chores.  The man was so taken by the scene that his heart went out to the little creatures.  Suddenly, the man looked up and saw a farmer with a hoe in his hand walking straight toward the anthill.  He perceived that the farmer was going to destroy the anthill!  The man went down on his palms and knees and tried to warn the ants, but the ants could not understand what he said and they just went about their business.  The man desperately tried to warn them to no avail.  Then a thought occurred to the man: “TO HELP THEM I MUST BECOME AN ANT LIKE THEM…”

 

My friends, God has been trying to warn us for thousands of years but we never understood what He was trying to say.  We went about our business oblivious to the dangers up ahead.  God thought: “THERE’S ONLY ONE WAY I COULD SAVE MAN WHOM I LOVE — I MUST BECOME ONE OF THEM….”   And God did become like one of us in Jesus Christ! (Matthew 1:23)

I will be laying down a foundation which will be used to build the other sermons for this month by those who are assigned to preach here in the remaining Sundays.   I am going to talk on reaching out in general terms today. There are so many reaching out that needs to be done.  Reaching out to the LOST (evangelism).  Reaching out to the POOR.  Reaching out to the IMPRISONED.  Reaching out to PROSTITUTES.  ORPHANS.  ABUSED.  BATTERED WIVES.  Reaching out to TROUBLED YOUTHS.  Reaching out to PREGNANT TEENS.  Reaching out to the LONELY.  Reaching out to the HURTING.  Reaching out to the OUTCAST of “normal” society (homosexuals, leprous, convicts, etc.).  Reaching out to BACKLIDERS.

The Need for Reaching Out

1.  Reaching out is the only way we can show people that we care. 

We cannot hide in the four corners of our church, make advertisements, programs, etc. and expect people to come.  We must go out and meet them. Go where they are.  God left heaven to live with us.

2.  Reaching out is the only way we can touch people’s lives with the Gospel. 

God did not command sinners to go to church.  But God did command Christians to go to those who are lost. 

I met Amy Gubuan-Huelar, the woman who was responsible for my salvation, last Friday at SM City.  Because she reached out to me I am here before you today preaching the Word of God.   If she did not reach out, to me I would have gone down to the Road to Perdition with quite fatal consequences.  Twenty years ago I was a miserable person without hope, without direction, in total darkness.  Some of my closest friends during that time are either dead or have become insane due to drugs.  Thank God that somebody took the time to reach out to me.  I am so grateful to the Lord for her. 

When we get to heaven we will see those people who helped us enter the Kingdom of God.  We will approach them and tell them, “Thank You…”   Will someone go to you and thank you, too? 

3.  Reaching out is the only way we can grow God’s church.   

One church sent in its annual statistics to its denominational headquarters. Here is what they reported.

  • Number of members added by baptism – None
  • Number of members added by letter – None
  • Number of members who relocated – 2
  • Number of members dismissed by letter – 5
  • Number of members who have died – 3
  • Amount of money raised for home missions – None
  • Amount of money raised for foreign missions – None

At the bottom of the report they wrote, “Pray for us, brethren, that we continue faithful to the end.”  

There is something wrong with this church.  They are not reaching out.  A church that does not reach out stops growing and a church that stops growing starts dying.

We know that we are responsible for Reaching Out, but so few Christians are Reaching Out.  That’s why our world remains in darkness.   I saw on TV a gathering of people where, after the preacher preached a message, all the lights were turned off in the gymnasium.  Then, suddenly I saw one candle being lighted.  Using his lighted candle lit the candle of the person next to him and then two of them lighted the candles of two more.  The four of them lighted the candles of four more and so on.  In just a few moments, what was a very dark gymnasium became a very bright place!  Reach Out with the light of the Gospel of Christ and make your world a brighter place! But let’s imagine: what if the person whose candle was lighted will not reach out and light the candle of others?  Of course, the place will remain in darkness.  Some Christians try their best to protect their candle so that the light won’t go out.  I think a better way of preserving the light of your candle is to light more candles!  Don’t go about cursing the darkness — go light other people’s candle!Why is reaching out so difficult for us?  What identifiable hindrances are present?  We want to expose the things that hinder us, so that we may learn to overcome them.    

1.  To reach out means to leave your comfort zone.

A comfort zone is the place where everything is familiar, everything is predictable.  No surprises there that we cannot manage.   We don’t want to leave our comfort zones.  We dislike getting out of the familiar to go to the unfamiliar, from the known to go to the unknown, from the comfortable to the inconvenient. 

Sometimes we hear a sermon that really touches us and we promise God we will change and we try our best to do what we have heard.  But after a short while we are back where we started.  What really pulls us back is our comfort zone. One of the greatest hindrances to our transformation is our comfort zone.  I realized that one of the reasons why God placed prophets in Israel was to keep them from being too comfortable. “Woe to them who are at ease in Zion!”  (Amos 6:1)  We need strong voices in the church today to keep us on our feet!  Comfort is sometimes fatal to our spiritual well-being.

When a person is complaining it means that he/she is outside of his/her comfort zone.  People who are used to comfort are the most complainers.  When Israel went out of Egypt many of them wanted to go back.  Comfort zones are very hard to leave (even if it means slavery). 

However, if they did not leave their comfort zone, they would not have had reached the Promised Land.  If you will not leave your comfort zones, you cannot get to where God wants you to be!

2.  Reaching out involves sacrifices. 

Sacrifice means to give up something or suffer loss for the sake of something else.

In the game of chess the concept of “sacrifice” is clearly employed.  You give up one of your best pieces (usually a rook or queen) in exchange of winning the game.

A group of soldiers are inside a house.  Suddenly a grenade landed on the floor. One soldier decides to sacrifice himself and jumped on the grenade just before it exploded saving all the rest. 

Jesus sacrificed himself to purchase our salvation.

We don’t like sacrifices.  Sacrifice means giving up something.  Time.  Comfort.  Treasures.  Etc.  Sacrifice means inconvenience.  Sacrifice means difficulties.  But that is only one side of sacrifice.  Sacrifice also means better outcome.  Sacrifice brings success.  Nothing that really matters can be gained other than by great sacrifice.  But we have been taught success without sacrifice.  Success without discomfort.  That’s the reason why we will not reach out.  It’s just too uncomfortable.

History tells us that in times of trouble and persecution the Church became strong and grew in numbers.

In the Book of Acts the Church grew from 120 to 5000 in spite of persecutions.

In China I think there were 10 thousand Chinese Christians before the Missionaries left when Communists took over.  China was closed for a long time. Church and Christians were banned.  The churches in the Western world were worried that the church in China has been totally destroyed.  However, they discovered, when China opened up again, that there were no less than 50 million Christians in China!

3.  To reach out means to be vulnerable. 

Vulnerability means to be exposed to danger, unprotected, liable to attacks, etc.  Many of us do not want to be vulnerable. 

In the Incarnation God became vulnerable.  Before the Incarnation God was in heaven untouchable.  When He became man He became vulnerable.  People, mere mortals, spat on Him, flogged Him, and ultimately killed Him on the cross.  But God risked vulnerability to purchase our slavation.  We are saved today because of God’s vulnerability.

We expose ourselves when we reach out.  There is a chance we will get hurt (emotionally, not necessarily physically, but that could also happen). We do not want to get hurt.  We automatically preserve ourselves.  Self-defense is automatic reaction.  We avoid “perceived” danger.  Perceived dangers are dangers that do not yet exist, but we think will exist when we leave our comfort zone.  Not all of these dangers are fatal. Not all of them are real. Most of them are simply little discomforts.  But in a world where comfort is number one priority, the discomfort of reaching out has hindered so many. 

Being a church without walls sends a strong message to the community: that they are welcome, that we have removed the barriers and make it easier for them to come.  It also helps us, who are here, to understand or realize that the church exists not only for us, but for everybody else.  However, being a church without walls has also made us vulnerable.  A couple of months ago three of our wall fans were stolen.  That is the risk we have to take when we want to win our world for Christ.  When God became man he became vulnerable.  It was a risk worth taking though since there are currently 1.7 billion Christians in the World.

Conclusion 

Will you be all that God wants you to be?  Will you be God’s instrument to reach out to those who are in need?

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