Three Habits of Highly Contagious Christians - Habit 1

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Three Habits of Highly Contagious Christians

 January 26th, 2003

Well, we’re devoting the first series of this year–the next four weeks–to what I believe is the heartbeat of this church. We’re going to talk about three habits of highly contagious Christians. And I want to tell you right at the outset why this series means so much to me personally.

I can remember, it’s been about 11 years ago now, and I was still working at a church in California. It was about this time of year, in February I think. I think it was about 70 degrees out there. And I got a tape. As best as I can remember, it’s the first tape I ever got from Willow Creek Community Church. And the title of it was "The Seven-Step Strategy of Willow Creek Community Church."

I remember listening to that tape. You know, the first three steps on it were about getting crystal clarity.

There was this church that I’ve never been to that was so serious about it’s mission from God that it would devote itself to developing relationships with unchurched people. It was devoted to sharing the story of faith, sharing a verbal witness, and having a place where they could come and learn more. It was getting out and crossing the line of faith.

I got so fired up listening to that tape. No kidding. I’ll bet I listened to that thing 10 times. Just to think that here was a church that wasn’t just paying lip service to evangelism.

They had really gotten serious about reaching irreligious people. They developed a strategy, and they were working at it, and they were actually seeing it bear fruit.

That was more than a decade ago. I never dreamed that I would end up here. But you know, to be a part of a church that really, seriously devoted itself to reaching people who were outside the church–who were far from God–I’d give my life to that. I’d give my life to that.

Well, over these next few weeks, we’re going to devote ourselves to this. These three habits of highly contagious Christians, we’re going to drill them in our minds so clearly that you and I will be able to say them in our sleep. And more than that, we will do them. And I just want you to know, at the outset, it matters that we do this. It matters because if we don’t this church or any church that doesn’t do that will become real focused on it’s own comfort and it’s own convenience, and it’ll start to die.

It matters because this country and this world is full of churches, and full of church leaders like me, who are desperately hoping there is someplace that’s making serious headway in a broken world for the redemption of men and women.

It matters to every human being far from God, who lives within the range of this church.

And there are thousands and thousands and thousands of them who may, yet, be redeemed from a Christless eternity. They may yet be redeemed.

It matters to our heavenly Father who gave up the very best that he had — the life of his Son — to buy back the human creatures that, for some reason known only to him, he loved so much.

It matters more than you and I can imagine that we devote ourselves to what we do over these next weeks and months. And I just ask you, without apology, just commit yourself to being here and to putting into practice what lies right at the heartbeat of who we are as a church and more importantly, who we’re going to be.

Now this morning, we’re going to look at habit number one — that highly contagious Christians develop significant relationships with people far from God.

 I want to ask you to turn in your Bibles to Act 16. And as you’re doing that, I want to start by asking you a few questions about how influence works in human lives. How does influence work in human lives?

For instance, imagine a total stranger calls you out of the blue, and says, "You need to refinance your house, and I’m the guy to do it with."

How many of you would likely sign up right on the spot? Or suppose somebody you’ve never met walks up to you and says, "I know the person you should spend the rest of your life with — my cousin. And I’ve set up a blind date for the two of you this Friday, the day he gets out on parole. You can trust me. He’s the one for you." Are you likely to go ahead?

When it comes to what matters to us — our finances, our relational lives, our futures — we don’t usually put ourselves in the hands of total strangers.

We listen to people that we trust.

Friends influence friends. And if this is true in general, and I think it is, it is most especially true when it comes to the ultimate issue in life: people’s spiritual destiny.

If people are going to be reached for Christ, for the most part they will not be reached by strangers. They won’t be reached by televangelists.

They won’t be reached by the radio. They’ll be reached, primarily, through friends. Now, there’s a real important pattern in the New Testament that I want for us to be clear on.

So take a look now at Acts 16:14. Now just look at a couple of passages right around this area of Acts. I want you to notice one word in particular that occurs in each one of them.

"One of those listening" — to Paul on a missionary journey — "was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God.

"The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. ‘If you consider me a believer of the Lord,’ she said, ‘come and stay at my house.’ And she persuaded us."

And then a little later on in the chapter, Acts 16:31, Paul and Silas were in prison. And you might remember, they had an opportunity to leave because of God’s deliverance.

But they stayed. And the jailer is astounded that they would stay out of consideration for him. And he asked them, "What must I do to be saved?" They replied in verse 31, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved — you and your household."

Now, look at verse 33: "At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house." Then just turn the page to Acts 18:7. It says, "Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard it believed and were baptized."

And the word that keeps occurring is ‘household.’

The gospel keeps spreading through households. Now, the household in the New Testament was not quite the same thing as in our day. We tend to think just of parents and their children.

In the first century, the word for household was the word oikos, and it had a broader meaning. It would include that, but it also would include extended family members. It would include servants. It would include slaves.

It would include people connected to each other by family ties, economic ties, vocational ties, what we would call in our day "networks" — circles of people with whom you work, play, live, relate, do business.

And that’s how the gospel spread.

The kingdom of God is never spread primarily by preachers speaking to crowds of unconnected strangers. It is never spread primarily by mass media.

Who do you think mainly listens to Christian radio and reads Christian magazines and books and watches Christian TV stations? Mostly it’s Christians.

The kingdom spreads now the same way that it has spread for 2,000 years. When one Christ follower gets so convinced that the life Jesus offers really is the pearl of great price, then he or she gets contagious, and a whole oikos — a whole network — the whole web of relationships gets touched one life at a time.

That’s how it’s been happening for 2,000 years, from the Book of Acts right to our day. But here’s the problem.

The problem in our day is far too many churches are filled with Christians who spend virtually all their time with other Christians.

They’re not significantly connected with people who are far from God. In too many cases, they try to design their lives that way. They try to arrange things so that in their work, their neighborhood, recreation, wherever, they’re just surrounded by Christians.

That’s not a good thing. That is not a victory for the kingdom.

Joe Aldrich, who has written a lot on lifestyle evangelism, wrote this: "After being a Christian for two years, the average Christian no longer has a single significant relationship with a non-believer." And here’s what’s really bad: Sometimes churches actually learn to accept this.

I want to be very, very clear on this point because I’ve heard church leaders speak along these lines say things like, "We’re not going to pander to seekers around here. We’re not even going to try to be accessible or relevant to them. We’re into depth. We’re into maturity around this church, not seekers."

I want to tell you something, friends. From my own background I know a whole lot about churches that pride themselves on covering lots of exegetical information and preaching. They have a very churchy culture and very churchy music, and they’re very inaccessible to seekers, and far from producing people of true depth — people that are characterized by the love and joy and peace of Christ.

They produce some of the most arrogant, self righteous, legalistic people in the world. And it’s not God’s plan. Who was the most spiritually formed, most spiritually deep person that ever lived?

This was not supposed to be a trick question.

The teacher of the Sunday school class asked the kids, "Now, what it is that is brown, has a long bushy tail and stores nuts for winter?" And the kid says, "Well, I guess the answer is Jesus, but it sure sounds like a squirrel to me."

I did not intend for this to be a trick question. Jesus was the most spiritually formed, spiritually deep person who ever lived.

He was righteousness itself. He was pure righteousness. And at the same time, Jesus was a seeker magnet. He loved seekers. He didn’t just love them because it was his job to love them. He liked them. He liked being with them. He sought them out, and they sought him out. You just couldn’t keep Jesus and seekers apart. He was a seeker magnet.

And that was his plan for his followers. It’s just about this simple. If you love Jesus, you’ll love the people he died for. And conversely, friends, any time you see a church or an individual that claims spiritual depth but gives no evidence of love or passion for people far from God, it’s a sham.

It’s not spiritual formation. It’s not that. Authentic spiritual formation always leads to great passion and concern for lost people.

And the idea that a church has to choose between developing spiritually mature believers on the one hand versus being effective and reaching seekers on the other hand is, I believe, a lie from the evil one.

It was not true of Jesus. He did not intend it to be true of his church. And it will never be true of us. It never will. I hope we are clear on that!!!

God’s plan for his church is that it be people who have the character of Jesus and who, therefore, love the people that Jesus died for.

It is not an either/or deal. There’s no such thing as spiritual formation that doesn’t lead to evangelistic passion. There is no such thing as authentic evangelistic passion that doesn’t involve being spiritually formed.

And the first step to becoming a Jesus Christian…..a Contagious Christian…., is learning to develop relationships with unchurched people — people who are far from God.

And primarily this just involves learning to be with people who don’t know God the way that Jesus would be with them. That, really, is all there is to it.

When I was a kid growing up, in Sunday school there was a song that we used to sing. Maybe a few of you — a very small few — will have heard this song when you were kids. They’d go through different body parts, and it went something like this: "Be careful little feet where you go. Be careful little mouth what you say. Be careful little hands what you do." I never liked that song because it felt kind of negative to me, like there was big brother out there watching or something.

But a friend of mine, suggested some time ago that there’s another way of understanding that song, a real positive way. You could understand it to be saying, "I want my feet to lead me to the places where Jesus’ feet would lead him. And I want my hands to do the kinds of things that Jesus’ hands would do. And I want my little mouth to say the kinds of things that Jesus’ mouth would say."

And that’s what I want to walk us through in the remainder of this message. I want to talk about what it’s like to be like Jesus with people who are far from God.

I mean, just walk us through some characteristics of him using different parts of the body.

The first one, the most important one, is the heart. Does my heart care about what God’s heart cares about?

I believe the biggest issue when it comes to evangelism is the heart issue. I want to ask you this morning to do a real honest heart check. You know, one of the things that disturbed me most when I began to work in churches was not the behavior — the unredeemed behavior — of seekers or the problems of early believers. It was the cold heartedness and judgmental spirit that, all too often, characterized people who had been in the church for decades.

In the church that I served in many years ago, I reached a point where it was just painful to me because we were not reaching people who were far from God. They just drove past us.

We weren’t even an option to them. And that just became intolerable to me. So together, with the leadership and the core of the church, we started to think and pray and study, to look at different things that were doing the job.

We’d keep doing other things that we were doing, but we would begin one of those. And we planned for well over a year because we wanted to move slowly and do it real wisely. We got a core of people to do what we’re talking about tonight, to develop relationships with folks that are far from God.

Then finally we had the first service — our first seeker service — on a Sunday morning. And I’ll never forget it. About 350 people came to that first one, which for us was just a big deal. And most of them had never been to church before. You could tell from little things, like the church filled up from the front to the back for that service. Now this was at a Baptist church, and if any of you know anything about Baptist churches, you know they always fill from the back to the front. That’s just the way that Baptists are.

But these people had never been around a Baptist church before, and they figured the good seats were all in the front so that’s where they came. That was so exciting to begin to see that.

But what disturbed me most was the response of some people. I think of one woman who was a long-time attender. She’d been in church her whole life long. She did not like having a bunch of seekers around.

She did not like seekers, to tell the truth, because secretly she thought they were having a better time than she was and she was jealous. That was many years ago. Not too long ago at that church there was a church split, and it involved some real ugly behavior. And the Body of Christ was cut in two. All the seekers were gone. And things were as churchy and stilted and inaccessible to seekers as ever before. It was not likely that a pagan sinner would wander into those doors and find Christ there.

And her response was, "Isn’t it wonderful? We got our church back." Well, whose church is it? I believe the most important problem when it comes to contagious Christianity is the heart problem.

And do you know who has a heart problem? I do.

Not all the time. I think of some of the people that I invited to Christmas service a few weeks ago, several of who came.

I think of people I had in mind when I filled out my “BEYOND THE WALL” card last week, and I hope for those people and I pray for them.

And when I think that maybe some of them will come to Christ, and I’ll have played at least a small part in it, that’s very exciting to me.

But sometimes, the truth is my heart gets cold. Sometimes I find it easier to stay in my own little orbit and not take risks, not exert the effort or the energy that’s involved in getting to know somebody far from God.

Sometimes I just focus on my own convenience and my own comfort. Sometimes, I’m the one with the heart problem.

And maybe some of you are too. And it’s real important to know that because if that’s the case, then all the techniques and training and opportunities in the world won’t make a difference.

So maybe some of you need to pray this morning. We’ll do that at the close of this service. You know, God says he’s in the business of taking away hearts of stone.

That’s one of the great promises in Scripture. He says, "I will take away your heart of stone, and I will replace it with a heart of flesh, a heart that’s warm and soft and beats fast for what God’s heart beats." Maybe you need to confess tonight and ask God for a new heart. That’s the starting place.

And you know, God loves it when his people pray that prayer. I was thinking about this this week. I’ve heard people say they prayed for lots of things that never came — a certain house or a relationship or a job.

But you know what I’ve never heard in my whole life? I’ve never heard a Christian say, "I’ve prayed urgently, persistently, day after day, year after year to have heart for lost people, like God’s heart for lost people, but it never happened."

I think God will answer that prayer. I think he’ll give you a heart like Jesus’ heart. And for some of us, that’s what we need. And there’s another line in this song: "Be careful little feet where you go." The question here is, "Do my feet take me where Jesus’ feet took him?" Where did Jesus’ feet take him?

They took him to people far from God all the time. His feet took him where the Pharisees feet would never take them — to parties at tax collector’s houses, to dinners attended by prostitutes, to the country of Samaria where a respectable religious leader would never go, to lepers and 10,000 pagans — just to people, to every kind of people. And Jesus’ feet got him into serious trouble.

You know, I think a problem is we’ve heard these stories so long about Jesus and sinners, that they lose their sting. And we forget the prostitutes that he was with. They really did sell their bodies for sex, lowering the moral standards of a nation.

The tax collectors that Jesus hung out with really were corrupt traders who sold out their own people for some money.

You know, when Jesus was called the friend of sinners, we think of that as a lovely title. It was not intended that way. That was meant to be a title of derision, of hostility — friend of sinners.

Jesus was with them, and Jesus loved them. And the Pharisees hated Jesus’ feet. They didn’t understand his feet, but God loved his feet.

There is this wonderful verse in Isaiah 52:7, "How beautiful on the mountain are the feet of those who bring good news…who proclaim to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’" How beautiful are the feet of those who come with the gospel. Jesus’ feet were so beautiful to people far from God that one day a woman who thought she was lost beyond hope gave her greatest treasure to anoint those feet. She bathed them with her tears, and she dried them with her hair because those feet brought Jesus to her.

You and I have got to have feet like Jesus’ feet. We have got to agree to get out of the holy huddle, to not make our primary aim in life to socialize only with other Christians and end up living in a religious ghetto. Now let me say this. For most of us, this does not mean so much that you have to start going to new places. For most of us, this means that we need to start forming relationships in circles where you already find yourself. You do this in a way that fits your world.

For example, when you just do ordinary, every day things like getting a haircut.

 A number of years ago, I was visiting my parents who live a long ways away. And I got my haircut in a place where my mom would usually get her hair done. I was talking to the guy that owned this place, and we had a long conversation. We started talking about spiritual things. And he was very interested.

So we kept talking. The more we talked, the more interested he was, and the more of my hair he cut. I ended up with a very short haircut. But it was worth it, just for the conversation. And I went home and talked to my mom afterwards who went there regularly and knew this couple. I said, "You’ve got to talk to these people about God because they’re really interested."

My dad and mom had a cell group that met at their house. I said, "They’d love to go to that." And my mom said, "No they wouldn’t. There’s not a chance. I know them really well. They’ve led a really wild life. His wife was on her fifth marriage. Her husband was on his third."

She said, "I don’t know of people who are farther from God than that." I said, "No they’re not. You talk to them." So she went to get her hair done there the next time, and she said a little prayer to God.

She said, "God, I don’t think these people are interested in you, so if you want me to say anything to them, you’d better make something happen."

And right then — it’s a true story — Pam said to my mother, "Cathy, Jim and I understand that you and your husband John have a little group that talks about spiritual things at your house. We’d like to come." I had a real gratifying conversation with my mother after that.

And then their story started to unfold. Pam just had enormous pain relative to God. When she was growing up, her dad was Jewish and her mom, I think, was Catholic. So her dad would take her to the synagogue, and then, when she came home, her mom would make her go upstairs and say the rosary and ask God to forgive her for having gone to the synagogue. And you can imagine what that did to this little girl, the kind of confusion that that instilled in her.

She started to drink, and by the time she was 16 she had became an alcoholic. She was married five times. She finally went to AA to get sober, but when they talked about the ‘higher power’ deal, she could not deal with that because of her background. And she didn’t even want to use the word ‘God.’ So she said, "In AA you can call your higher power anything you want to. I’ll call my higher power Ralph, just turn my life from Will over to Ralph, as I understand him."

So she did that for several years. One day, she was in an AA meeting and a man came in about as drunk as she had ever seen anybody, just a foul guy. And he stood up in the middle of that circle, and he said, "I’m an alcoholic. My name is Ralph." She said it’s like something pierced through her. She said, "There’s got to be something that I can give my life to."

And that kind of launched this journey, and we hooked up at one point. Eventually, the day came when both she and her husband, Jim, bent down on their knees with my folks, and gave their lives to Christ. And partly it happened just because of a relationship that God started through getting a haircut.

I have one friend whose kids are in the ‘soccer years’ of their lives. You can find out a lot about the spiritual condition of somebody’s heart just by watching how they respond when their kid plays soccer. And she’s cultivated friendships and struck up meaningful conversations about family and parenting all by just caring for people while she’s doing what she’d be doing anyways.

Another thing that most all of us do is eat. One of the things that you can do is just go to the same restaurant and cultivate a relationship with somebody that works there. Get to know them. Start to pray for them. That’s been a real exciting thing right now in my life, and in the lives of lots of folks that I know. Maybe it’s joining a health club; maybe it’s having the neighbors over for dinner.

It’ll look different for everybody, but it really is possible. You really can have feet like Jesus’ feet. You can have feet that take you to where people are far from God because they’re all over the place. There’s another line in this little song: "Be careful little hands what you do."

Jesus’ hands were constantly extended in service to people who didn’t yet know his Father. In Mark 1, there’s a wonderful story where a leper approaches Jesus, and the man asks to be made clean. Now, the law was real strict about lepers. They couldn’t have any contact with non-lepers. They had to cry out, "Unclean!" They had to stay outside of the village. If they even touched somebody’s house, it was supposed to be torn down because it was considered to be unclean.

Nobody could come within 10 feet of a leper. But this leper comes up to Jesus and says, "Would you make me clean?" And Jesus doesn’t turn away. Jesus reaches out his hand and touches this man who had not been touched for who knows how many years? Not by his children, not by his spouse. Jesus didn’t have to do that. He could have just said a word, but he reached out with his hand and touched the man and said, "Be clean."

And not only was Jesus not infected by this guy’s leprosy, it was the other way around. Jesus was so full of life and health that he infected the leper with his life. Jesus was more contagious with the life of the kingdom than the leper was with his disease.

And you know if the Spirit of God lives inside you, you’re like that. We fear sin sometimes, and rightly so in proper proportions because it is a fearsome thing.

But I’ll tell you what. Sin is not nearly as contagious as the life of the kingdom of God, not nearly.

Jesus just kept extending his hand — healing lepers, touching children, washing feet, clasping his hands in prayer, asking the Father to give him every life of every man and woman whom he could — until at the very end of his life when he took a nail in each hand for the sake of every sinner that ever lived.

So take a look at your hands for a moment. How often are they extended to service to someone who’s far from God? Maybe you have a neighbor that you could shovel snow or do an errand for. Maybe there’s somebody at work that feels discouraged, and these hands could write him a note, touch their heart. Maybe there’s a lonely person in your world.

You know, Mother Theresa said that loneliness is the leprosy of our day.

From busboys to CEO’s, there are so many lonely people. And maybe your hand is the one that could get put around their shoulder. You could notice them, listen to them.

Are your hands doing what Jesus’ hands would do?

I want to give one caveat here as we talk about developing relationships with people far from God. Sometimes people think or wonder, "Is relational evangelism really a form of using people? For I just pretend to be a friend so I can get a spiritual commitment out of somebody." Well, that’s not the idea.

The idea is not, "I’ll pretend to be nicer than I am to help me make a sale." And, "I hope this seeker converts soon so I can go back to being my normal nasty self because it’s a strain being nice for so long." The idea is to just love people. Just love them.

And if I really, genuinely care for somebody, or I really want to, and if I really do believe the gospel of Jesus Christ is the pearl of great price that I’ve staked my whole life on, well then, of course, my deepest open prayer will come to be for that person that they receive the greatest gift any person can receive.

There’s a huge difference between genuinely loving somebody and sharing with them what authentically matters most to me, versus using people to score evangelistic brownie points as a way to demonstrate my spiritual fervor. God, keep us from that. Seekers know when they’re being used.

So I’ll ask you, "How about your hands?" Some of you have not extended your hands to a seeker in a long time, but you can do that.

Then there’s my mouth. "Be careful little mouth what you say." Does my mouth say what Jesus’ mouth would? We’re going to devote more time to this next week. We’re going to look at how do you have the kind of spiritual conversations that Jesus did? And it’s going to be a tremendous adventure.

But I just want to give you one, kind of a tip right now, in terms of speaking with folks far from God. And that is early on in your relationship with them, drop some clues or hints about your spiritual commitment.

Here’s what happens: Sometimes, Christians end up in a relationship with an unchurched acquaintance for years, but they’ve never mentioned their faith. And eventually, they kind of go into avoidance mode because they’re embarrassed for not having talked about it.

So a helpful thing is just to drop hints or clues early in the relationship about your spiritual commitment. For example, I have never yet met somebody who was offended when they expressed a need, and I told them that I’d pray for them. I’ve never found somebody that gets offended by that.

Maybe you have neighbors who want to have children and talk to you about that at one time. And in the course of the conversation you say to them, "I just want you to know, I’m going to pray for you. We’ll pray for you." And you do. A few months later they came back and said, "You’ll never guess what! We’re pregnant." I said, "Oh, I’m so glad to hear that. We’ll really pray for you now."

And they came back a few weeks later and said, "You’ll never believe this. Not only are we pregnant. We found out it’s going to be a multiple birth." I said, "Well, we’ll REALLY pray for you now!" Two weeks later, they came back again. It’s a true story. Two weeks later, they came back. They said, "We found out we’re having triplets. Please stop praying for us!"

But it’s a real simple thing. When you hear a need from somebody, just offer to pray. Or maybe mention, "I’m involved with this church that’s real meaningful thing to me." This is not a full-fledged gospel presentation. It’s just dropping clues about your commitment so later on when the door opens, you’re able to go through it.

Okay, I’ve got a heart. I want to have feet like Jesus’ feet. I want to have to do what His hands are doing. I want to have a mouth that would speak like His word. There’s one last way in which I need to be like Jesus, and this is not in the song. But I think a lot of us need it.

I need his spine. I need his backbone to be persistent because it’s not an easy thing that we do.

In one of the stories Jesus told about the growth of the kingdom, he said, "Is this like a sower who goes out and sows seeds? Some of it falls on real hard ground, on the path, and gets eaten by birds. Some of it falls on real shallow soil where there’s rock underneath it, and nothing much happens. Some of it falls on real cluttered soil and it tries to grow, but it gets choked out–no fruit."

And you think by this time the sower might give up. But the sower doesn’t give up. He just keeps sowing, and sooner or later some of it falls on good soil. "And when that happens," Jesus says, "watch out." Now, I want to tell you, I want to commend you, I’m so proud to be a part of a church that sows the way this church sows. You know, we’re just coming off of the Christmas Eve service. It’s one of the great opportunities we have in the year.

Over that week of Christmas Eve, we had so many people who came here — so many seekers — an all-time record for us.

I’m so proud that you sow the way you sow. And I know what happens. I know for some of you, you work, you pray, you sweat, you ask, you get somebody to come, but then results don’t happen the way that you hoped.

 Maybe they’re resistant to coming back. Maybe it feels like the door to their heart is not opened one inch wider, and you’re tempted to get discouraged.

Maybe it’s somebody you really love, and you’re tempted to think, "I must have done something wrong or said something wrong. Or I didn’t pray enough. Or God just didn’t come through like he’s supposed to."

Here’s the deal from Jesus’ story. Your job is to sow the seed. Your job is not to make growth happen. You think about the failure, all the failure that Jesus experienced. You know, he drew huge crowds and most of them melted away.

John 6 says, "From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him, and he watched them leave."

The religious leaders of his day were such bad sowers they had him crucified.

His own disciples deserted him.

His own family questioned him.

The whole crowd taunted him.

And you’d think, on the cross, Jesus would be wondering if any of the seeds really took. Would there ever be any fruit?

He’s on the cross, and one thief next to him says to him, "Why don’t you save yourself and us?" And he just mocks him. And on the other side of him, there’s a thief — a criminal — who rebuked the first thief and turned to Jesus and said, "Would you remember me?" And Jesus sows one more seed. Jesus says, "This day, you’ll be with me in Paradise."

He’s hanging on a cross, and he finds some good soil on the cross next to him. With his last breath, he throws one more seed. He just couldn’t stop sowing.

He’s just very stubborn, this sower, so don’t you get discouraged. You just expect that there’s going to be failure. You’re going to spread a lot of seed on a lot of bad soil. Don’t beat yourself up for it. Just expect it. Jesus’ story is like three examples of bad soil to one good one. And that ratio may be about right.

But you don’t quit sowing seed because maybe the next one is the one that’s going to take root. But it takes some backbone to do that. Well, here’s the deal, friends.

We need Jesus’ heart, and we need his feet. We need his hands. We need his mouth. We need his spine. And I want to ask you to just take a minute or so and pray.

And whichever one of those you have a need for in your life, right now — maybe it’s his heart, feet, hands, mouth, spine — whatever it is that you need, you ask him for it right at the outset of this adventure together. And I’m going to ask you to pray right now. If you’re here with another person or two, just kind of gather together with them, and pray out loud together.

If you’re here on your own and you’d rather do it that way, just pray on your own. But just take about a minute, right now, and ask God for whatever it is that you need. Then I’ll close us in prayer. Now let’s stand in closing prayer.

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