It Takes Courage to Make A Difference
IT TAKES COURAGE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Making A Difference in Our World - Part 4 of 4
John 16:33 (NJB)
“In the world you will have hardship, but be courageous…
I have conquered the world.” -- Jesus John 16:33 (NJB)
HOW CAN I LIVE COURAGEOUSLY?
1. BY OWNING UP _____________________________________________
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
John 1:8 (NIV)
“You’ll never succeed in life if you try to hide your sins.” Pr. 28:13 (GN)
“Admit your faults to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”
2. BY STANDING UP ___________________________________________
“Stand true to what you believe. Be courageous. Be strong.” 1 Cor. 16:13 (NLT)
“If you don’t speak out to warn the evil person to leave his evil way, he will die in his sin. But I’ll hold you responsible for his death.” Ezek. 3:18 (ICB)
“Sure, those people appear to be having a good time, but all that laughter will end in heartbreak.” Pr. 14:13 (Mes)
“Let your love, God, shape my life… Then I’ll be able to stand up to mockery because I trust Your Word… as I look for Your truth and Your wisdom, I’ll tell the world what I find, and speak out boldly in public, unembarrassed.” Ps. 119:41, 45, 46 (Mes)
3. BY SPEAKING UP ___________________________________________
“God doesn’t want us to be shy with His gifts, but bold and loving and sensible. So don’t be embarrassed to speak up for our Master.” 2 Tim. 1:7-8 (Mes)
“Don’t be ashamed to tell people about our Lord Jesus.” (NCV)
“Always be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always do it with the utmost courtesy.” 1 Peter 3:15 (Mes)
HOW TO BUILD YOUR COURAGE
1. _________________________ through baptism.
“Your baptism in Christ was not just washing you up for a fresh start. It also involved dressing you in an adult faith wardrobe – Christ’s life!” Gal. 2:27 (Mes)
2. _________________________ FOR BOLDNESS
“Pray and ask God to give me the right words as I boldly tell others about the Lord…” Eph. 6:20 (LB)
3. _________________________ GOD TO USE ME.
“I expect and hope that I will have the courage now, as always, to show the greatness of Christ in my life here on earth.” Phil. 1:20 (NCV)
“Be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Josh. 1:9 (NLT)
4. _________________________ THE END OF THE STORY
“Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.” James 5:8
“You’ll have courage because you will have hope.” Job 11:18 (NLT)
“If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory.” Lk. 9:26 (NIV)
IT TAKES COURAGE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Making A Difference In Our World - Part 4 of 4
John 16:33 (NJB)
No one ever wants to be called a coward. It’s one of the most despised of all human qualities. We will do almost anything to avoid being called a coward. Remember when you were in school and a kid would dare you to do different things? You would do dumb things, stupid things, dangerous things, life threatening things, all to avoid that dreaded word – chicken. You didn’t want to be a chicken. We love courageous people. We despise the cowardly. In every movie, the bad guys are always cowards. The good guys are always courageous. In our families, fathers always want their wives and children to see them as being courageous because that’s what heroes are made of. Usually when we think of courage we think of death defying acts, heroic great sacrifices. Firemen going into burning buildings and bringing out little children. We think of soldiers falling on a grenade to save their buddies. We think of policemen in the line of fire taking a bullet to save somebody else’s life. We think of astronauts in Apollo 13. We think of Holocaust survivors, Congressional Medal of Honor winners. Things like this.
The truth is, it takes an enormous amount, a great deal of courage, just to face the ordinary challenges of daily life. It takes a lot to live and do the right thing without wimping out.
Everyday you’re making choices. Everyday those choices reveal you to be either courageous or a coward. Courageous or a coward.
We’ve been in this series for a number of weeks on “Making a Difference in our World.” We’ve talked about Passion, we’ve talked about Integrity, we’ve talked about Commitment. But underlying all of those is this quality of Courage. Because it takes courage to make a difference in our world. You can only change the world if you are a changed person. Changed people change the world. You can’t change the world by imitating it. You can’t change the world by blending in. You never change the world by going along with the flow and swimming downstream. The bottom line is, if I want to make a difference, I must be willing to be different. I must be willing to have people say things about me, be criticized, be questioned, be joked about. To make a difference, I must be different.
Jesus said in John 16 “In the world you will have hardship.” Notice it’s not an option. It’s going to happen so don’t be surprised. “But, be courageous. I have conquered the world.”
Today, I want us to get real practical and look at “How Can I Live More Confidently.” How can I live more courageously? I want to suggest to you three practical ways that you can develop courage in your life on a daily basis. Without running into fiery buildings, without jumping on grenades – how you can develop courage in your life in every singe 24-hour period.
The Bible tells us we can be courageous by owning up, standing up and by speaking up.
1. I SHOW COURAGE FIRST BY OWNING UP TO MY SIN
I intentionally chose this word “sin” because it’s the word we love to avoid. We like to call it everything else – blooper, blunder, character defect, flaw, temperament, oversight, lack of good judgment. But the Bible calls it sin.
And the Bible says we have all sinned. 1 John 1:8 “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” He says we’re just kidding ourselves, not anybody else. You don’t kid anybody else when you claim perfection, but you might kid yourself. The Bible says the truth is not in us. We’re not being honest with ourselves. We’re deceiving our own inner being. We’re not being honest. We’re not telling the truth.
But we hate to admit our sin. We hate to admit it because we’re afraid other people will think less of us when we admit that we failed, that we made mistakes, that we sinned, that we fall short of God’s standard. But the truth is in actuality, being able to be honest about your sin, to say, “I’m sorry, I was wrong. Forgive me,” or “That was my fault. Please forgive me,” being able to own up to personal sin, to personal responsibility is a mark of emotional health and spiritual health. And it is a mark of courage. It takes courage to do that. There are grown men who have never been able to say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong.” That’s cowardly. I’m sure there are people sitting here right now that have never been able to utter those words. They have never been able to say, “I have sinned.” We don’t like to own up to our sin.
I was reading about a little girl and her older brother went into Disneyland and to that little store where they have all the blown glass and crystal. She picked up one of those figurines and dropped it and it broke into a thousand pieces. The brother took it like a man and ran out of the building. The little girl though, opened her purse, pulled out the only five dollars she had and, with great fear and trembling, walked up to the owner of the store and said, “Is this enough?” The man said, “It’s ok. You can go.”
That was an act of courage! I know adults who would never do that. Wouldn’t even think of doing that. But that was an act of courage, to own up.
What are you afraid to own up to? What is it in your marriage that you haven’t owned up to and you keep blaming your husband/wife/kids? The Bible says this in Proverbs 28:13 “You’ll never succeed in life if you try to hide your sins.” Denial doesn’t work in the long run. There are some short term gains. You can wear a mask for a while but in the long run, denial doesn’t work.
This inability to own up to personal sin and responsibility is the great destroyer of marriage, relationships, careers. The inability to say, “It’s my fault. I was wrong. Would you forgive me?” that has ruined more marriages than you can possibly imagine.
We men particularly find this very difficult to do. If a man gets lost on a trip, is he going to admit it? Not a chance. They’d say, “We wanted to take the scenic route!” Ladies, a lot of “macho posing” is really just fear. It’s the fear of being found out that we’re imperfect, that we make mistakes, that we blow it. When it comes to admitting that we’re wrong, a lot of macho posing is just moral cowardice.
People come up to me all the time and tell me things they’d never tell anybody else. When they start to unload a burden, a shame, a guilt, I admire them. Often they’ll come up with a quivering voice, they’re shaking, even a tear in their eye. It takes courage to own up to faults in your life. It takes courage to own up to areas that you need to work on, to face yourself in the mirror and say, “This is not right,”and to admit it.
Why am I talking about this? We’re in a series on “Making a Difference in Our World,” and I’m talking about personal sin. How does that relate?
People who make a lasting, permanent difference for good do it out of personal authenticity. Fakes, phonies, and cons don’t last. But the truth lasts. When you live with the truth in your life, saying, “Yes, these are my strengths but these are my faults. And here’s where I’ve fallen.” Paul could be honest with his strengths saying, “Follow me as I follow Christ,” but he also could say, “I’m the chief of sinners.” He was very honest, even wrote it down for posterity so that 2000 years later we’re still reading his sins. Courage is owning up to my sin.
2. COURAGE IS STANDING UP FOR WHAT’S RIGHT
1 Corinthians 16:13 “Stay true to what you believe. Be courageous. Be strong.” Today, very few Christians are willing to stand up for what’s right. In a world where tolerance is valued more than truth, where people even doubt the existence of is there a right or a wrong and post modernism, and the whole society says, “What’s good for you may not be good for me,” etc., most Christians are afraid to stand up for the truth. We are afraid that we will be labeled, “Narrow minded,” “Prejudiced”, “Judgmental”, “Old fashioned”, “Out of date,” “Bigoted” or whatever.
This past week, probably where you work or maybe in your neighborhood or in your own family, or somewhere in your life, you’ve seen something done that was wrong. You knew it was wrong and you said nothing about it. You remained silent. You didn’t speak up, you didn’t point it out, confront it. You just remained silent. Probably in your mind you were thinking this, “I know that’s wrong because the Bible says it’s wrong, but who am I to judge?” Do you understand the contradiction between those statements? “I know it’s wrong, but who am I to speak up? It’s not my business. It’s not my life. Maybe I’ll just be quiet. It’s not my responsibility.” Are you sure of that?
If you’re a believer, this is God’s word to good people. Ezekiel 3:18 “If you don’t speak out to warn the evil person to leave his evil ways, he will die in his sin. But I’ll hold you responsible for his death.” That, to me, is one of the most sobering verses in the Bible. It sends a chill down my spine. The Bible says if I know the truth, if I know the difference between right and wrong and see somebody messing up their life and blowing up and doing the wrong thing and I say nothing about it, that the consequences of that wrong action, God’s going to hold me responsible for. Who was responsible for the Holocaust? Hitler? Yes, but also everybody else who kept their mouth shut while it was happening.
God says when I know the difference between right and wrong and I do nothing about it, it’s evil. All of us know people who are messing up their lives, destroying their lives because they’re ignoring God and they’re ignoring His will for their lives. They’re thumbing their nose to God, spiteing Him saying, “I’m going to be my own god, do my own thing.” We all have friends like that. You may have family members, relatives, co-workers, people in your neighborhood, people you go to school with. And you’re not doing anything about it.
In a crowd this size, I’m sure every one of us knows somebody who’s involved in substance abuse – drugs or alcohol. Many of you here right now know somebody who’s in the middle of an affair. It’s destroying their marriage and destroying them. Many of you probably know somebody who’s either flirting with or in a full-blown homosexual lifestyle. You may know somebody who’s cheating and they’re stealing from the company or they’re stealing from the government. You may know somebody who’s stuck in the addiction of pornography. And they can’t get out of it. And you’ve said nothing about it. And the excuse that you’ve given for your cowardice, the excuse you’ve given for your silence is, “They seem to be doing ok. They seem to be happy. Who am I to judge? They seem to be happy.”
Look at the next verse. “Sure, those people appear to be having a good time but all that laughter will end in heartbreak.” Proverbs 14:13 (Message paraphrase). They appear to be having a good time but all that laughter will end in heartbreak.
If you claim to be a believer, if you claim to be a follower of Christ, there will be times in your life when out of love you must care enough to confront. Out of love. There must be times when you say to that friend, to that family member, to that spouse, to that parent or somebody that you care about, “You’re blowing it. You’re making a major mistake in your life. You’re on the wrong path. I care too much to let you blow it. I’m not going to let you do that. Because I care about you, because I love you, I’m going to confront you and say this is wrong.” If you see somebody doing something wrong and you don’t confront them about it, you’re not much of a friend. Sometimes love is tough. Love cares enough to confront. You go ahead and say, “I’m not going to stand by on the sidelines and remain silent. I care too much about you. I care too much about this relationship. It may make you mad when I tell you this. It may offend you when I tell you this. It may put a strain on our relationship, but I care more about you than I do about what you think about me.” That’s love. If I were to go home and see my house on fire and my kids in there were asleep, nothing to could me from running in to get those kids. The press might call me a hero or courageous. The fire department might call me crazy or nuts. Other people might call me different things but when it comes down to the bottom line, love leaves no choice. It’s not an option. I have to do this. I have to take a stand out of love. You’ve got to care enough to confront.
Where do you get the courage to do that? Where do you get the courage to speak to that relative, that friend, that co-worker, who’s gone off the deep end or is heading that way, about to make the mistake of their life? Where do you get that courage?
Psalm 119 (Message paraphrase) “Let your love, God, shape my life. Then I’ll be able to stand up to mockery [in other words what other people think] because I trust Your word. And as I look for Your truth and Your wisdom, I’ll tell the world what I find and speak out boldly in public unembarrassed.” Circle “love”, “word”, “truth”. Maybe draw a line between all three of them. These are the things that give you the motivation to have courage to stand up for what’s right. If I really love God with all my heart and if I really love the truth, which is contained in God’s word, and if I really love people, then those things are going to motivate me to take action rather than sit in cowardly silence on the sidelines. When I see someone that I care about making a mistake, going the wrong way, thumbing their nose to God, I am going to say something about it. Love for God and love for truth and love for people is the motivation behind courage.
3. I HAVE TO SPEAK UP FOR CHRIST
1 Timothy 1:7-8 “God doesn’t want us to be shy with His gifts but be bold and loving and sensible. So don’t be embarrassed to speak up for our master.” In the New Century Version it says “Don’t be ashamed to tell people about our Lord Jesus.”
“Always be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks you why you’re living the way you are and always do it with the utmost courtesy.” You don’t use truth to beat people over the head with it. It’s not a gun that you fire at people, it’s not a club, it’s not a hammer, it’s not a dagger that you stick in people. You do it with courtesy.
Many of you are thinking, “I know I need to tell my friends and co-workers, family members about Christ, but I’m no expert. I’m a brand new believer. [Or a believer for many years] I don’t know the Bible. I don’t have these verses memorized. I’m no Bible scholar. I’ve never been to seminary. I don’t know enough to tell people about Christ.
Do you know enough to say, “Jesus Christ loves you and God made you for a purpose.” This isn’t rocket science. You can say that. Jesus Christ loves you. He died for you on the cross to show it and God has a purpose for your life. On top of that, people don’t need your knowledge. What they need is your love. Your love. You don’t argue anybody into heaven. You love them into heaven. You express love for people and you build a bridge of love from your heart to their’s and you let Jesus Christ walk across. You don’t have to be some Bible scholar to do this.
I’ve got a friend named Charles. Recently some new neighbors moved next door to him. He went over to see them. He knocked on the door and introduced himself and then he invited them to church. “Why don’t you come to church this week?” The husband at the door said essentially this, “Thank you for the invitation. But I don’t understand how anybody in their right mind could be a Christian. I don’t see how anybody with any intelligence could believe in religion. It’s for weaklings, for people who don’t think. Thank you, but no thanks.” And he shut the door. Charles said, “I’ve got a tough one. I’ve got to go home and start reading Francis Schaffer again, Josh McDowell, bone up on my apologetics, listen to some old CRI lectures.” Two weeks later he said, “I walked out onto my front yard and saw my neighbor’s rain gutter was filled with leaves. I thought, `That’s funny. We’ve had these storms and body’s cleared it out.’ About that time the wife walked out and he said, `I noticed your rain gutter’s full of leaves.’ She said, `My husband has a deathly fear of heights.’” Charles just went back to his garage, got out his ladder, went over and promptly cleaned out his neighbor’s rain gutters. That weekend the family was in church and they gave their lives to Christ and today they’re leaders in ministry in that church.
As I said, it’s not rocket science. You just have to love people. You have to care enough to say “I care more about your eternal soul that what you think of me in these initial moments.”
During this series of messages, I’ve been telling you to get this book, The Embarrassed Believer by Hugh Huett. He is a Professor of Law at Chatman University. He is the co-host of the Emmy award winning show on TV “Life and Times”. He also is the creator of the book and the TV mini-series “Searching for God in America”. What many of you don’t know is that during the years Saddleback was looking for land to build this church, Hugh was our corporate attorney. I’ve asked him to come today and share about how God is teaching him to stand up for what’s right and speak up for Christ in the media.
Four weeks ago Rick called up and invited me to do this and I said “Absolutely. I’d be honored to be a part of the service at the church that is changing the face of this state, this country and this world.” And that’s just what Saddleback is doing. I’m honored to be here. But then Rick called two weeks later and said, “Why don’t you come up on July 5th. We’re having some great music. It’s a patriotic day as well as a great message.” I did and I’m so glad I did. When I arrived I realized there were some changes that needed made. I had on my blue blazer and tie, full Presbyterian regalia, and I realized that this is not the way one dresses at Saddleback. I had to loosen up a little bit as well. I tell people there are a lot of reasons I’m a Presbyterian. One of them is it’s the church I’m least likely to be hugged.
Rick asked me to tell you how my broadcast career merged slowly over many years with my faith. I’ve known this is of the Lord for a very long time, but only in the last six or seven years had evidence of that.
It happened this way. I was working for KFI. How many of you listen to the 50,000 behemoth KFI? You will be saved anyway! Talk radio can’t take that away from you. But when I was doing it originally on Saturday, after the first year it got a little boring to just beat up on Bill Press, the pinnate of the radio. Bill’s a good friend of mine, he’s just always wrong. I got to thinking that it would be useful to take this amazing gift that had been given to me and turn it to some use for the Lord. I began my very first secular broadcast with one of your pastors, Pastor Glenn, and talked about how to plant a church in Southern California. The reaction was so strong that I began to weave into every week or every other week, some message from the gospel. Including at one point when I got very bold. Towards the last year before I retired and concentrated exclusively on television, I read C.S. Lewis’ entire Mere Christianity over the radio in the 11-12:00 hour. The response was so great that even the people at PBS began to think there was a place for people who would talk about spirituality or faith. I said, Absolutely. I slipped in a Christian once in a while. Greg Lorey came on and the response was so overwhelming to his message of the Harvest Crusades that national PBS gave me the chance to do “Searching for God in America.” I was able to put Chuck Colson on in a national audience and ask him basically, “Who is this Jesus Christ you’re always talking about?” And he was able to preach the Gospel over the television to the secular world in a way I didn’t think had happened before. I’m very happy I had that opportunity. But there was a down side.
The down side was too many Christians, hundreds of Christians, perhaps thousands, have come forward to say, “It’s great that there’s a Christian in the media who’s not afraid to say it, someone who’s able to own up to their evangelical beliefs.” It ought not to be remarkable that we find a way in our professional lives and our integrated lives to witness to people who don’t know the Lord that we are, in fact, believers. It ought not to be that way. I began to think about it and it turns out that I and many people like me are embarrassed believers.
What do I mean by that? A short test: I know you believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, came into the world to save you, was crucified, died and was resurrected and is at the right hand of the Father and He’s coming back. Most of you believe that. But do the people that you work with, the people you car pool with, the people you see at your kids’ school believe that you believe that? Do they know that in your hearts you’re passionate about the truth of that great phraseology? Or do they think you’re coming to some sort of a club on Sunday morning? Some sort of a therapy group? Do they understand that you really do hold it close in your heart? If there’s any doubt in your mind that they believe that you believe, you are like me to some extent an embarrassed believer.
I know why I’m embarrassed. I suspect it’s why many of you who believe are also somewhat embarrassed. Four quick reasons:
The elite media in America hates Christians with a passion in terms that they are threatened by those who have an absolute moral standard and they punish them. Three quick examples. There was a Washington Post story only four years that called evangelicals ill educated and easily led. It was retracted the next day but it had gone past three levels of editorial scrutiny and when the Ph.D. and JD’s and all the degrees in the world rained down on them their scorn for that, they retracted. But nevertheless it was there. If you followed the coverage of the Promise Keepers, especially in Time magazine last year, you’ll know that it was treated as though the Huns had invaded the nation’s capital and were looting the city. I want to assure you, on the basis of having lived there six years, there was never a safer time to live in Washington D.C. than during that week that the Promise Keepers were there. I’d also like to say that the coverage of the Southern Baptists when they made their rather unremarkable affirmation of Ephesians again pealed away the scorn that the people of the elite media has for people who believe what has been mainstream belief for people of this country for more than three hundred years. That’s the elite media.
Science has also declared war in some elite areas on Christianity as being inconsistent with that which we discover every day. Luckily there are Christians among those who are coming forward right now to say that is not true. That every new picture reveals his work and the design of the universe and that we can take great faith in every discovery from sub-particle physics to the great worlds above us. No one likes to be thought, thirdly, dumb or fanatical. People hate to be thought but our unfortunately elite classes display that kind of disdain for us at every turn. Phillip Johnson is Professor of Law at Berkley and he quotes another person when he says, “If India is the most religious country of the world and Sweden is the least religious country, then we are a nation of Indians ruled by Swedes.” We have to begin to recognize that we can’t accept the scorn of elites in this country in academics and media as an excuse not to witness.” Finally C.S. Lewis wrote about the problem of those other Christians. “We are sometimes embarrassed by those who call themselves Christians and are Christians but worship differently from us. We don’t want to be thought to be like those Christians in that church that’s become a stumbling block.”
If you, like me, have that anxiety about witnessing or being known as a Christian, if you’re embarrassed at all, I want to say to you the call of the gospel and the warning of the Gospel.
First, the call of the Gospel. Romans 1:16, Paul writes “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of God for it is the power of God to salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” I keep that in front of me for I’m often ashamed that I have to remind myself that if Paul could write that at the end of his career I’ve got to be so as well. The Lord gives us a warning from His mouth, one that I think we have to hold onto as well, Mark 30:8 “Whoever’s ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” That’s a very serious warning.
I’ve, six times, been nominated with my show for an Emmy – three times we’ve won, three times we’ve lost. Winning is better than losing. But even when you lose, you nevertheless have immediately, yes, disappointment but also immediately the recognition that there is next year. We’ll be back next year and maybe we’ll win.
That second chance will not come around for those who you fail to bring into the fellowship of Christ or at least try and get that invitation to. If you lose this, you lose it for all eternity. It is happiness in this life and salvation in the next that gives me boldness with some people. I learned this again recently. Two years ago I interviewed Richard Dreyfuss. Two and a half hours we taped to make a 25-minute interview. It was a wonderful tape. He’s a wonderful actor. I admire many of his films. He’s a dynamite fellow and I was engaged in this conversation. We went into the second hour. I asked, “Is there anything you’d do differently?” expecting him to say more comedy, less drama or more drama less comedy, something like that. He stopped and said, “I would trade it all in tomorrow for the anonymous life of the history teacher in a small town.” What he was saying, I think, is that everything that the world can give to one individual he pretty much has it – Oscars, wealth, fame – but it’s not enough to make him happy. I suspect that is because he does not know the Lord.
If you agree that you’re an embarrassed believer, or you know someone who is, I want to give you four quick fix on what to do about this. How to’s of what I say about myself and perhaps you can say about yourself.
1. It is my job to witness. My job and your job. It is not Rick’s job. Rick’s job is like a gas station. He fills you up. He takes you and tells you how to live your life and he energizes you so you can make a difference in the world. But if we’re not doing it, he can’t do it. He’s the railroad, the train, but you’ve got to push people onto the tracks so he can run them over. That is your job.
2. I’ve got to prepare to do it. No where do we ever see that it’s easy. There is some effort involved here. You’ve got to listen, you’ve got to read the word. More than I do – I certainly am not an example here either. You’ve got to be in a small group where people can hold you accountable for the witness that you’re called upon to do in your everyday life.
3. I’ve got to practice this. The place to practice this is in the tents and classrooms of this church. The world is destroying our children. If you haven’t noticed that, read today’s Los Angeles Times. This morning, I read the story of a kid who had everything going for him, whose life has ended in tragedy for himself and others. I read through the story and no where did I see the church. Nowhere did I see someone come in and make an effort to save that young man from the tragedy he became involved in. Ask yourself “Where was I? Where were the people who could have saved him?” Right now there are literally hundreds of children being ministered to by the heroes of this church in those tents and those classrooms. If any thought crosses your mind that you can be among them, realize that that’s your opportunity to touch eternity. That’s your opportunity to learn how to witness. You should be there and you should be working with those kids to protect them from the roaring lion which is our culture.
4. I’ve got to plan. I’ve got a target list in my mind. Once a year I try to take one unbeliever with me to my church’s men’s retreat. I do so because that’s putting them in harm’s way for three days. It’s not necessarily that big of commitment. There are empty chairs here that only you can fill. Only you know the names of the people who could be here with a small invitation. You’ll be shined on, waved off. Some will say they’re shopping around the churches. Tell them Saddleback has a sale. Bring them here. Get them here.
I close with a question and with a promise. I’ve asked hundreds of thousands of people during this book tour on radio and television, “Have they ever regretted sharing the love of the Lord with anyone? Have they ever regretted extending the invitation to come to church?” The answer has never been yes. The answer is no. You never fail in this effort when you try. The promise sent to me by a pastor who read the book who candidly acknowledged that sometimes there would be trouble in your life if you are evangelical about your faith. Sometimes there will be a knockdown or a setback. He quoted to me Jeremiah 1:17&19 as a means to encourage me. I share with you for the same reason. “But you gird up your loins and rise and say to them everything I command you. Do not be dismayed by them. And behold I make you today a fortified city, an iron pillar in bronze walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, the princes and the priests and the people of the land. They will fight against you but they shall not prevail against you for I am with you, says the Lord, to deliver you.”
God wants to use you. God wants to use you in this world. God wants to use you in this world right now and He will if you’re willing to stand up for what is right and if you’re willing to speak up for Jesus Christ.
You know what to do. You already know this. This is not new to you. The real issue is, where are you going to get the courage to do it? Where are you going to get the courage to stand up when you need to stand up and to speak up when you need to speak up?
Four keys, four steps. These are things you can do to ratchet up your courage. That you can stoke the fires of confidence. That you can build the courage in your heart so that you can be a world changer. What do you do?
1. Go public through baptism. That’s what baptism is. Baptism is your coming out party. It’s when you stop being a secret agent disciple and say I am not ashamed. When people are baptized they’re saying, “I am telling the whole world I’m stepping across the line. I’m in the family. I’ve joined the army. I’m in the fold. I am not ashamed to tell the world that I am a follower of Jesus Christ.” A little boy asked me one time, “When can I get advertised?” I love that because that’s what baptism is. Baptism is an advertisement for Jesus. It says, “I’m not covering up. I’m not a coward. I’m not worried about anybody knowing this. I want the whole world to know and I’m going to do it in a very public act.” Very few things are more public than baptism, especially here at Saddleback. We baptize by immersion. When Jesus went down to the Jordan River, it was a very public act. Everybody sees it and it’s saying, “I’m not a coward. I’m a follower of Christ.” Galatians 3:27 (Message paraphrase) “Your baptism in Christ is not just washing you up for a fresh start. It also involves dressing you in an adult faith wardrobe of Christ’s life.” In the last five years here at Saddleback, over 5,200 adults have been baptized out there in that pool, publicly coming out saying, “I am not ashamed to say I am a believer.”
What’s your excuse? Some of you have been believers for some period of time and you’ve never made that public stand. “I don’t want to get my hair wet!” I’m glad Jesus didn’t say, “I only do what’s convenient.” Some of you have been through 101 Class and you need to finish what you started. I want to challenge some of you who have been closet Christians, come out of the closet, do something courageous today. Step across the line in your public profession of what you’ve already made in your heart. It doesn’t make you a Christian but it shows that you are one. Take that step.
2. Pray for boldness. Ask God for courage. Even the Apostle Paul did this. Paul says “Pray and ask God to give me the right words as I boldly tell others about the Lord.” Ask God for courage. Pray for boldness.
3. Expect God to use me. This is a beautiful prayer and statement. I encourage you to write it down on a little card, put it on your desk at work, your visor in your car, on your refrigerator door – someplace like that. “I expect and hope that I will have the courage now, as always, to show the greatness of Christ in my life here on earth.” God works in your life when you show faith. You expect the courage to be there, it will be there. Hugh alluded to this but let me make it clear. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is doing the right thing in spite of your fear. Courage is not the absence of anxiety. You’re going to have anxiety when you talk to people about critical issues in their life. It’s natural to be nervous. That’s ok. Courage is not the absence of nervousness. It is moving ahead in spite of your nervousness, doing the right thing because you love -- you love God, you love people and you love truth. In fact, if you don’t feel any nervousness, any fear, then it’s not an act of courage, because you only need courage when you’re scared to death. The very fact that you’re moving ahead in spite of your fear means you’re being courageous. That is pleasing to God. The Bible says, “Be strong and courageous. Don’t be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Circle “with you”. Go public, pray for boldness, expect God to use you.
4. Remember the end of the story. Hugh was talking about the media. If you believe the media, you listen and hear what they’re saying; it seems like we’re losing the battle. When you read everything that’s going on in the world and the way they twist it and tell it, it sounds like all that is God and all that is good and all that is right and pure and righteous and even common sense just seems to be losing ground in our world. We can become very easily discouraged. It’s the opposite of courage. It’s dis-courage. When you lose your courage you become dis-couraged.
But you don’t have to ever become discouraged. Remember the end of the story. I’ve read the last chapter in the book. In the last chapter of God’s word it says this: We win! Jesus Christ is going to come back and He’s going to settle the score, even the odds, balance the books. He’s going to reward the righteous. He’s going to punish the wicked. He’s going to establish justice. That is going to happen, inevitably. No matter what anybody else says or does because history is His story. So it’s going to happen whether you want it to or not. And in the end, we win. That ought to give you courage. We may have a few battles we lose here, a few skirmishes we have some fatalities on, but the outcome is inevitable. The outcome is unquestioned. We win.
James 5:8 “Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.” Job tells us “You’ll have courage because you will have hope.”
I don’t care how many degrees that guy has got behind his name who is doubting God, don’t you ever be intimidated by anybody who doubts God. He can have so many degrees you call him Dr. Fahrenheit but the Bible says “The fool has said in his heart there is no God.” I don’t care how many degrees he’s got, if he says there is no God, guess which side of the camp he’s coming down on? He’s an educated fool. He looks at the world and thinks it happened by accident. It takes more faith to not believe in God.
When I was in college I used to hear this all the time: “Religion is for weak people” or “God is a crutch for spineless wimps” or “Christianity is for cowards”. Whenever I hear that I laugh. The absurdity of that statement. It is ludicrous. It is a statement of ignorance. The fact is it takes enormous courage to just become a Christian. In the first place you have to own up to your sin. “God, You’re right, I’m wrong.” In the second place, you have to repent. That takes courage. “God, I’m going to go Your way not mine.” And in the third place, you have to commit your life totally to Christ and say “I’m going to follow You from here on out.” That takes courage. Then it takes courage just to follow Christ when it’s unpopular, to follow Christ when it’s inconvenient, to follow Christ when you don’t understand it. It takes courage to obey Christ when it doesn’t make sense and everybody’s going the other way. It takes courage to be ethical in the market place. It takes courage to have honesty even when it costs you personally. It takes courage to minister. It takes courage to share your faith with an unbeliever. It takes courage to tithe. It takes courage to remain sexually pure in this sex obsessed society. It takes courage to own up to your sin and stand up for what’s right and to speak up for Jesus Christ. And anybody who does that has more courage in their pinkie than a critic has in his entire body. Agnostics don’t even have enough courage to make up their minds. “Maybe there is a God, maybe not.” Get some spine! What a jellyfish statement! If you don’t know you’d better figure it out because eternal implications are in the balance.
The fact is, most people are moral cowards. “What’s right for you may not be right for me…. I might think it’s wrong but I don’t want to judge you.” That’s moral cowardice. It takes no courage to blend in with culture. Cowards follow the crowds. The Courageous follow Christ. When I hear people say it takes no courage to be a spiritual person, to follow Christ, I want to say, “Let me just take you on a trip around the world.” The media doesn’t talk about this. But the fact is, even today, millions of people will be tortured, imprisoned, even lose their lives because they name the name of Christ and they stand up for their faith. That takes courage. In countries like China and in Moslem countries it’s a capital crime to be a Christian yet people continue to stand up. Then you take the Bible and you look at the statements of Jesus Christ and they are the most challenging statements you will ever see. Statements like, “Give your life away in order to find it.”. Like, “When the enemy hurts you, you pray for him and do good for him.”, “Turn the other cheek and go the second mile.” Is that easy? Jesus says things like, “Take up your cross and follow Me.” In those days nobody was going to take up a cross unless the Romans were going to nail them to it. It was a death sentence to be a Christian. Cowards do not last in the Christian life. They wimp out.
Do you have enough courage to step across the line? Do you have enough courage to publicly profess your faith in Christ first by being baptized and then standing up in your office, taking a Bible, laying it on your desk and letting people know where you stand and when you see something wrong you say it’s not right. You don’t say it in judgment, you say it in love but you tell the truth. Do you have the courage to do that?
Jesus said this, “If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory.” When Jesus comes back, is He going to be ashamed of your cowardice, that you knew the right thing but you didn’t speak up, you knew Christ but you didn’t tell anybody? Who’s going to be in heaven because of you?
What I’m challenging you to do this morning is this: Dare to make a difference by daring to be different and caring more about what God thinks than what other people think because you only need to live for an audience of One -- Jesus Christ. Great people never follow the crowd. Never. They take the road less traveled.
Let me ask you a very personal question. Who do you need to talk to about Jesus Christ? That neighbors next door, that person at work, that family member that Jesus Christ died for? Who do you need to talk to about Christ? I want you to take an act of courage this morning. I want you to do something courageous. Some of you need to say, “I’m going to step across the line and become a believer, a follower of Jesus Christ.” Some of you have already done that. You need to say you’ll be baptized, come out of the closet. Have your coming out party. Be baptized. Some of you have been baptized. You need to find a church home. There are many good Bible believing churches here in the Saddleback Valley. You’re welcome here at Saddleback. Get a family to be a part of. Make the commitment to go the next step. Many of you need to pray that God will give you the opportunity to share the love of Jesus with a person you know. There’s something real about making a public commitment, or at least putting it in writing. Make a courageous step today. Do something courageous.
Would you pray this prayer in your heart? “Father, I don’t want to be a coward. Forgive me for those times when I have been silent and I should have spoken up. I want to own up to my own sins and I’m not going to blame anybody else for my problems. I’m not going to blame anybody else for the conflict that I’ve caused in relationships. I want You to be in charge of every area of my life. I don’t want to be an embarrassed believer. Help me to stand up for what’s right, regardless of what some people may think. Give me the courage to lovingly speak the truth to people I care about who are destroying their lives by ignoring You. Help me to speak up for Christ and to share Your love with those around me. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”