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About this series
Share the Love
How to Talk to Anyone about God
You should, you ought to, you know the Bible tells you to do it - but the thought of actually sharing your faith with another person gives you sweaty palms and heart palpitations. "I'm just not gifted in evangelism," you decide. "It's not for me." But it is! In Share the Love, learn how even you can move from being a "secret agent" Christian to a "public" witness as you develop the heart, skills, and perspective to naturally share Christ as a part of your lifestyle and relationships.More from this series
You know, I’ve learned something, I’ve observed it all my life. When you really love someone, or if you really love something you just can’t wait to share it. Is that true? You know, you go to a great restaurant and you’re with some friends, you go, “Oh man! We were at this place the other night. You gotta go there!” Or, you know, you get a new tablet or you get some new shoes and people, “Where did you get?” “Oh, you have got to get. And they’re on sale.”
Advertisers know the greatest advertisement in all the world is word of mouth. It’s true. We always share what we love.
And that’s why, for me at least, sometimes it’s really hard to understand why I don’t share or why it’s hard to share the most important love relationship in my life. I mean, God saved me, forgave me, gave me a new life and yet I find myself in situations where it’s hard. It’s just hard to get over the hump to share with other people His infinite grace and love and offer of forgiveness.
Many years ago I had a, one of those experiences that, they stuck in your mind and you get, sort of, an “ah-ha” about maybe why you do certain things that you do.
Now I met a guy named Steve, he was an All-American swimmer. I was coaching by day and we were starting a little discipleship ministry on a campus by night. So I would go up and play basketball with guys like Steve and we’d do gospel of John studies and if I described Steve to you he was popular, he was a party animal, he was a number one athlete, he swore profusely, he was very in, he was very cool, he was very unreligious, and he was dating a beautiful girl who happened to be living right next door to me. I lived in a garage apartment and she lived next door.
And I knew she lived there and I knew they were girlfriend/boyfriend because that’s where he spent the weekends.
And so, you know, here’s a guy that’s just, like, far from God, really arrogant, I’m really insecure. I’m thinking, “I don’t know who I’m going to share Christ with but that’s the last guy on this campus that would ever be open to hear about Christ.”
Is there anybody like that in your life? I mean, who is that person you think, you know what? They sort of “got it,” they would never need God.
Well, he comes out of, it was like a Saturday morning one weekend, and he comes out of her little house like this and goes, “Man, my back is killing me.” Because, you know, we played ball together and, you know, we were friends. I never said anything to him.
Friends. I use, that’s sort of a very general usage of that word. We were acquaintances. And I said, “Well, what’s wrong?” He said, “Man, my back is killing me.” I said, “Why?” He said, “You know, sleeping on that couch.” I said, “Sleeping on the couch? Why?”
He said, “Oh, this amazing thing happened last weekend.” I said, “What’s that?” “My girlfriend, you know, her folks are kind of religious and, you know, when you go to visit you gotta do whatever they do so, you know, she lives out in the country in West Virginia and we end up in this tiny, little church and thirty-five or fifty people and some old gizzard gets up and opens the Bible and I’m rolling my eyes. And, you know, he starts talking about stuff. And I can’t explain it but he’s talking about sin, and lack of peace, and God’s forgiveness, and Jesus being God, and dying in our place, and it was like, whoa, this dude is reading my mail! And all of a sudden I realized I want and need.”
He goes, “When it got done I just walked right up to the front and I prayed to receive Christ and, man, my life’s different.” “Oh really?”
So the next three or four months I began to disciple Steve and we became friends and the very last blank, you know, I listed him and the part I didn’t list was the part I didn’t know. He was totally open to Christ.
I mean, this is the most un-seeker sensitive, un-cool presentation of the gospel that God could probably ever put him in front of but since the power is in the gospel and not in the presentation and Steve was open, he trusted Christ - changed his life.
And we got to be friends then. Real friends. And Steve, I remember, one day said, “Can I ask you something?” I said, “Well, sure.” “Um, let me get this right. You knew all about this Jesus and forgiveness and we played basketball and we did this stuff together. Chip, why didn’t you tell me?”
I mean, I don’t know if there’s ever a time where you felt like the spotlight was on you and you just, there is, like, no place to hide. There is no excuse. All I could say was, “Well, basically because I thought you were closed, I’m desperately insecure, and I was really intimidated.” How’s that for an answer?
And what I’ve learned is the reason I didn’t share the love of God with Steve is because I believed a lie. And I’m going to share with you seven specific lies that keep us, who love Jesus, who have been saved by Jesus, whose lives have been changed by Jesus; there are seven strongholds or lies that we believe.
And I’ve called them a stronghold because it’s a biblical phrase. But the father of lies is Satan. And what he wants to do is get very subtle lies ingrained into your thinking, into your mind where they’re just the glasses that you look at other people with.
And so over here, if you could imagine, there’s this unlimited lake of grace and over here you have this unlimited need of people and their struggles and you know what? There’s a conduit and the link of God’s grace, and love, and forgiveness is the conduit of regular people like us.
And so the enemy has developed different ways to get you and me to believe lies that keep us from taking that love and that grace and introducing these people to what God wants for them.
Seven strongholds we must demolish daily. And I put daily in there because they’re so ingrained you’ll have to, kind of, write these down and pound away and read them over and pray them through. You might say, well, where did I get that?
II Corinthians 10:4 and 5, the apostle Paul is speaking to the Corinthian church. And he says, “The weapons of our warfare, or the weapons that we fight with, are not of this world.” We’re in a spiritual battle for the souls of these people. “On the contrary, the weapons we have, have divine power to do,” what? “Demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretention that’s set up against the knowledge of God and we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.”
These lies, these strongholds are raised up against the knowledge of God. These presuppositions and we’re sincere but we look through a lens that keep us from loving people.
Stronghold number one we’ve already hit. It’s that people aren’t open. It’s a lie. We believe. Now it might not be a swimmer. It may not be an athlete. It might be someone with a Ph.D., it might be someone who drives a very nice car, it might be someone who seems very beautiful, it might be someone that you think has it all together, it might be someone who intimidates you, it might be someone who swears profusely, who makes fun of Christians.
It might be something but there’s, you think they’re not open. And because of that, since they’re not open, why talk to them, right? That was my theory.
Jesus said this, “Do you not say, ‘Four months more then comes the harvest? I tell you, ‘Open your eyes and look at the fields. They’re ripe or white for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages and now he harvests the crop for eternal life so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.”
That’s in John chapter 4. Jesus has just shared Christ with a woman who’s had five husbands. She’s a Samaritan. So, I mean, they’re off theologically, they’re half-breeds, the Jews think they’re not open. Her moral past, she couldn’t be open.
Jesus shares Christ, she goes back into the village and says, “I met the Messiah.” The whole village is walking out, hundreds of people. The disciples come back, they did take-out, they got lunch and brought it into Jesus. And they’re looking and he goes, “Look. You guys don’t think these people would ever be open. They’re open.”
We did some research, recently. An organization, this is the most recent research on the attitudes of the unchurched. They had a very broad population of people and this was of people that have not been to any kind of religious service in the last six months.
Not to a church, a synagogue, or a mosque. We found that sixty-two percent of those surveyed said they believe in God or a higher, supreme being. So three out four people already say, “I believe in God.”
Of those, sixty-one percent believe that the God of the Bible is no different from the gods of other religions. So, “I believe in God. I have no idea who He is and I assume they’re all the same.” Well, I wonder why they assume that? Who ever told them differently?
Sixty-six percent of adults ages eighteen to twenty-nine agree that Jesus died and came back to life. The generation coming up. Two out of three people, like, in their twenties and late teens, “You believe Jesus died?” “Yeah.” “Came back to life?” So two out of three people are ready to talk about this.
The problem, however, is they trip over the Church. Two thirds or sixty-four percent of respondents think the Christian religion is relevant and a viable religion for today. It’s not that they think it’s antiquated, or it’s not a good message, or it doesn’t make sense.
The problem is seventy-two percent said they think the church is full of hypocrites. Is there ever a day when people are more open and all they’re looking for is Christians to live like Christians.
We don’t have to have it all together. Just live like Christians. And they want to hear. They’re open, most, are you ready for this? They’re most open to their friends.
Eight out of ten or seventy-eight percent surveyed said they would be willing to listen to someone who wanted to talk about their Christian beliefs. By the way, these are the people that are in your neighborhood and where you work.
Now, if you happen to be in that younger audience, eighteen to twenty-nine, it bumps up to eighty-nine or ninety percent of that age group is open to talk about your beliefs.
And yet down deep what do most of us think? “Oh, they’re not open. They just work at Google, or they work over here, or they do that and, you know, it’s this new generation.” It’s a lie. It’s a stronghold.
Finally, they summarize the findings. Eighty-nine percent of the unchurched people said they have a close friend who is a Christian. Think of that. See these are people they surveyed that you work with, that are in your neighborhood, that are on the soccer team. And they know you’re a Christian.
Some of you, their close friends, what they’re saying is, “We don’t even have to go out and find a brand new group of people to share the love of God with. We need to share the love of God with the people that God’s already put in our life.”
But we just need to start some of those spiritual conversations. Are you ready for this? The research, and Jesus, would say people are way more open and want to hear about His love than we are willing to tell them.
Is that crazy? It’s a stronghold.
Stronghold number two: Sharing Jesus’ love is reserved for spiritual superstars and people with outgoing personalities. You believe that one?
You know, I have a few friends and I’ve had a few experiences like this but, you know, you hear someone and maybe it’s in a message or a CD and the story goes something like this:
“I was on a plane coming back from so and so and I talked briefly with the woman next to me and after thirty-five minutes, tears rolling down her face, she prayed to receive Christ. Afterwards, she stepped up from the first-class, went to the back, and said, ‘I have to share my testimony!’ She shared her testimony with the rest of the plane. People were coming out of the aisles on the plane, they were kneeling, everyone on the plane trusted Christ. The pilot, then, stopped the plane in midair to…” no.
I mean, right? Now honestly, haven’t you heard those stories? I mean I exaggerated a little, alright? But when we hear stories of, sort of, like, oh wow, these over the top amazing, true stories what it does is we start, the enemy takes even good things that happen and it’s like, “Oh see? You gotta be a superstar. You gotta have great people skills, outgoing personality, have to be able to read people. You need to understand this, be able to answer all these questions.”
It’s not what the Bible says. The apostle Paul would say in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it, the gospel, is the power of God for salvation to the Jew first and also to the Gentile.”
See the faulty assumption… We believe, down deep in terms of our behavior, that the power is in the messenger. And since you’re not a very big, strong messenger well, you know, you’re not going to share, there won’t be any results. The Bible says just the opposite. The Bible says the power is in the message, not the messenger.
I learned this from my friend John Saville. Remember the story about John who gave me the checkbook and taught me about generosity? John was an introvert. I mean he called himself a bean counter. I’m not sure what that is but he owned a CPA firm, he liked numbers, he wasn’t overly relational. He didn’t have a lot of people skills.
But he came to Christ late and he had this sense of urgency. He really loved people outside of Christ. And he said, “Chip, if you can read, you can love people.” And I said, “Well what do you mean, John?” And he goes, “Look.” And he would pull out something similar to this like the four spiritual laws or a little booklet and he goes, “I’m not great talking with people but I just bring up the conversation, I ask, and then I pray, and then I just read this.”
And I’m thinking, “John, you know? I’ve been to seminary and that’s not really how it works. You gotta do some other things.” And I was, literally, with John in an elevator and I guess when you’re, like, seventy some years old, you know, young, attractive women don’t think you’re hitting on them so John turned to this young, attractive woman in an elevator and said, “Excuse me, sweetie? Has anyone told you that Jesus loves you?”
And I’m thinking, “Oh my lands.” And she goes, “No.” “Well would you like me to share that with you right now?” And I’m going, “Oh.” “Yes.” And I’m thinking, “This doesn’t work like this.” You know what John knew? The power is in the gospel. He loves them. It’s a stronghold.
Stronghold number three is that witnessing is something I do versus something that I am. You know, some of our backgrounds and we’ve come from a background where you need to witness. You know? It’s like you need to pray, you need read the Bible, you need to witness. That’s something you do. So, get with the program.
And most of us feel either mildly guilty or really guilty that we don’t do it enough. So, I need to do that. It’s not what the Bible teaches. Jesus, before He ascended in Acts chapter 1 verse 8, he said, “But you, My followers, will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be My witnesses.”
Will you underline “be” in your notes? He didn’t say “do.” “And you will be My witnesses,” where? First of all, right where you’re at. Jerusalem. For some of us that’s our home or our neighborhood. “And all Judea.” That’s a broader circle. “And Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the world.” He says you’re going to be a witness.
So, it’s not do you do it or not do it. It boils down to are we good witnesses or bad witnesses? Because we are. We represent Him. I mean, the fact of the matter is this ocean of God’s love and forgiveness that’s available for everyone, it’s just, it’s pushing up against the conduit inside of you and me and He wants it to come through us to them and so we’re either doing that well or poorly.
The false premise here is that if I just live a good life, if I’m kind, if I’m fair, if I’m a person of integrity, if I help people out, well, that’s the witness. No, no. That’s half of the witness. Part of it is there certainly has to be a lifestyle that demonstrates Christlikeness but people are not going to look at you and go, “Wow, you’re really kind at work. You tell the truth. You come on time. You seem to care about people. Oh my lands! A light bulb went off in my head!”
People don’t know unless they hear. They need to see the message of your life. They need to hear the message of the gospel through your words. It’s those things together.
But as long as I, in my mind, say, “Well, you know, I’m not an outgoing person. People aren’t really open. The power is in the messenger and I’m not a very good messenger and witnessing is I’ll try to do good and live the life,” you know what it ends up in? About eight point five to nine people who are sincere, genuine, followers of Christ never share the love of Christ verbally or the gospel with anyone.
It’s like we got a big stopper in the PVC conduit pipe from the grace and love of God to people. And the stopper is us. And the stopper is we believe some lies. We are witnesses.
Stronghold number four: Sharing the good news is an event versus a process. It’s an event. And, by the way, there are wonderful, good events. The weekends here. It’s an event. But what’s happened is we start thinking that what we want to do is somehow figure out how to get people to an event, instead of realizing it’s a process all the time.
Or for some of us it’s not just that we think the only thing we need to do is get them to an event but we think when that event comes, when there’s this moment, and people kind of open up spiritually, there’s some of us that have come from backgrounds, I’m one of these people, and they didn’t, I’m sure they didn’t mean to teach it this way, I just took it this way.
I got this overwhelming pressure that whenever anyone was even mildly open to talk about Christ, I thought, “Okay. Here we go. I gotta share all the four laws or the entire bridge illustration, ask them to pray, ‘Do you want to pray?’ if not, why not? Answer their top three questions and we pray right now, they become a Christian. If that happens we get an A, anything less than that I get an F.
And so I don’t know if you’ve ever met one of those, sort of, young, zealous Christians that thinks it’s an event. I was one of those. I actually remember in college coming out of my dorm room and seeing someone walk toward me and turn around and go down the other stairs.
I couldn’t figure out why they didn’t want to be around me.
Now, that’s the exception. But my mindset was, “I’m a total failure unless I dump the whole spiritual truck on everybody every moment, every opportunity.” That’s not what the Bible teaches. That’s not how God works. That’s not how things grow. Look what it says.
I Corinthians 3:6 and 7, the apostle Paul, speaking to the Church says, “I planted the seed of the gospel, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything but only God who makes it grow.”
See we’re all in this together. We don’t need to be pushy, we don’t need to be preachy. We need to love with our life and love with our lips and so, you know, you ask someone, “Have you ever considered this?”
You know if John, if that lady in the elevator, “Has anyone ever told you about Jesus?” If that lady would have said, “No, and I’m not very interested,” you know, I think John would just say, “Well, you know what? I can certainly understand that.”
And I’ve watched him. “Could I just pray for you today? Is there anything that I could pray for you today?” He wouldn’t push.
Sometimes, you know, they’re going through a divorce and you give them a tape or you just listen. Or sometimes, you know, they’re having a struggle with one of their kids and you’re just available. You say, “I’ll babysit while you go to counseling.”
You know, sometimes it begins with just an invitation to church, or it’s a book that you’ve read or, you know, what you do, you plant the seed wildly. But some people plant the seed and then we water the relationships. But God is orchestrating all of this. I have been that person. I do have an outgoing personality. I don’t have the gift of evangelism. But I have an evangelistic heart.
I want to love lost people and I like to talk with them because I didn’t grow up in the church and I had such a bad church experience. I have great compassion for people that are turned off by religion.
And I’ve sat next to people and shared the gospel and thirty-five or forty minutes later, with tears running down their eyes, have them pray in the seat to receive Christ. And early on I thought, “You know what? I am pretty amazing.”
And then, you know, like the next thirty minutes before we land, here’s what I learned: Well, her husband has been praying for the last fourteen years, the pastor has been at the house seven times, her boss is, you know, like, the greatest Christian she’s ever known, she’s read three Christian books.
I just happened, you know, the fruit was so ripe it was ready to fall off the tree. I just caught it. And what I want you to know is there’s people that you’re sharing with, there’s people that you’re praying for, there’s people that you can water, you sow, you water, you sow, you reap.
But take away the pressure. We need to recklessly, with abandon, just love people with our deeds, and our words, because sharing the good news is a process. It’s not just an event.
Stronghold number five: He or she will never come to Christ versus God desires all people to be saved. Is there anyone that just comes to your mind right now that you think to yourself, “You know something? I hear what you’re saying but, I mean, you don’t know my dad. He’s been an atheist. All he does is rip me all the time.” Or, “You don’t know my boss.”
Who is that person? Who do you think could never come to Christ? And as a result, you used to pray for them and you, kind of, don’t because why? They never will. That’s a lie.
How many people, if Saul of Tarsus, after murdering a bunch of people would say, “Hey! I think this guy has a real potential. You know what? He’s murdering a lot of Christians right now but I think he’d make a great Christian some day.”
I’m thinking most people are thinking, “A lot of people might follow Jesus but this guy never.” And instead he goes from Saul to Paul and he writes thirteen books in the New Testament.
Don’t give up. If you would have asked me, “Who do you think will never come to Christ?” We’ve prayed, we’ve shared, we’ve prayed, we’ve shared, we’ve acted, we’ve loved, we’ve forgiven, we’ve…it was Theresa’s dad. Eighty-seven years old.
And, I mean, every place I’ve ever been he would come to church and I’d make sure, I’d change my message when he came. I’m gonna put the gospel in there somewhere.
And he heard it from Theresa, and we loved him, and prayed, and everything you could do. And then when your kids, they start getting older and they love the Lord and you’re praying as a family for granddad and then pretty soon your kids, you know, ten, eleven, twelve year olds, “Granddad?” “Yeah?” “Our whole family wants you to be with us in heaven. Do you understand that Christ died for you?” You know, tears in their eyes. I mean it’s sincere. A little child. And you just think, “He can’t not respond to this,” right?
[Elderly man - sounds] “Well, I think that’s good for you.”
And I just want to knock him out. And, in my heart of hearts, I’ve watched my wife never ever give up. Never ever give up. Never ever give up.
Guess what? Granddad came to Christ. Why? How? You guess what. I have no idea. But it was the right place, at the right time, with sowing and watering, and as I look back, I think it revolved around some deep pains and wounds, he heard the gospel through someone he could identify with. Bam! The lights came on.
Don’t you ever assume that anybody is outside of what God might do. Don’t give up. Look at what the Scripture says, “This is good and pleases God, our Savior. This is His desire who wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.”
Stronghold number six is, “I’m just not bold enough,” that’s the lie, versus, “I don’t care enough.” See, a lot of times I’ve thought to myself, “You know what? I’m just not bold enough.” And then I think, “Well, gosh, you’re kind of bold with other stuff.” “Yeah, that’s true. Don’t confuse me with the facts.”
Listen to Paul’s motivation. II Corinthians 5:14 and 15 he says, “For Christ’s love compels me.” The word means, “I was hemmed in.” It’s a picture of Indiana Jones. You know? And the walls are coming in and there’s no way out. That’s that word.
Paul is saying how much God has loved me. What He has delivered me from. What He has given me. It compels me. But it’s not just an emotional, love response. It’s objective truth. Because notice what he says, “Because we’re convinced that One died for all,” that’s Jesus, “therefore all died and He died for all that those who lived should live no longer for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.”
Where it says, “He died for all,” that little word “for” means, “for the sake of and in the place of.” See, the apostle Paul had this conviction. His conviction was, “There’s a real heaven. There’s a real eternity. And there’s a real Christless eternity.” And he says, “I’m compelled by what Christ has done for me and I realize He died for all.”
This unlimited grace of God, this work on the cross, this resurrection, this offer of eternal life, it’s for everyone whoever would respond.
But the conduit and the link between that truth, and that reality, and people’s hearts, and souls, and lives are people like us.
And so he says, “We don’t live any longer for ourselves but for Him who died and gave His life so that we’re His ambassadors. We’re His agents. We’re His conduit of grace.” And see what happens is I think I’m not bold enough. But when I’m really honest what I realize is I just get consumed too much with me, and my world, and I am not convinced. I’m not convinced of what’s on the line. I don’t think about eternity. I don’t think about lost people the way God thinks about them, with compassion.
I get intimidated by some things that they bring, or what they say, instead of looking past that and seeing the need, and the hurt, and the way God looks at them.
Sometimes, God gives you great opportunities to learn and I taught a little two-day seminar for a group down in Orange County. And so I was flying back, a young gal from Dubai was there. She works for Google as a project manager and, you know, I, kind of, looked sort of my daughter’s age. She looked like one of those mid to late twenties.
And we got talking a little bit and had a conversation and, you know, I’m reviewing my notes. I mean the very notes right now to give this message to you. I’m reviewing them and I always rewrite them on Saturday.
And so we get talking and so I’m very aware, “This would be a great opportunity to tell her about the love of God since I’ve been thinking, and praying, and talking about this.
And so we talk and I sort of go around it this way, and around it this way, and have you ever gotten where you, sort of, have this lump in your throat like you could tell I don’t think, I don’t think they’d really be closed but, errrrrr. And then you just don’t quite get it out. Anybody? Does that happen to anybody else?
And so, you know, I keep waiting, I keep waiting and then, like, God gives me, like, opportunity one, opportunity two, opportunity three. And I just weenie out. I mean I’m just sitting there and I’m thinking about this. And I have an outgoing personality.
And then, and then she starts reading a magazine and I just, “Oh man, I blew it. I mean there was an opportunity, there was a window, she was…” And so I put my headphones on and I, so I, okay, I better finish my notes. So guess what?
I’m on this one. I’m writing, on the plane, with her next to me. I’m writing down, “Paul is convinced. I gotta tell them. Are they, are you really convinced that eternity is real? How much God actually loves them.”
And what I realized afresh was … the enemy and the stronghold is about whether I’m bold or not. It gets to be all about me, and what I’m doing, or not doing.
And as I read that just, all I can tell you, I don’t know how it works but something, it was almost physical, like, the Spirit of God came in in a fresh way and said, “I love her. Can we get off of you right now? I just love her.”
And so I thought, “Oh, John Saville, what the heck?” I turned to her and said, “Hey, how’s that magazine going?” “Going great.” I said, “Could I ask you something?” “Yeah.” I said, “Has anyone ever explained to you how much Jesus loves you?”
And I’m thinking, “Okay.” And she goes, “No.” I said, “Well, would you mind if I just told you a little bit about that?” “Sure.” And pretty soon I find out she’s only been married a year and, you know, I draw a little triangle with God at the top and men and women at the bottom and how we need physical intimacy and emotional intimacy but also spiritual intimacy.
“Oh my husband. He’s very spiritual. I’m not at all.” And I talked about how you get closer to God, then you get closer to each other because I know she’s real motivated in her marriage.
And then I had a book with me called, “Good to Great in God’s Eyes.” And, you know, she’s from Google so I said, “Have you read Collins’ book, ‘Good to Great?’” “Oh yeah!” And we went through, you know, getting great people on the bus and all the jazz.
And I said, “I was with an organization trying to do that, and God showed me that, you know, there’s practices that people that really get close to God have.” And I opened it up and I went through each of them. And she’s like, “Wow.” I said, “Would you like this?” “Yeah!” So I signed it for her and, you know, we, I said, “Here’s my email if you have any questions at all.”
And so we get up and she did not pray to receive Christ, she didn’t share it with the rest of the, you know, we were getting done. Alright?
But, I mean, it was like, lie number one: She’s not open. Boom. Lie number two: It’s a superstar. I’ve got an outgoing personality and I was hedging. And then, it’s just a process.
And what happened was I loved her. I saw her the way Jesus saw her and I just wanted to help her. And even if she would have not responded positively, it’s okay because this isn’t about me and it’s not about you. It’s just about extending the love of God.
And so we get done, I mean, this really cracked me up. So it’s all over, and I’ve written the book note, and so you know how when you get off you go up the ramp and once you get off the ramp. And she was ahead of me a little bit and she stopped. She turned like this, she goes, in her heart you could just see.
People long to be loved. And the Jesus that we serve loves them. We just need to get rid of the lies.
Stronghold number seven is actually something that I’ve never taught before. Usually when you get to this point in the message my experience for me and many others is, “Okay, I’m going to really try harder to love. I’m going to try harder to love. I’m going to be more loving. I’m going to really work at more love. Love, love, love, love, love. I, oh God, help me love.”
And depending on your personality you do that for two days, two weeks, or two months and there’s not many two monthers and then you’ll be right back to where you are right now.
Stronghold number seven is, “I need to try harder to love people,” versus, “I need to experience more of God’s love personally.” See, we don’t need to try harder. We need to experience God’s love at such a fresh and new depth that we could just not not share it.
And as I thought of this I was, thought of the passage here where Jesus says to a woman who is wiping His feet with her hair, and her tears dripping, and a Pharisee thinking that she’s an immoral person, and He couldn’t be a prophet because He would know about this woman.
And you can see the passage there in Luke where Jesus turns to the Pharisee and He goes, “You know, this woman has responded in ways because she has been forgiven much and her sins, they are many. But those who have been forgiven much love much.”
And He wasn’t saying that the Pharisee needed less forgiveness than the woman. What He was really saying is, “She actually gets, and is experiencing, what I have done for her, and you don’t get it.”
When you experience God’s love you can’t not share it.
One of the greatest qualities in my wife is seeing her experience God’s love and my testimony is is that I’m so oriented toward performance that I often struggle with, “I think God loves me when I’m doing good and I don’t think He loves me as much when I’m doing bad.”
And that’s not true. And so I thought it would be more helpful and more powerful for you to hear from someone who, because of her life story, she really grasps how to experience God’s love.
So, honey, would you come share with us?
[Theresa]: Good morning. I am excited to share with you how I experience God’s love. And I encountered real love, for the first time, when I was twenty-five years old and I accepted Christ as my Savior. And I realize now, as I look back, God had been drawing me with His love for quite a while.
But it was when I actually came to a point where I understood and I recognized His love that I accepted Christ as my Savior and it was a real turning point in my life.
In I John 4:10 it says, “This is real love. It is not that we love God but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” So, that’s what real love is. That it’s God sent His Son to die for us to take away our sins because He loved us so much and He wanted us to be close to Him.
Well, this love that I experienced at age twenty-five was different from any love that I had known up until that point. I had never thought of love and God in the same sentence, which, to me, seems odd now but I really never did.
When I thought about love it was romantic love, it was between a man and a woman. But not about God and a man and a woman.
And I didn’t grow up in a Christian home and I never heard my parents say to each other that they loved each other, they never told me they loved me, verbally. I never heard that word expressed in my home. And so this love that I was starting to experience was so different for me and it was wonderful.
Well, by the time I was twenty-five, I realized that there was a big hole in my heart. And that there was an ache there that longed to be filled up and I had tried to fill it up with so many things that didn’t work, and I made lots of bad decisions in my early adult years, just trying to make life work out and trying to fill up that hole in my heart.
And all growing up I could never please my dad. So I always felt like a failure and I felt like I was not very lovable. And so I was trying to find that love.
Well, I ended up getting married and it was not a good situation. And, you know, it was just the dream of my life that somebody would love me, and care for me, and it just did not work out well.
And by the time I was twenty-five I was a single mom, I had been abandoned by my husband, I had twin baby boys. And I was just in a desperate situation. I was lonely, I was depressed, I didn’t have any money, I felt abandoned. And I didn’t have any hope.
But it was at this time that I experienced God’s love for me in an amazing way. The Lord led me to work with the Director of Admissions at Fairmont State College and this man was a very godly man.
And he seemed to not be shy at all about sharing his faith even on a secular campus, which I am so thankful for now.
But as we worked together and as time would permit he began to share with me about the love of God. And he shared with me things that I had never heard before. He told me that God’s love is a love that lasts forever. That it will never end. That God’s love is a love that will never change. His love is unconditional, it doesn’t matter what I do, it doesn’t matter what I did in the past. That His love never changes for me. And that His love will care for me, that through His love He will provide for my children, and that He has hope for my future and for my kids.
And so I began to listen to what my friend was saying to me and it started to all make sense and I realized that’s what the need in my heart is longing for. It’s that real love that I’ve been longing for all this time.
And on a Sunday evening, in August, when my two little boys just turned one year old I accepted Christ as my Savior. And, at that time, I began to experience the love of God in an amazing way and He changed my life. He changed my future. He changed the direction and future of my children’s lives.
And He took all those broken pieces, all the terrible things that had been a part of my life and He put it all back together and He cleansed me from all of my past, and He made me new, and clean, and a new vessel that He would fill up with Himself, that He would fill up with His love, so that He could love others through me.
Well, I learned to experience it, I could experience God’s love in many ways from the time I became a Christian up until today, every day I experience God’s love in many ways.
And one of the ways that I experience His love is through people. It’s through the body of Christ. It’s Christians loving each other and caring for one another. People, when I was a new believer, reached out to me and provided for me, cared for me, and welcomed me, and loved me in spite of what I had been through. And I experienced the love of Christ.
And I experience God’s love through His Word, as I read His Word every day, as I open up this Book that God has written to us because He wants us to know how much He loves us. And every day, I get a new glimpse into who He is and how great He is, and how full of love He is for me, and how He wants to work in my life.
And so it’s through His Word I experience His love.
I experience His love as I pray, and as I cry out to Him for the needs of my heart, the desires that I have for the people that I love and I watch as God responds in just amazing ways. That He shows up in doing things that I just never believed could happen. I see His love.
And I see Him every day. I see Him in big things and I see Him in little things.
I see Him as I walk through my day and one of the times I especially see Him is early in the morning when I go outside with my dog and take him out every morning, and it’s dark and on the days that I can see the stars out, and I look up into the sky and God reveals Himself to me.
And I see His greatness, and His power, and that He is so big and He is so full of love, and He cares about me and every little detail in my life. He loves me. And He loves you.
Well, as we experience God’s love in our life what happens is, and the Scriptures teach that through the Holy Spirit, God just pours His love through our lives and it’s like a flood, He says. He floods our lives with His love.
And I’ve had my house flood before so I know that a flood is very hard to stop. It’s a powerful thing. And it just impacts wherever it goes. It changes things. And when God’s love floods through our hearts, see, we can’t stop it. It impacts the people that we’re around.
And it’s just a natural thing that happens. And so as He floods our hearts it just naturally flows out to other people and God shows His love to others through us.
Well, a couple weeks ago, God gave me a really wonderful picture of what it looks like for me to love people, to love, especially, lost people. Those who don’t know Jesus as their Savior.
And this one morning I got up and I just glanced out the window and out of the corner of my eye I saw this big bird walk across the grass in the back. And I didn’t think much of it, but a couple hours later I glanced out and the bird walked back this way.
And then I looked closer and I saw, “That’s a seagull.” And I thought that was kind of strange because I’ve never seen a seagull in my yard. And a couple hours later he’s still out there. And he’s just walking around in the yard. And I thought, “What, why is he hanging out in my backyard?”
So I went out to check on him and his wing was broken. And I felt so sorry for that bird. And I was trying to think, “What can I do? I’ve got to help this bird. He can’t fly, he’s stuck here, he’ll die if I don’t do something.” Because I knew that he couldn’t get out of my yard.
And so I thought a little bit about what to do, and then it came to my mind that I could call the Wild Animal Rescue. So I called the Rescue and I wasn’t sure if they would respond to this but the first, you push a number, it says, “If number one, if it’s an animal emergency.” So I pushed number one and I explained to this lady that I had a seagull in my backyard with a broken wing.
And I said, “Is this an animal emergency?” Because I wasn’t sure. There’s thousands of seagulls. Would they come and save just one little seagull?
And she was so nice. So nice. And so a couple hours later here pulls up the van, Wild Animal Rescue and comes in my backyard and rescues this stranded little bird.
And I felt so good. I felt like, boy, I really, I really did something good today. I did a good deed. And then, God spoke to my heart. And this is what He said, and I wrote it down because I wanted to remember.
He said, “People who don’t know me are like that seagull.” And He said, “They’re broken. And they’re lost. They’re stuck. And if somebody doesn’t help them they’re going to die. And they’re going to be separated from Me forever.”
And then He asked me, “Do you care as much about My people who are lost, as you do that little bird in your backyard? Would you take that much effort to care for lost people?”
And I realized that it’s the love of God that compels us… it’s like I was compelled. I had to help this little bird. It’s that love of God that just compels us to reach out and to share and to love those that are lost because we realize they’re broken. And they’re separated from God and they’ll be separated from Him forever.
And they’re stuck in their condition unless one of us tells them. Unless we love them and reach out to them with the love of God. And so my prayer, for me and for all of us, is that we would be compelled by the love of God to share and reach out and care for those that are lost.