There is a little three letter word that maybe best summarizes the Good Life in one emotion. Joy.
· Because let’s face it, it isn’t a good life unless there is some delight, some enchantment, and some happiness.
· It isn’t a good life without at least some twinkle in the eye, some deep sighs of wonder……some joy.
Joy is the next course in our tasting menu of the Good life. So far we’ve tasted freedom, fruitfulness, a good name and impact… all ingredients of the life that Jesus said he moved heaven and earth to provide for you…
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10
I have come that they may have freedom and fruitfulness and a good name and impact and joy!
Are you experiencing any of that? Let’s do a quick…
Good life assessment:
Do you have freedom? Freedom from sin. Freedom from habitual sin. Freedom from a load of guilt. Freedom from the fear of God sending you to hell.
Are you experiencing fruitfulness? Is there vitality to your life? Are you growing? Do you wake up to possibilities?
Do you have a good name? A good reputation? Is your integrity intact? Do people admire you? Do you cast a long shadow?
Are you making an impact? Is your life characterized by justice? Are you investing in “the least of these”? Are you changing your world…even just a little bit?
Seriously, think about it. Are you living the good life?
A reminder…those characteristics don’t just happen to you randomly. You don’t get the Good Life by backing into it. It takes practice.
· You want freedom? practice surrender to Jesus – today is a great day to do that since we have baptism!
· You want fruitfulness? practice communion with God
· You want a good name? practice moral integrity
· You want impact? practice justice.
And…don’t forget…it is nearly impossible to practice all this on your own. You need to have a trusted person walking with you…discussing, encouraging, praying, trying things out.
· Here at Grace the Way of Discipleship is just the ticket.
The Way of Discipleship is an intentional, time-bound relationship focused on learning and embracing 11 practices essential to following Jesus.
The Way of Discipleship is your ticket to the good life!
So…with that, let’s move to this next ingredient in the Good life – Joy.
What then is the essential practice that will get you there? You’re going to be surprised. But before we get there I want to tell you a story
…a story about a unique man who met some unlikely new friends. A story of how he changed their lives and they changed his. A story of how a terrorist found the deepest joy of his life.
· This man is truly one of the superstars of the first century. Actually, one of the superstars of the entire bible.
· When we first meet him he’s an angry, belligerent fundamentalist terrorist. Think Taliban. Think ISIS.
o he wasn’t Muslim but he was every bit a terrorist.
o his targets were members of the very first church…he hunted them down, he exposed them, harassed them, beat them and likely had some of them killed. Let’s call him Jihadi Saul.
· That is, until Jesus had enough of his nonsense, blasted him with light, called him out and saved his soul. He later described his conversion as him becoming a a new man….the old has gone the new has come. One of the most remarkable conversions in history.
· This new man with the new name, once Saul and now Paul, in his zeal mounted an aggressive missionary campaign north and west of Israel…into Turkey.
o he and his team led many to Jesus and planted churches everywhere they went
· In time, he crossed the Aegean sea into Greece which was both wonderful and terrible for him.
o wonderful in that many surrendered to Jesus
o terrible in that he was a catalyst for angry riots, was mercilously beaten and jailed.
· Eventually he found his way to Thessalonica – 100,000 (a little bigger than Carmel or Fishers)
o there he stayed for 3 months…building the brand new church
o all was well until yet another riot and he was run out of town. But not before he had made some fast and dear friends and discovered a joy he had never had before.
· Paul ended up in Corinth. But he was worried about his dear friends and sent a younger pastor, Timothy back to check on them.
o Timothy returned with news about the young church and after digesting this news, Paul sat down and wrote them a letter. Let’s read a part of it…
1 Thessalonians 2:1 page __________
1 You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure. 2 We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition. 3 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. 4 On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. 5 You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed--God is our witness. 6 We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else.
Remember when we first visited you?
· we had been beat up pretty good at Phillipi
· and when we came to you we had to face some strong opposition
Remember our hearts? Do you remember our motives?
· We were not shady salesmen, unethical politicians, we weren’t trying to trick you, we weren’t cult leaders.
· We shared the gospel with you as men on a mission from God.
Cont. Vs. 6 - As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, 7 but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. 8 We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.
I want you to note the tone shift in this letter…this is important…look how emotional he gets thinking about them:
· you became dear to us. You became beloved to us.
· you are like my kids
· we feel like nursing mothers…toward you.
· you delighted us…you gave us great pleasure…you gave us great joy!
Stop here for a minute…there it is….joy.
· a man who was caught up in angry riots, beaten, jailed, accused, run out of town…says he had great joy!
9 Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed.
· Again…our motives are pure
· Note: Paul had to do this the rest of his life…defend himself. (skepticism, fear, etc.)
11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
· we weren’t just maternal but also paternal. We comforted but we also kicked your butt a bit
o exhorting/encouraging and urging
· you’re like my kids!
13 And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.
· you are the a source of unending gratitude to God!
· wow, they were a highlight of his life evidently!
skip 14-16 and note how it becomes extremely emotional…
17 But, brothers, when we were torn away from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. 18 For we wanted to come to you--certainly I, Paul, did, again and again--but Satan stopped us. 19 For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? 20 Indeed, you are our glory and joy. 1 Thessalonians 2:1-20
You know you can find joy in a lot of things…
· black raspberry chocolate chunk ice cream from Graeters.
· the Pacers thumping the Toronto Raptors
· a neatly manicured lawn
· dinner around the table with family and friends
But, there is a special, one of a kind joy that comes when you do life with someone, share with them Jesus and have the delight of watching them surrender to Jesus.
There is deep joy in evangelism.
Why? You are linked for life with that person. They become dear to you, and you to them. There are a number of people who come to mind who are dear to me. I won’t embarrass them by name but I can see their faces.
· The Hindu man right here in Carmel.
· Young couple who both found Jesus out of a failing marriage
· The Palestinian man I shared Jesus within Austria
Evangelism is not a religious task that needs to get done. Evangelism is a relational transaction that leads to an eternal bond and deep joy.
And you all can do it! And you all can experience this deep joy! How? Let’s review…
1. Identify your “1”.
2. Pray like mad.
3. Get in the room and stay in the room.
a. presence and persistence
4. Tell your story.
5. Talk about Jesus.
a. in conversation not in presentation
6. Persuade them to surrender to Jesus.
7. Invite them to Church.
In just a few minutes people are going to get baptized. All of them have a story about someone who influenced them to follow Jesus! They beam with joy when they talk about them!
Let’s let their stories remind us to find our “1” and loving persuade them to follow Jesus as we do!