Sunday, August 21, 2011

Is Your Faith Contagious?

Member or Missionary//Acts 8:1-8

I am a Christian, a servant of Jesus Christ, because I was exposed to people who were infected with the presence of Jesus Christ their lives. I caught it from someone else. It altered my spiritual DNA. It changed my worldview. It affected the way I thought of other people and of myself. My understanding of social justice changed, my realization that I was accountable to God was awakened. If you are in a relationship with Jesus Christ it is because you were exposed to a person with contagious faith. You have been infected.

Acts 8:1—We’re talking about God’s mission to reach the world. Here was God’s strategy, “On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.” The apostles were the professionals trained by Jesus, the church staff. Everyone else was scattered throughout the known world. In verse 4, “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.”

Maybe the decline of the church, the freefall of consumer Christianity is God’s plan to shake us, wake us, and break us out of our self-serving patterns to allow us to realize that He is able to use adversity to reach the world. God uses ordinary people who are contagious, not religious. God uses ordinary people who are not exempt from the crises of daily life to model Christ in the midst of their struggle. God uses ordinary people with a divine calling that God has instilled in their hearts and to which they are obedient to live out wherever they are to spread the Good News of Jesus.

Persecution arose, the people scattered, but God did not waste their struggle. God does not waste our struggle. When the people scattered, God used this to move these people through their communities and networks of influence to share the story of Jesus. They got out of their holy huddles; their kum-by-ya times in Jerusalem and went back to their daily lives. They shared it the way we share our infections, from person-to-person. The God-life spreads and reproduces one person at a time. There is some question as to whether stadium evangelism ever really worked, or was it just a way to induce emotion driven decisions without making soul changed disciples? I don’t know. My own mother recounts her commitment to Christ happening in our living room watching Billy Graham, but this is what I know, you only mature in contact with other Christians who love you, teach you, and train you. No community, no maturity. No maturity, no calling. If you are resisting the spiritual accountability that the real community provides you are short changing God’s ability to reach others through your life.

Were you infected or inoculated? Every year I get a flu shot. I’m an asthmatic, if I get the flu it becomes bronchitis. If I get bronchitis it becomes pneumonia. If I get pneumonia I end up in the hospital and I’m a horrible patient. The shot is a lot better than the hospital.

You know how it works. Each year doctors figure out what is going to be the predominant strain of flu, then they take the live virus, create a weakened version, and give it to you so your body can build up immunities. When you get hit with the real thing, your immune system already knows how to attack it. It fights off the flu, then I don’t get the flu, or bronchitis, or pneumonia.

I am afraid that we have a lot of people playing with an inoculated version of Christianity. They made a decision but never became a disciple. They want Jesus to be Savior, get their eternal fire insurance, but they don’t really want him to be Lord. They are going halfway, and that’s dangerous. Revelation 21 has some harsh words about halfway Christians; it says God will literally spew them out…that halfway is not enough. It’s either all the way or none of the way, there really is no halfway.

Catch It!—Acts 8:5-8

How do I know if I’ve caught it? You have the symptoms! If you don’t have the symptoms you don’t have the disease!

Love; joy; peace; patience; self-control; goodness; kindness; faithfulness; gentleness.If these aren’t growing in you then you need to re-evaluate your relationship with Jesus. Other symptoms: are you building up the body of Christ? Are you serving selflessly? Are you subject to those in authority over you? Are you growing more Christ-like? Are you practicing unity in your local church? Want a diagnosis test? Read Ephesians.

This is not about following a set of preconceived precepts or rules or intellectually, consenting to some ideas. It’s not about church attendance, or being seen on the platform, it’s about a radical life changing relationship with Jesus! Once you have been in contact with Jesus, then the symptoms start to show up. You think less of yourself and more of others. You become more concerned with other’s eternal pain than your own personal preference. You start to realize the world is bigger than your wish list.

Jesus said in Luke 17:21, “The Kingdom of God does not come visibly nor will people say here it is or there it is because the Kingdom of God is in you.” You either got it or you don’t.

The 3rd Commandment is “You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain.” We have discounted what that means. It’s not just swearing. To take God’s name in vain is to profess what you don’t possess. To be casual about naming God. Jesus is not your friend, Jesus is your Savior. He is Your Lord. He is the Creator of the universe. He is the returning King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. One day every knee shall bow, every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. We take his name in vain when we call ourselves by his name and deny him with our lives.

Our contagious relationship with Jesus is the gift of God who loves you more than you can imagine. We don’t deserve it. We can’t earn it. We can’t do anything to get it except acknowledge that we need it and ask God for it. We need to quit playing church and become radical followers of Jesus.

Feed It!

A relationship with Jesus requires sustained effort. Just like a relationship with your wife or child. It takes work! When you quit working it quits working. There is not static moment in your spiritual life. Whenever somebody tells me that they don’t feel close to Jesus anymore, I usually remind them that Jesus isn’t the one who moved.

From the Second Law of Thermodynamics comes the principle of entropy: Everything eventually tends toward a state of disorder. In essence, the natural state of everything is toward deterioration. Your car, your body, your relationships, your spirit all tend to rot. If left alone your spirit tends toward self-centeredness, selfishness, and isolation. This is where worship and connection groups come into play. They help us resist entropy. If you want to unveil your contagious calling, to release your contagious faith, you have to nurture a growing relationship with Jesus. You have to feed it.

When my son turned thirteen something happened…my refrigerator became self-emptying. Suddenly my formally picky son would eat anything that was remotely edible and that he could stuff in a tortilla. He was growing, and to keep him growing I fed him, lots! (he is 6’4” now) Do you know why we do Connection Groups? So you can grow spiritually. Do you know why I continuously push Bible reading plans and talk about spending time in the Word daily? So you can grow. All we can do is provide you with the spiritual food, we can’t make you eat.

If we want to raise children to become spiritually mature adults we have to have spiritually mature adults to raise the children.

Spread It!
If you are infected by the Spirit of God and you’re feeding it, I guarantee that you will spread it. You become attuned to divine appointments.

Some folks hesitate because of fear and embarrassment. Jesus said, “From the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” The abundance. In effect, whatever you are really into, you talk about. Remember the restaurant? The book? The movie? You talked about it spontaneously. Why? Because you spent time with it, had an experience, and then wanted to share that experience.

If you aren’t sharing you are saying that other people’s eternity aren’t worth your inconvenience.

You want to know why we aren’t content? Why we aren’t courageous? Why we aren’t committed? Why we aren’t contagious? It may be because we have never come to Jesus and asked him to be Lord of your life, you never caught it. It may be you aren’t feeding, that you are literally starving your faith to death. It may be you aren’t spreading it, that you have become comfortable and that God needs to shake you and wake you in order to break you out of your pattern.

Today is the day we give up our sanitized spirituality and embrace the incredibly messy and radically contagious relationship with Jesus. .