We are in a series called Plastic Jesus and we are talking about knowing God. The fact is a lot of us have a view of God that has been impacted by our preference, personal experiences and religious paraphernalia. And we carry around that pack. And our question to you has been Are you trusting in the pack or are you experiencing the real thing? And last week we talked about the difference between religion, ritual and routine and relationship with God. Because when you truly experience God, something happens in your heart and in your life.
About 11 years ago when Lisa and I moved into our neighborhood I was really excited. It was on the very edge of growth and it was right around the corner of the piece of property we were eyeing to build Sun Valley’s very first church facility. Best of all it was a brand new neighborhood...which meant new people, new opportunities to reach out. It was the same month I became the interim pastor here and I was pumped about the opportunity. 572 new homes in the quarter square mile of our neighborhood and I began to pray that God would bring 100 of those families to Sun Valley and that he would help me connect with lots of neighbors quickly.
Now here’s something you need to know. Maybe it’s just me but when people find out you are a pastor, they just treat you differently. Like you are fragile. You know, they swear in front of you and go "oh, I’m sorry." (Like are you okay? I know you’ve never heard those words before...) so I wouldn’t tell people what I did until I got to know them better.
That fall a family moved in and almost immediately we hit it off. We spent a lot of time together working on projects and talk about kids. And at night we’d sit on the drive way with the fire pit and talk about life. And he had a lot of strong opinions that he would express when we were together. And it was all good because he didn’t know what I did.
He finally figured out what I did one day when I decided to put together a block party for the neighbors to get to know each other. And we’re setting up for the party. I remember us carrying a table and he’s in the front and I am in the back and he finally said "Hey I just realized I have never asked you where you work." And I figured it had been long enough so I said "I’m a pastor". At that point he stopped (I thought he was going to drop the table) and turned around. (See at this point in most of my conversations, there is this rewinding of history of every comment that they have made up to this point in the conversation to see if they need to confess) Instead his only comment was "I should have known...every time I offered you a beer on my drive way you’d just say "no thanks". I thought you might have been in AA or something."
Over the next few months we continued to spend time together on the driveway and one night, he looks at my wife and says "Lisa, what will you give me to show up at your church?" Lisa said "What do you want?" "A beer helmet" and some Krispy Kremes. You know what a beer helmet is don’t you? Construction hat with two drink holders on the sides. Well it was near Christmas and so we thought we’d take him up on it. So Lisa and I went out and bought him a helmet and a dozen donuts. And we knocked on his door. When he saw us he just laughed. "You didn’t have to do that." And we handed him the helmet (that we put "no alcoholic beverages" on the front) and the donuts and an invitation to a Christmas drama we were doing that weekend. To my surprise he said "I’ll be there".
The drama that weekend was about a guy who had put his work in front of his family and how he had come to realize it at Christmas. They were there and I was busy but I was able to grab him during the week and ask him what he thought. And he said "that guy in the drama. Thanks that was great."
We threw another block party just before Christmas and we had about 70 of my neighbors over to the house and right in the middle of it, my friend stands up and says "I have an announcement to make." And I’m thinking oh no, what could this be?" He said "I want everyone to know that I went to church last weekend. (there was a gasp) It was Scott’s and it’s the best church in town. I’m thinking great my biggest proponent for Sun Valley is a nonChristian...that’s a great thing.
Don’t you love moments like that? When we let off last week, Jesus had just finished one of those moments. He was in Samaria and had stopped at a well and met a woman whose life had fallen apart. And they had talked about a great many things and slowly but surely her heart began to soften and she began to believe. It’s in that that we step back into the story today. He’s just challenged thinking about God and said "it’s not religion...it’s a relationship. It’s not location or event. Knowing God is about passion and truth. And now we see her response.
25The woman said, "I know that Messiah" (called Christ) "is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us." 26Then Jesus declared, "I who speak to you am he." 27Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, "What do you want?" or "Why are you talking with her?" 28Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29"Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?" 30They came out of the town and made their way toward him. John 4:25-30
Now ewe know that something happened in that moment. Something happened in the heart and mind of this woman. And for the first time, she saw God for who he really was. A lover of her soul and a forgiver of her sin. It was a moment full of grace and truth. And she was able to grasp that God loved her even if she never got it right. And inside her heart, in the very depth of her soul, there was a transformation... from despair to hope, from fear to faith, from death to life.
And in that moment, here’s what we know, in that moment, she just couldn’t keep it to herself. And she went and told everyone she knew. All through the life of Jesus we see people that can’t help but speak...They didn’t have all the answers...They didn’t have it all together....all they had was a sense that things with God and in life were going to be different from now on. And she told everyone she knew. Meanwhile, the disciples have no idea what just happened. (Ever walk up in the middle of a conversation and feel lost?) That’s what’s happening with the 12.
31Meanwhile his disciples urged him, "Rabbi, eat something." 32But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about."(I have just had a five course dinner with dessert and I am satisfied. He’s talking about this conversation with the woman) 33Then his disciples said to each other, "Could someone have brought him food?" (And Jesus laughs. Guys all this time and you still don’t get it?) 34"My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. John 4:31-34
What is his work? What is "the work" of God that Jesus is talking about? All through the book of John Jesus alludes to this "work". 10 times he talks about it. One of the most memorable is in John 9. One day he is walking through the streets of Jerusalem...John 9:1
1As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
Now I know that sounds like an odd question today (who sinned this man or his parents). But back then there was a common held belief...a belief that everyone in that culture, everyone in that society held to and it was this. That God blessed the good and he punished the bad. So if you were a good person, good things happened to you...you would get rich, you would have good health, your needs would be taken care of and you would be happy. But if you were evil, you were outside God’s realm of blessing and God would punish you. God would cause bad things to happen to you - You’d lose your job, you would be poor, you’d lose your health, or something bad would happen to your family, like your children being born blind. So it was a reasonable question considering the time.
And then he goes into the motivation part of his message. He says 3"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God (there’s that phrase) might be displayed in his life.(so we know the work of God is something that can be seen) 4As long as it is day, we (not just I) must do the work of him who sent me. (there it is again) Night is coming, when no one can work.(so there is an end to the opportunity to do the work) 5While I am in the world, I am the light of the world." Chad mentioned this issue of "Light and darkness" a few weeks ago. And we know that in the Bible Jesus calls himself the light of the world, but also calls those who follow Christ the light of the world. So whatever the work of God is, it can be seen...and it can be done by us and the opportunity won’t last forever.
Then (verse 6) 6Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7"Go," he told him, "wash in the Pool of Siloam". So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. John 9:1-7
So what’s the work of God? Let’s look at our options. Option #1 spitting and making mud pies. Option #2 picking on blind people Option #3 miracles. Well that could be. After all, it does show the power of God and we se them all through Jesus’ ministry and in the early church. So that’s it. Go perform miracles.
You night draw that conclusion until you begin to study the life of Christ and realize that other than his own resurrection, the miracle is never the story. Whenever Jesus did miracles, it always led to a bigger issue. It is not the miracle in this story that is the issue Jesus wants to address. It is the response to the miracle that Jesus wants to address.
You want to know what I think the work is? God’s work is life change. The life change that happens when we believe God. When we trust Jesus. When we take him at his word. Go wash. Jesus said. The blind man didn’t complain about the mud. He trusted. And he simply did what Jesus asked and he was healed. And the result was a transformed life.
The work of God is life change. It is something that can be seen. And here at Sun Valley we see it all the time. Addictions broken, forgiveness offered, hope restored, marriages mended, lives transformed. You’ve experienced the transforming work of God’s powerful in your life!
And it is something we can do. Has God ever used you to change someone’s life? There is no greater joy than to know that God used you to change someone else’s life. There is a great satisfaction with that. You do realize your life change, God’s work in your life is not for you, right? Jesus looked at the blind man and said "He’s struggled all this time, not so that he could be changed, but why? "So that the work of God might be DISPLAYED in his life. So it can be seen. When Jesus stalked about being a light, he said, no one takes a lamp and puts it under a bowl. Instead they display it on a stand where it gives light to everyone! When God does something we are to put it on display.
Because 1) It can be seen and 2) we can do it, and here’s the third part, 3) the opportunity won’t be here forever. Time is running out Jesus says and there will come a day when your opportunity to be a light with your family, your friends, your neighbor and co-workers will end. And we can’t keep putting off and putting off and putting off because one day the opportunity will be over.
Back in John 4 Jesus has been talking about the work of God and he looks at the disciples and says 35Do you not say, ’Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. This is right at the moment when the people from the city are coming out to see Jesus. He said "Open your eyes! Don’t you see? This is the moment.
I think we are in one of those moments right now. I think the harvest is plentiful. I think people are open. I think that they are trying to find God in this crisis we are in. The harvest is plentiful.
And then Jesus does something strange. He grabs a loaf form the hands of one of the disciples and says this 38I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor." John 4:35,38
He says see this loaf? You didn’t till the ground, someone else did. And you didn’t plant the seed. Someone else did and you didn’t watch over the crop. Pick the weeds, harvest the grain ground it into meal, kneed it into dough or cook it. But hear you are holding this loaf. You have reaped the benefit of their efforts.
So it is sometimes in ministry. We may never see anyone come to Christ ever again, but everyone still does their part. You know what the hard work of ministry is? It is a relationship. It is what Jesus did at the well. It is what he did with Nicodemus. Caring enough to take the risk of investing your time and your heart and your relationship and inviting them ,Like the woman at the well, to come and see.
39Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, "He told me everything I ever did." 42They said to the woman, "We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world." John 4:39,42
Our responsibility is investing and inviting. It doesn’t mean we have all the answers. It doesn’t mean we even have all the questions. The woman at the well said "I don’t know. Come and see. You tell me.. Is he the Christ?" The blind man doesn’t know much; he just knows Jesus changed his life. No one can argue with the blind man. He stands before the intellectual elite of the day without an education and without credentials. In that moment he does not argue theology or get into a debate, he just tells how his life has been changed. (The man born blind) replied, "One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!" John 9:25 His story is enough.
Bottom Line - To follow Jesus is to tell your story. It’s to invest and invite. And we are going to give you an opportunity to do that today. You’ll notice in your program attached to your communication card is an invest and invite card. In a moment we are going to ask you to bring that card up here. On that card we would like you to put the names of people that you believe God has put into your life for the purpose of telling your story. And we are going to ask you to invest and invite. And we will pray for you. And we would like you to take those cards and bring them up here (keep part for yourself)
Now here’s what you need to here the two situations we talked about today one was a woman in a town with a 1000 year history of ignoring God. The other was a man with a lifetime of hardship that kept him blinded from seeing who God was. In both cases, all it took was a person who was willing to invest some time and invite them to embrace the truth. And God did the miraculous in their lives. He did it then, and he will do it now. Take some time to write down the names and bring them forward as a commitment to God saying "God I believe you have placed me in this person’s life on purpose. And in the coming months I will invest and invite."
God has so much more he wants to do in this city. And he’s chosen to do it through you and through me. The fields are ripe for harvest, but the window of opportunity won’t be open forever. Will you join me in telling the story of God’s goodness in your life so that others may see and believe? To follow Jesus is not to have all the answers, but it is to invest in the lives of others so that you can tell your story and invite them to experience the real thing.