Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Bethany Bullet - Week of October 9, 2016

“Follow the Leader…Lead the Followers…To Share”

Do you get a lot of SPAM?  Now, I’m not talking about canned meat, which I personally think is delicious, but I’m talking about unsolicited messages, those unwanted items in your inbox on the computer.  I seem to get countless offers to refinance my mortgage, get a new credit card, make a donation to a charity, get prescriptions from Canada or even that email from that woman in Kenya who was willing to split her deceased husband’s inheritance with me.  I’m still waiting for the check on that one. 

Email SPAM is the worst.  SPAM filters have to work overtime just to keep up with the latest tricks and hoaxes that people conjure up in order to scam others out of their money.  But try as they might, my email filters let a quite a few suspicious messages past and into my inbox cluttering up an already crowded box.

But this is not a new phenomenon. 

On a May evening in 1864, several British politicians were disturbed by a knock at the door and the delivery of a telegram—a most unusual occurrence at such a late hour. Had war broken out? Had the queen taken ill? They ripped open the envelopes and were surprised to find a message relating not to some national calamity, but to… dentistry. Mr. Gabriel, of 27 Harley Street, advised that his dental practice would be open from 10am to 5pm until October. Infuriated, some of the recipients of this unsolicited message wrote to the Times. “I have never had any dealings with Mr. Gabriel,” thundered one of them, “and beg to know by what right do they disturb me by a telegram which is simply the medium of advertisement?” The Times helpfully reprinted the offending telegram, providing its senders with further free publicity.

And thus, the era of SPAM’ing began, and we have been struggling against it ever since. 
SPAMs cousin the chain letter may be just as bad. 

A typical chain letter consists of a message that attempts to convince the recipient to make a number of copies of the letter and then share and pass them on to as many recipients as possible.
Common methods used in chain letters include emotionally manipulative stories, get-rich-quick pyramid schemes, and the exploitation of superstition to threaten the recipient with bad luck or even physical violence or death if he or she "breaks the chain," refuses to share and adhere to the conditions set out in the letter.

Social media has sped up the proliferation of SPAM and manipulative chain letters.  Have you ever given in to them and shared their contents hoping for financial windfall, divine blessing, or earthly well being?
In our text for today we may just see the original SPAM artist and chain mail perpetrator, the Apostle Paul as he writes to the young pastor Timothy.  From 2 Timothy chapter 2, “Join me in suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus…If we endure, we will rule with him.  If we disown him, he will disown us.”  (2 Timothy 2: 3, 12).

These words have been used to manipulate others and to twist and bind the Gospel message, subverting the free grace of God on behalf of Christ and making the message about works and what we do to earn God’s favor. 

I don’t think Paul was saying the Gospel message is conditional but out of context it sure sounds that way. 
People trying to make money on the internet have used this passage as what is called “share bait.”  The goal is to get you to share the post/tweet/picture by playing on your emotions, thus bolstering their numbers and ability to make money with advertisers.

Have you seen it?  Often times it is an image with a picture of Jesus or a cross or something similar.  You are then asked to share it, or comment “Amen” and you will receive a blessing, keep scrolling and you side with Satan himself. 

Often times these words from 2 Timothy accompanies the image, “If we disown him, he will disown us.”  Or even the word’s of Christ himself from Matthew chapter 10, “But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:33)

Have you shared it?  Have you typed “Amen”?  Have you scrolled past it?  I won’t ask for a show of hands.

My friends, this is not how the Gospel works.  This is not at all what Paul had in mind when he was writing these words to Timothy, nor what our Lord desires when it comes to sharing the Gospel message to others. 

Telling others about Jesus is not about manipulation or holding someone hostage with their emotions.  It’s not about a “bait-and-switch” message or a get rich quick scam.  It’s not about the fear of breaking the chain letter or not forwarding the email.  The Gospel is not bound by conditions. It’s really not even about us. 

We don’t share in order to avoid punishment or to earn a place in heaven.  We share because God shared with us first.  He shared His son who lived, died, and rose again, and our Lord freely gives to us what Jesus earned, and he gives it unconditionally, with no strings attached and no actions required. 

Sharing intentionally is about living a life that is saturated by Grace, where each and every step is covered by the all-availing sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and where any effort on our part is nailed to the tree. 

Sharing intentionally is one of the parts of the Bethany Blueprint that may, with the help of God lead others to follow Jesus.  As we follow Jesus, we might just lead others to know Him. 

The most powerful “share bait” is the Gospel itself and sharing intentionally and purposefully can actually be just as easy in real life as in cyber space.

But let’s not just sidestep the tough part of the text.  Now I don’t want to belabor the point but, Scripture is clear that some will disown the Good news of God’s grace.  Those who do stand outside of paradise, cut off from the life of Jesus and dead in their sins. 
These are the ones that need to hear that Jesus loves them, that the grace of God is sufficient and enough to cover them, that in Christ they can find eternal life and continued hope, even through the trials of life.  This is why we are called to share the message of Jesus.

God’s Word of grace is more than enough to bring back even the most egregious sinner and it’s not imprisoned in conditions, but Paul was because of it.  Let’s go back to our text and look at it more closely.

From 2 Timothy, chapter 2 starting at verse 8, “Always think about Jesus Christ.  He was brought back to life and is a descendant of David.  This is the Good News that I tell others.  I’m suffering disgrace for spreading this Good News.  I have even been put into prison like a criminal.  However, God’s word is not imprisoned.  For that reason, I endure everything for the sake of those who have been chosen so that they, too, may receive salvation from Christ Jesus who glory that lasts forever.” (2 Timothy 2:8-10)

For Paul, sharing the Gospel intentionally led him to be bound in chains and in prison.  Not just once, but on multiple occasions.  In the middle of his suffering and his disgrace he keeps his mind on Jesus and yet he knows without a doubt that the message of the gospel is not bound by circumstance or condition.  He says, “God’s Word is not imprisoned.” (2 Timothy 2:9b)

The call to share intentionally is not inspired or driven by guilt.  The call is simply to NOT bind that which is unbound.

God’s Word is unbound, free, not subject to human interference or manipulation.  The writer to the Hebrews said it this way, “God's word is living and active. It is sharper than any two-edged sword and cuts as deep as the place where soul and spirit meet, the place where joints and marrow meet. God's word judges a person's thoughts and intentions.” (Hebrews 4:12)

The attempt to bind the Gospel never promotes it. 

The Gospel message is powerful and can add and multiply believers as it is shared purposefully and intentionally in our lives. 

This is actually a freeing concept. 

Even as we are bound by sin, God’s word is not.  God’s word does not succumb to the whim and fancy of humanity.  As we share the Gospel with others, it is God who does the work.  The Holy Spirit calls people to faith in Jesus who died and rose again and are freed to share intentionally and with a purpose, not to build in us a false pride but to give all glory to God.
Permit me to say, sharing purposefully adds and multiplies. 
That is the new SPAM: 
  • Sharing 
  • Purposefully 
  • Adds and 
  • Multiplies

This is a message I can get behind. 
This is a message we can all share.
This message is not bound!

Sharing intentionally is part of the Bethany Blueprint, and one of the core values we have as a congregation. 

The Holy Spirit uses those gathered in this place to share the love of God and message of Salvation through Jesus Christ with those around us. 

It happens in purposeful ways as we have the courage to step into divinely appointed moments, even to those who have might have denied the Gospel, and share the life changing message and watch how God adds and multiplies His followers through us. 

This new SPAM is not done with malicious intent or for self seeking gain, but to add and multiply the number of those who will gather in the presence of Jesus in heaven for all eternity for Sharing Purposefully Adds and Multiples and on account of what Christ has done for us, we are all called to share intentionally.

-Pastor Seth Moorman


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