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Epiphany - The Good News

Do you take God's mission for you with the appropriate weights and at the right time? Do you give God’s mission for you the appropriate attention, looking for those who are leaning forward? Do you give God’s mission for you the right tone that reflects God’s heart for people?

Corby Stephens
Corby Stephens
14 min read
Epiphany - The Good News
Photo by Adrian Regeci / Unsplash

Table of Contents

The following text is the raw, unedited transcript from a sermon given on Jan. 22nd, 2023. You can also listen to the audio. Better yet, subscribe to the podcast! :-)

When you hear the word evangelism, does your heart rate go up? Like mine does not evangelize? I have to tell people about Jesus. I don't know how to do that. What if I get it wrong? What if they reject him? What if I mess it up? Okay, this is all my weirdness. Maybe you guys are experts at it and the great evangelists. When I was in, I attended University of Washington for about a year and a half and was part of campus crusade for christ, which is now called crew because apparently the word crusade is offensive.

But that's what it is and that one of their main things was evangelism. I had the opportunity to go on a summer mission trip with them to san Diego to share the gospel with people on the beach. That is awkward. Yeah. Hello person in their bikinis, sunbathing and trying to get away from it all. Can I tell you about Jesus? God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. You missed us. You got something on your face there sand. Evangelism is needed and there are those who are called to evangelize and there are those who are called to preach and there are those who are called to teach and there are those who called to support that we're a body of christ.

At the same time, God's mission for everyone is to be able to share the good news with people who need it because hopefully at some point in our lives as followers of Jesus. We do encounter someone who needs it and we should be able to share them something, not sit down and let me get a pulpit and let me preach to you, it's it's your sharing with them. And the one of the things I love about this is that God uses people to reach people, that's one of the things that is brought up in in Amos.

Amos - Do I do anything for no good reason?

I'd like to summarize this passage, this particular passage of Amos, this, there's lots of ways to summarize it probably, but when I looked at this passage, I thought God's thinking or saying, do I do anything for no good reason? Sometimes when God does something, I think I need a better reason than what you're doing this, what I think you're doing this for, and God's like, you're so cute, that's okay. My reason is sufficient enough for you. But you know, he gives the Amos, gives this list of rhetorical questions, and the answer to all of them is no do to people walk together and they're not an agreement?

Well, of course they don't, they're in agreement. Does a lion roar in the woods when there's no pray? Of course he doesn't, because then he'll scare away to pray. And he goes on to talk about how it's it's through the profits that I reveal my secrets, and then he tells Amos to go deliver this message, he uses people to reach people, declaring through his people. Now, I realize that in the context he talks about a profit, but think about it, if you speak anything on behalf of God, technically, at least in that moment you are a prophet that should scare you a little bit.

Or it should encourage you one of the two actually, that can be a heavy weight and if it's too heavy of a weight, if you start to think I'm I can be a prophet of God in in a particular moment when I share the gospel with somebody that might be too heavy of a weight and stop you in your tracks or it might be too light of a weight and maybe you've encountered people like this who almost begin every other sentence with. Thus saith the Lord when the Lord did not say it and you can't just throw that around.

That's, I mean, God takes his word very seriously. So in some cases that should give us pause the who God is and that he has called everyone to share with people who are ready for it. In other cases, it should also urge us on, should encourage us to take it seriously, but also like God's behind you saying, come on, you can do this by, it's, you know, it's, it's mom or dad behind you with the training wheels holding your bike and teaching you how to ride. It's it's okay. So it's, it is a weight, but it shouldn't be too heavy, it shouldn't be too light, it should be like Goldilocks should be just right right in the psalm.

Psalm - God you know me perfectly, there is nowhere I can hide from you, and this intimacy is worth more than anything to me.

I like to include all of the passages from the lectionary in a particular study together in the song. One way to summarize the entire song. We stopped at verse 16, I think it goes to verse 24 or something like that. Is this God knows me perfectly. There is nowhere I can hide from him and this intimacy is worth more than anything to me.

That's kind of that's those three major chunks of the song. God knows me perfectly now that's not just an idea, that's not just a theological point. So just sit in that for a moment. God knows you completely perfectly. There's nothing he doesn't know about you, Every thought, every feeling, every intent, every action you've thought about doing and even committed. And again, that's that could be scary or that could be okay, I'm gonna, yep, God knows me. There is nowhere you can hide from him. Sorry, I don't believe in him that to that person.

They think they're hiding from God. No, it's like you might as well be like, you know you can't see me, sorry God, you don't know what's going on because I don't believe in you and you can't see me again God, that's so cute that you're just such a cute little person. There is nowhere you can hide from him which is scary in one moment, but also encouraging in another and this intimacy is worth more than anything. Now, I'm gonna be honest, sometimes that feels very true and sometimes that feels very untrue.

Sometimes I really value the intimacy I can have and do have with God and other times I'm like, is it are you even here? Are you even reel you even care? Some of these songs are very encouraging and positive like this one and some of them are just so depressing, but sometimes so identifiable. God, where are you? I'm crying so much. My bed is soaked, right. But God knows us nowhere to hide intimacy is worth everything. If you haven't read a book called the Anglican way by Father Thomas McKenzie, I highly recommend it. It's one of the first books that was recommended to me as I was exploring the Anglican world and he uses this great illustration.

One of the logos we have as anglicans is is a compass, like a compass on the map, north, south, east west, crisscrossing lines and he used that to illustrate how there are extremes and a lot of ideas and we as anglicans tried to be in the middle the via media, the middle way and one of the things I found particularly interesting was one of those spectrums, If you will was the idea of we and the idea of me now we would be this, I'm a part of something, I'm a part of a church.

And there are, are those in the christian world who believe that to be a member of a church is to be saved. They put so much weight in the we, that that's all that matters, as long as I go to church, as long as I believe the right thing, as long as I observe all the things I'm supposed to observe, I'm good. The other side of that spectrum is the idea of me, the idea that I don't completely disagree. I don't completely disagree their extreme. So they're hard to agree with all the way.

But the other side of the spectrum is that I have a personal relationship with Jesus, you need to have a personal relationship with Jesus, this is my relationship with him and you have nothing to do with it. Leave me Alone. I can, I will believe in him and however I want to believe in him and I will take care of that. And I really have nothing to do with you other than going to church and singing songs with you. We versus me. And there's something about that middle, that is just so true that I do need community.

I can't be a member of a body all by myself, right? But I also need to have my own sense of connection with him. That's what the song is about, right? You have searched me and you know me, right? So we need, there's both and then there's this middle, that's what we need to follow. And just to kind of drive the point the point home, you know, the Holy spirit is in you. If you're a believer, Jesus is in you, the father is in you. When you read, John 17 and Jesus prays this prayer to the father.

It's really topsy turvy cause he says like father, I'm in you and you and me and you're in them and I'm in them and they're in me. And it's like, whoa, that's a lot of in it's a lot of in, but that's what it is. You're he is in you. He's not this, this isn't a message of a stranger or some distant entity, right? This isn't an idea or a philosophy that we just need to agree with. This is his message. This is his gospel. This is his good news. That is your message. When I say your I don't just mean you plural us sitting here in this room, I mean you and Jesus because he's in you, isn't he? That's you, that's you, that's your, that's plural together, right?

1 Corinthians - Unity in Christ, unity in what the Gospel is, humility in its expression.

When we get to the Corinthians passage, man, that's a tough one. Theirs was was so much division Disunity. Some there were camps forming of people saying, well I'm I'm a christian, but I follow Apollos and I follow Paul and I follow Cephas who is peter and like people the real the real spiritual people.

I follow christ? It's like, okay, calm down? A lot of division, and we see that today, not just in Christianity? I mean, yes, we're we have anglicans and we have Catholics and we have all the protestant denominations, but but even in the anglican communion today, there's a lot of struggle with unity over very important things, but we need unity in christ, we need unity and what the gospel is. And as Paul points out, we need humility. It's an X in its expression, what does division do?

Well, division causes distraction. We could focus on the wrong things, not the wrong things, We could focus on the less important things, instead of being focused on Jesus? It division takes attention away from the point of being the church, we turn on ourselves, we fight amongst ourselves. I don't want to open up any wounds, but Covid was a hard time for a lot of churches because there was a lot of division of who believe what should happen and separations happened that had nothing to do with who Jesus was or is.

That's hard, That's I mean, they're they're fighting over who they follow, we're fighting over a piece of cloth over our faces. You feel feels can feel a little silly hoping that everybody's toes, Okay, am I stepping on anything? So division causes distraction. It takes attention away from the point of being the church? And to me, it kind of raises the question, well, well who needs the Gospel? That's kind of a broad question, who needs, of course everyone needs the Gospel, right? But did you ever stop and think that sometimes believers need the gospel?

Sometimes we christians need to hear again, be reminded of the good news of Jesus and and how do we need it? Paul says I didn't have these eloquent arguments. I just wanted to deliver the message to you. I think if you can argue eloquently somebody into believing, somebody else can eloquently argue them out of believing, because believing is not just here, it's here and it's here in your heart, it's you actually really do believe that you actually do have Jesus in you and you are are in him.

So I while we should evangelism is important. And some people are called that, I don't. I personally, and then stop and think about that for a minute. No, we're gonna say this edit. I like to find people who are leaning forward, right? If you've ever been at dinner or at conversation with somebody and you're sharing and the other person kind of does this, They lean in, they lean forward, they're engaged, they're interested. Those are the people we need to have our Holy spirit radar on looking for, right?

Yes. Be ready to share with anybody and everyone who might be interested, but be especially ready for those who are leaning forward who are ready to engage, ready to listen. I mean you could have a whole bunch of people who fell off of a boat and you have life preservers for all, but some people are like I'm not gonna drown, I'm gonna be fine, okay. But other people like I need a life preserver. Well you get one like you you're ready, you know, you're ready to receive one look for those people who were leaning forward.

Matthew - What we declare: repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

Then in Matthew, what is it we're declaring, what is it we're sharing? The message is simply repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, repent. Remember who is Jesus talking to, he's talking to jews, he's talking to people who already believed in God, People who were waiting for something to happen, waiting for a messiah to come. That that's who he spoke to, that's why I think believers need to hear the gospel again sometimes to repent, means to change the way you think in order to change the way you act. Some people think repent means just to have a strong will.

So somebody who struggles with an addiction is if I can just willpower on my way through this and get off of that thing, I'm gonna be good when really what needs to happen is the person needs to change the way they think about whatever it is they're addicted to or whatever the problem is because if you can change the way you think about the thing, it's a lot easier to change the way you act about that thing, changing of thinking changes action. We have phrases like putting on the mind of christ we put on Jesus's mind and filter what's happening in our world through Jesus's mind, we will see things very differently from everybody else.

Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, Paul says in romans, right? The mind is kind of a big deal. If we can change the way we think we can change the way we act and if this is the Kingdom of heaven is at hand, that means it's right here, it's near, it's within reach. Those people who are leaning forward maybe don't know it, but what they're really going through is I need some of that kingdom. Can you give me some of that kingdom stuff because I'm ready for it?

It's at hand here, grab it. There is a kind of tone to sharing the gospel, sometimes some people out there and whether they're called of God to do it this way or not, I'm not gonna judge some people are out there to do it to prove that they are right, I am writing about Jesus, I am right about God, I am right about the bible and I'm going to prove it to you and then once I prove it to you, then you'll believe No, I don't think that's the right tone.

Others maybe are out there to prove that they're better than I'm saved and you're not and I do holy things and you don't do holy things. Don't you want to be like me? No, you're kind of annoying actually. Again, the point of the, of declaring the gospel is to share it with those who are ready to receive it. When I was pastoring in forest grove Oregon. I used this illustration. If you haven't noticed, I enjoy food and I particularly enjoy Oreos and I particularly particularly enjoyed double stuff. Oreos.

I don't know why they make any other kind of Oreo. I do not understand Oreo thins, I do not understand that. And and to enjoy an Oreo that I am ready to receive. I have to take it and it's against the law to not dunk it in milk. You have to and then consume it and then participate partake of it and it's amazing and I have a hard time stopping sometimes and I hide them from my wife and Children and I don't have a problem. You have a problem.

Okay, well I, it's kind of like that with Jesus. This is more on the me end of that me and we spectrum is that you have to like do something to have that Jesus in you, you just have to receive it. It's at hand. All you have to do is take it like grabbing that Oreo. Yes, I'm comparing Jesus to an Oreo forgive me. I'm sorry, but it works for me? Now, maybe this is you. But I shared, when I shared that after the service comes, somebody came up who had been seemingly a believer for a long time and they said, I have never received Jesus, I have believed in him for a long time, but I've never actually taken him in and that was a very cool moment to have that that step.

But that's what it is, pause on the seriousness. I held out the Oreo and during the service and there was a kid in the back, I said, do you want this? And he started to run up and I said, no, no. And then he started bawling and he was like crying and I was like, no, no, please come, take it, take it back. And he didn't, he was mad at me, Probably still is. It's not good when the priest makes somebody cry in that way, in that way during church.

God uses people to reach people.

So again, the point is that God uses people to reach people and I'm gonna ask four questions and invite you to something at the end. Do you take God's mission for you with the appropriate weights and at the right time, Not too heavy, not too light. Just right, do you take God's mission for you with the appropriate care? And I mean care for God. Care for yourself. Care for the lost. Do you give God's mission for you the appropriate attention, looking for those who are again, leaning forward and do you give God's mission for you?

The right tone that reflects God's heart for people Now, if I'm not gonna go like old school Pentecostal and have an altar call, but if you have never received that Oreo, this is new to you and you you've been a faithful queue warmer for a long time. Or maybe you've forgotten what that Oreo tastes like. I mean, God says taste and see that the Lord is good so I can use Oreo. I'm gonna defend that forever. Or maybe you want to share what you have, like I want to do that, but I don't know how then please ask for help.

Don't walk out, not having taken, not having been encouraged on how to share and not having it fully experienced what it is. We practice here just by rote experience Taste and see that the Lord is good and when you have something that you enjoy, what's the one, what's one of the things you want to do? You gotta try this. You gotta have this right. That's when this, sharing this, declaring this proclamation becomes a natural thing to do in the right context and in the right time



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