This past week we kicked off our series Backstage Pass by talking about the first statement of our Heart For The House: We cannot be explained apart from a broken heart. Everything we do in Ignition flows out of a heart broken for the people of this city who are disconnected from their Father and His church. (Statistically speaking that’s 80% of Knoxville area residents.)
We are serving our city as a church this Saturday at Fort Kid – Sign up here!
Right after the core team of our church left everything and moved to Knoxville to start Ignition Church, we gathered for several months to talk about what kind of church we were starting. One of the strategic decisions we made was in regards to outreach – ministry to areas of physical need in Knoxville.
I’ve really enjoyed addressing fear and insecurity head on the past few weeks at Ignition during our series Yesterday Today and Tomorrow. Much of what I have taught during this series has come from my own personal wrestlings over the past 2 years, some of which I shared in detail this past Sunday. In light of that sermon, I thought that this blog would be appropriate to share this week.
An apple tree produces apples. That’s what it does and that’s what makes it an apple tree. It doesn’t have to practice and work hard to make apples – it just happens. Apples are simply what it produces because of what it is. It does what it does because of what it is.
The life of a Holy Spirit-filled follower of Jesus produces fruit. The Apostle Paul said in Galatians 5 that the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit in the life of a born again believer is love, joy, peace, patience, and self-control. Like apple trees produce apples, disciples produce this spiritual fruit.
Fruit is made for multiplication.
Like an apple contains seeds for producing apple trees, fruit from the life of a disciple is for the purpose of producing more disciples. In other words, we don’t bear fruit so that we are better people, or more pleasant to be around, or so that other Christians can admire and envy all of our pretty fruit. We bear fruit so that people far from God will be drawn to us and ultimately drawn to Jesus.
- The Holy Spirit produces love in us. Not just so we can be better friends or spouses, but so we are enabled to love the unloveable as we have been loved by God – so they may experience His love for them.
- The Holy Spirit produces patience in us. Not just so we can sit in traffic without complaining, but so we are able to stick with those that are hurting when others have given up on them – so they can know God never gives up on them.
- The Holy Spirit produces peace in us. Not just so we can speak and act with zen-like piety, but so that we can step into someone else’s messy life and bring the calming presence of God’s love and kindness to their situation.
- The Holy Spirit produces self control in us. Not just so we can be less sinful, but so that we can express our freedom in Christ and freely invite those living in bondage to experience it.
- The Holy Spirit produces joy in us. Not just so we can be happier, but so that no matter what is happening around us, our deep-seated contentment in Christ enables us to stay engaged with His mission.
When you learn to be who you are in Christ, fruit happens and disciples are made – the only qualification for making disciples is being a disciple.
Ultimately, Love Shares is much less about what we do, and far more about who we are. When you know who you are, you’ll do what you’re created to do.
Pain is an invitation.
Personal pain is an invitation from God to discover more about ourselves and more about our Father. When people share their pain with you, it’s an invitation to know them and show them who our Father is.
Love enters into other’s pain and mess. As Jesus demonstrated through the Parable of the Good Samaritan, religious culture has issues with pain. Religion works hard to cover pain and problems because they’re considered shameful (John 9:2). Therefore, religious people avoid people with pain and problems (Job 30:9-10, 24). When they see pain, they cross by on the other side of the street (Luke 10:31-32). They are not sure what to do with it, so they steer clear.
Instead of letting love guide them toward pain, the religious let fear drive them to stand at a distance. Instead of attempting empathy, they offer quick-fixes. Listening is replaced with cheap sentiment, Band-Aid “Christian” answers, and an offer to pray for them. They shirk the responsibility to comfort (Job 16:2-3; 42:7).
Standing at a distance, religion misses the invitation to dive into the pain in someone’s heart with them and discover the God who is in that space. The religious mind doesn’t understand that Jesus deals primarily in pain and problems. In its avoidance of pain, religion avoids Jesus.
Pain is an invitation.
When you have been loved by Jesus in the middle of your pain, and pulled out by His hand in the middle of your sin, you can’t help but go to others who are stuck there now. You’re not afraid to go there with others when you’ve gone there with Jesus yourself.
Nothing has ever been accomplished through avoidance, and a lecture has never changed a heart.
Love covers a multitude of sins. Love can move mountains. Accept the invitation into pain, and you’ll discover Love.
Huey Lewis, a great prophet of 80’s pop music, once wisely said: “The power of love is a curious thing.”
He’s right. Love will inspire you to do some risky things. It will cause you to lose yourself for the sake of another.
Sometimes, love looks like simply listening as someone shares their heart or their hurt. Other times, love looks like speaking up and standing between a person and a destructive habit. Love will always create a distinctive response in the recipient – but sometimes that response is rejection.
Many times we settle for making someone feel loved rather than actually choosing to love them.
Love is not always doing what feels good. It is not always easy, nor does it always come naturally. In fact, love is often best proved in the fires of hard moments and hard conversations.
Here are some questions I asked to test our willingness to love in a recent sermon based on the parable of the Good Samaritan:
- Are you willing to risk being rejected by others for the sake of Jesus?
- Are you willing to risk a relationship for the sake of sharing what God is doing in your life?
- Are you willing to risk sounding “uncool” by actually talking about heart, rather than always sticking to the surface?
- Are you willing to associate with those that live an openly sinful lifestyle?
- Are you willing to have a hard conversation with a Christian who may be stuck in their sin?
- Are you willing to pursue someone that you know will likely reject/hurt you? Will you persist in your pursuit if they do?
- Are you willing to pursue someone whose lifestyle is opposite of yours?
- Are you willing to be inconvenienced for someone? Even for someone who you don’t really know? Even if there is no reward?
Truth be told, this level of love as described in the passage is impossible for us in our own strength. Ultimately this passage is describing Jesus’ love for us. He is the Good Samaritan and we are the injured traveler.
But the beautiful thing about the Gospel is that once we have received Jesus’ love and grace in our broken state, He will begin to love others through us – if we are open to it.
You can listen to the sermon here: What Love Really Is