Lifestyle Adjustments (Luke 14:1-24)

Subject How do we live on mission?
Object By making lifestyle adjustments.
Big Idea Living in mission involves lifestyle adjustments.
Purpose To choose a lifestyle of compassion, service, and mission.

Jesus attends a dinner party. He encounters three lifestyle choices that lead the guests to miss out on the mission of Jesus. They completely missed the point because they made three bad lifestyle choices.

Imagine having Jesus over for dinner and completely missing what he is doing!
Jesus uses this as a teaching opportunity. He teaches us that we living in mission involves three lifestyle adjustments:

1. Love people (1-6)

Where the Pharisees saw an issue, Jesus saw a person

It's possible to see people's issues rather than the people themselves

We encounter people who make lifestyle choices that we disagree with

Sometimes, we let those choices prevent us from establishing a relationship (Pharisees saw some people as unworthy)

Important to see others as people to love rather than issues to debate

WHO do I need to love?

2. Serve others (7-14)

We have a tendency to serve ourselves

We take the best for ourselves

We do things for people who can repay us

We're not always aware of this tendency

Jesus models a life that serves others

Key question: Who is this for? - church (programs, budget, building) and personally (time, possessions)

HOW can I serve others?

3. Eliminate distractions (15-23)

We all have excuses for not being on mission.

Some of these excuses are lame, and they make us miss out on the very reason we are here

The answer isn't to stop doing things. It is to keep them from becoming more important than our mission

Continually remind ourselves we we are here

WHAT is distracting me?

Questions: Who do I need to love? How can I become a servant of others? What is distracting me from mission?

Practice a lifestyle of compassion, servanthood, and focus, and you will be on mission

Picture: party host - the party has arrived, join the Kingdom party. We have become party guests and are expected to become party hosts, inviting people at the bottom of the pile to join the party.

Missional Confession

We believe that this church is a community of God's people, here for a purpose. We have been blessed to be a blessing.

As the Father has sent Jesus into the world, Jesus sends us into the world.

The Holy Spirit enables us to carry out Jesus' mission. Jesus calls us to be different from the world, yet in relationship with people in our world.

He asks us to make lifestyle adjustments so we can see this happen in our lives. He calls us to love people, serve others, and to eliminate distractions from mission.

Secrets of Salt and Light

Subject How do we impact the world with kingdom life?
Object By being distinctive from, and in relationship to, the world.
Big Idea We represent God's Kingdom by being distinctive from and close to the people in our worlds.
Purpose To live according to Kingdom values in relationship with the people in our worlds.

We want to influence our worlds but are afraid of what it will take.

You don't need to be a superstar to change your world. You need two qualities: distinctiveness and relationship.

1. We are here to positively influence our worlds

a. We are to help preserve our world (salt - preservative, seasoning, fertilizer) - Examples of how followers of Christ, at their best, have done this: prison reform, medical care, trade unions, abolition of slavery, abolition of child labor, establishment of orphanages, reform of penal code

b. We are to light up our world (light - hope; necessary for life)
"There is nothing more useful than salt and sunshine" (Roman officer)

2. Our influence comes from two qualities

a. Our influence comes from our distinctiveness (5:13) - Salt

When we are not distinctive, we are good for nothing (thrown away, used for roads) - Israel

We maintain our distinctiveness by living out the values of the Kingdom (Beatitudes)

b. Our influence comes from our proximity (5:14-16)

Our faith is not a private matter - Don't withdraw!

We show our light by who we are in the ordinariness of life (authenticity)

3. When we are distinctive and in relationship, people will know the Kingdom of heaven is in the world and will glorify the Father in heaven

We are all in one of the following four quadrants. Goal: bottom-right; distinctive and in relationship.


Everybody can do this - genuinely changed, and to be friends.

The Message paraphrase: "Let me tell you why you are here. You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth...You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world."

Missional Confession

We believe that we are the church, that is, we are a community of God's people called and set apart to be a witness to the good news of Jesus Christ. We are blessed to be a blessing.

Just as the Father has sent his Son into the world for the sake of the world, Jesus has sent his Church into the world for the sake of the world.

We believe that the Holy Spirit not only calls us but enables us for that mission.

Jesus Christ has defined us as witnesses - distinct and yet connected to the world around us.

More Ready Than You Realize (John 14:12-18)

Subject How can we live as powerfully as Jesus did?
Object With the help of the Holy Spirit
Big Idea We can live and serve as powerfully as Jesus did, with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Purpose To be assured of Jesus' promise to help us by sending the Holy Spirit.

Intro: I just turned down a golf invitation to save myself embarrassment. What if someone promised me that I would golf better than Tiger Woods?

Jesus made this type of promise: that his followers would live and serve as powerfully as he did.

1. Jesus' followers can serve as powerfully as Jesus did (12-14)

a. We will do even greater works than Jesus did - What does this mean? Not greater miracles but greater impact

b. Our prayers will be answered

Our lives will be a continuation of Jesus' life in the world. Every disciple will be able to participate in this work.

I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Matthew 11:11)

Do we buy this? Why isn't it our experience? First, we need to understand how this will happen.

2. God makes this possible through the Holy Spirit (15-17)

a. Jesus will give us the Spirit (15-18) - A gift that is an outgrowth of our relationship; Fulfilled at the Day of Pentecost

b. The Spirit will be our helper - Meaning: Someone who lends assistance, strength and energy; who comes along to meet special needs; an advocate (someone to remind God of our plight) - Translators in Africa - a group of porters carrying bundles on their heads; in the line of porters there was one who didn't carry anything; wasn't boss. Was there in case someone fell over in exhaustion; he would come and pick up the man's load and carry it; in their language, "the one who falls down beside us"

c. The Spirit will dwell with us and in us - the same Spirit who anointed and empowered Jesus at his baptism; "returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee" (Luke 4:14); "the Spirit of the Lord is upon me"

This promise began to be fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost.

Prayer in Jesus' name: getting to know who Jesus is; finding ourselves drawn into his life and love and sense of purpose; we will see what needs to be done, what we should be aiming at within our sphere of influence; what resources we need to do it

Applications: Tiger. What golf games are we avoiding? What greater works are we sensing we should be doing? Tap into the divine resources.

Missional Confession

We believe that we are the church, that is, we are a community of God's people called and set apart to be a witness to the good news of Jesus Christ. We are blessed to be a blessing.

Just as the Father has sent his Son into the world for the sake of the world, Jesus has sent his Church into the world for the sake of the world.

We believe that the Holy Spirit not only calls us but enables us for that mission.

The Mission of God (John 20:19-23)

Have you ever had the experience of sitting in church and looking around, asking, "Is this all there is?" Maybe it was a Sunday in which the service just seemed to fall flat. Maybe one Sunday the sermon was so completely boring that you starting tapping your watch and thinking, "This can't be what God intended." Or the music was off. Maybe you've been in a church that had a high level of conflict, and you became disillusioned with what was happening. The question comes to mind, "Is this all there is?"

I have a friend who grew up without ever attending church. He somehow became a follower of Jesus Christ and began reading his Bible. He started to get excited about the church that he read about in the book of Acts and the rest of the New Testament. Eventually he started visiting churches, and he was overcome with the feeling, "This isn't it! This isn't what I've been reading about!"

Even pastors go through this. Eugene Peterson writes about the dreams that pastors have about ministry. Then they actually start pastoring a church and find out that every church has furnaces that break and choirs that sing off key, and sinners in the pews. To make it worse, they discover that the pastor is a sinner too.

You might have asked yourself the question sometime in your church experience, "Is this all there is?"

The answer to that is no. This - if you think of church as what happens on Sunday as what church is. What happens here is good, but there's more.

Some of us think of church primarily as what happens on Sundays or whatever other time we come together. This morning I'd like to look back at a key event that reorients us to who the church is called to be and do, and it's far more than what could take place in a gathering like this. Please understand that I'm not criticizing gatherings like these. I am saying, though, that being the church, and doing what the church is called to do, takes more than these gatherings.

Specifically, I want to look at an event that should shape Richview in terms of two critical pieces of information. I'd like to look at who we are (our identity) and what we have been called to do (our mission).

Today is Ascension Sunday, the day that we remember Jesus' ascension to heaven. On that day, Jesus passed the baton to his followers. Forty days before he did this, on the same day that he was raised from the dead, Jesus began to prepare his followers for what would happen when he left.

The event we're going to examine today took place just hours after Jesus was raised. This was the first time that he had seen many of his followers after the resurrection. His followers are locked away in a secret location, afraid that if the Jewish leaders catch them, they'll be killed just as Jesus was killed a few days before.

They're afraid, and they're also probably feeling pretty bad about themselves. This hasn't been a good couple of days. Not only are they afraid for their lives, but they have let Jesus down. One of them has denied Jesus. Others have fled. They've heard the news that Jesus is alive again, and some of them are maybe a bit doubtful. Others are maybe afraid of what Jesus is going to say to them. Jesus could rightfully come and tell them off for how they've acted over the past few days.

Jesus does appear, and when he does a couple of things that look forward to his ascension, and that shape our understanding today of who we are and what he has called us to do. Let's look at what happened. It's found in John 20:19-23.

The first thing that Jesus does is:

1. Jesus re-establishes a relationship with us

John 20:19 says, "That evening, on the first day of the week, the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! 'Peace be with you,' he said."

Jesus could have said, "I've got something to say to you..." He could have condemned them for abandoning him. He could have criticized them for hiding. He didn't come, though, with a word of condemnation. He came instead with the everyday greeting, "Peace be with you."

In English, that sounds like he's saying a lot. That's not how we normally greet people. In that culture, not just back then but today, this was a standard greeting. Jesus came in and simply said our equivalent of "Hello." He repeated himself in verse 21, saying again, "Peace be with you." He knows who he's dealing with. He knows their doubts and their failings. Here, and in other conversations with his followers after his resurrection, he re-establishes a relationship with these very normal people. He doesn't write them off or dismiss them. He re-establishes a relationship with them.

Here's the thing about Jesus that we need to understand. He is very aware of our shortcomings. This week, the new president of the University of Toronto admitted that he was suffering from a case of impostor syndrome. "It was one of the more acute attacks of impostor syndrome that I've had," he said. "You have a real sense that this is an enormous responsibility and worry that this is something you've been chosen to do by some misunderstanding."

I think there is also such a thing as spiritual impostor syndrome, to think that God has chosen us due to some misunderstanding, or to think that God wouldn't have chosen us if he knew the truth about us. Of course, we know that God doesn't have any illusions about us. He's never surprised by how we let him down. It's not some misunderstanding. God looks at our lives, and he understands our weakness, and his word - because of what Christ has done for us - is, "Peace be with you."

When I was twelve, I started to struggle in an area of sin that I thought was really bad. I somehow thought that I was struggling in an area that was unusual for a person who claimed to be a Christian. I remember feeling overwhelmed with guilt. I talked to a couple of people I looked up to, and they recommended that I talk to my pastor about it.

I did. I was as nervous as anything. I suppose I was hoping that he would understand, and I was afraid that I would see this shocked look on his face when I admitted my struggle. I told him, and for a second - before he had a chance to recover - I could tell that he was truly shocked.

We need to remember that Jesus is never shocked by what we've been struggling with. He's not surprised or overwhelmed by our failures and our doubts. He knows, and he still comes to us - even in our failure and our fears - and re-establishes a relationship with us.

He even understands and reassures our doubts. "As he spoke, he held out his hands for them to see, and he showed them his side" (John 20:20). Jesus is not surprised by your sins and your doubts as he looks at you. He has no illusions about who you are.

This is huge,and it forms our identity, our understanding of who we are. We are, before anything else, a community of sinners who are in relationship with God not because of having it together. We are a community of people who are in relationship with God because Jesus looked at us in our weakness and said, "Peace be with you." We are a community of grace because we have received so much grace.

That is primarily how I understand who we are at Richview. A church isn't a building, but a community of people. The thing that ties us together as a group of people is that we are in relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We are not in relationship with God because we are any better than anybody else. We are in relationship with God despite our weaknesses and failures and doubts. Jesus, who has no illusions about who we are, looks into our lives and says, "Peace be with you."

This is the basis of our identity. It shapes everything about us. It also means that as we come into contact with others, we don't go, "Ha! Sinner!" We live as those who have been forgiven, so we can live and explain grace and joy and peace and hope.

This is who we are - a group of people who know failure and doubt, but who are in relationship with Jesus. This is important but it's not enough. Jesus does something else as he meets his followers:

2. Jesus sends us into the world

Jesus re-establishes a relationship with his followers. He also gives them a job to do - one that is unbelievable, considering their failures. He passes the baton to them, and gives his job over to them.

This is the opposite of what you'd expect. These people fail the test, and Jesus comes to them and puts them in charge. Jesus looks at us, sees who we are, and still he gives us the responsibility of doing what he did during his ministry.

Verses 21-23 say:

He spoke to them again and said, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." Then he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone's sins, they are forgiven. If you refuse to forgive them, they are unforgiven."

Jesus restates his mission - "As the Father has sent me..." Jesus talked a lot about being sent by his Father. Over and over again, he talked about the reason for his existence, and the reason for what he was doing. "As the Father has sent me..." Jesus served because Jesus was sent. He preached, healed, and forgave because that is what God called him to do. Jesus was always clear on his mission, what he was there to do.

Jesus accomplished this mission by going to those who were out of relationship with him. He talked about not going to the spiritually healthy but to those who weren't doing well spiritually. His ministry was grounded in the nature of God, who is a sending God.

You can capture the sweep of this throughout Scripture. One of the big macro-themes is the image of God. God made us in his image (imago dei). This image has been broken by sin. God's been working to restore that image, to undo the damage caused by sin. The Bible tells us that we're being changed into the image of Christ, who is in the image of God. He's restoring that image.

Another macro-theme is the mission of God (missio dei). God is on mission to restore that image. The whole Bible is about the mission of God. God chose a people to carry out his mission to bless the world. God sent his Son to carry out this mission. Now, Jesus gives the mission to those who follow him, to the glory of God (gloria dei).

This is what it's all about: the mission of God to restore the image of God in his people, to the glory of God. Jesus knew his mission.

Jesus gives us his mission - Jesus said, "As the Father has sent me, so I send you" (John 20:21). He gives us his mission. This is why church as a gathering is not enough. Church is both a gathering of people who have had a relationship re-established with Jesus. It is also a group of people who have been sent by Jesus into the world, to live as he lived, to serve as he served.

This is the reason for our existence as a church, as a group of people. It's rooted in the very nature of God. God is a sending God. The Father sent Jesus; the Father and the Son sent the Spirit; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together send the church into the world.

Richview is a gathering of people. It is more than that too. We are a gathering of people who have been sent into the world, our world, to do what Jesus did. We've been called to enter the lives of people who are out there. We have been sent to leave our place of security, to risk ourselves, to travel to the places where people are, to go onto their turf rather than to expect them to come onto our turf. We've been called to become missionaries in our own societies, to understand our culture, to creatively engage the issues of the day. We've been sent into the world just as Christ as sent.

I find it fairly easy to remember who we are - imperfect people in relationship with Christ - compared to remembering what we're called to do. It's easy to focus on being in relationship with Christ and to forget about being on mission, on being sent just as Christ was sent. When we forget our mission, we soon find ourselves asking of church, "Is this all there is?"

A church can't exist without mission. It's not an add-on or part of what we do. There is no such thing as a missions budget. The entire budget of the church is the missions budget. The essence of the church is to live in relationship with God, sent into the world just as Christ was sent into the world.

You may have seen the movie The Terminal. It's about a man, Viktor Navorski, who travels to JFK from his native country, Krakozhia. Navorski gets stranded at the airport when Krakozhia is split apart by a civil war. He can't be allowed into the States because he doesn't have a country. He can't be deported because he has nowhere to go. Navorski ends up living at the airport.

When we remember who we are but forget our mission, we become like Navorski living at the airport. We're not home. It's easy for the church to get into airport mode, gathering together to wait for the flight home, maybe even trying to get other people to join us at the airport. We can even occasionally send representatives out from the airport to try to recruit others to join us in waiting for the plane home.

Jesus called us to something different than that. Jesus has sent us into the world, just as he came into the world. He calls us to leave the airport, to see our calling as those who are sent to live just as Jesus lived.

Think this is too much? I don't blame you. This is why Jesus breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit." We're going to look at this more next week.

God has called you. He's not surprised by your mistakes or doubts. He's given you the job to be sent to live and serve just as Jesus lived and served. Reggie McNeal says:

God must have a lot of confidence in you to put you on the planet at just this time. It was his sovereign decision to insert you onto planet earth during a time of huge transition. It takes incredible faith to lead [or follow Christ] during hinge points of history...Jesus doesn't slam you for your doubts, fears and uncertainties either. He wants to encourage you in your current assignment. (Reggie McNeal, The Present Future)

Some of us have been ordained as pastors. But some of you have an even higher calling. You've been ordained as teachers, firefighters, students, sales representatives, parents. You've been sent to where you live and work and study, just as Christ was sent.

You're not there by accident. God has strategically placed you there. He's given you all the resources you need. You have been sent. You are in relationship with God, and sent into the world to be a blessing to the world.

Last week, we started this missional confession. We're going to add a little to it every week. I'd invite you to stand and to read the second paragraph of this confession, to say, "Yes, this is what it's all about." Then I'd love to pray for you in the current assignment God has given you, where you live, study and work.

We believe that we are the church, that is, we are a community of God's people called and set apart to be a witness to the good news of Jesus Christ. We are blessed to be a blessing.

Just as the Father has sent his Son into the world for the sake of the world, Jesus has sent his Church into the world for the sake of the world.

Blessed to be a Blessing (Genesis 12:1-3)

On the coast of England, about an hour out of London, two church towers mark a place called Reculver, the spot where Romans once built a fort. The ancient king of Kent, King Ethelbert, is rumored to be buried there. For centuries, this spot was occupied by Romans, and later, after the Romans fled Britain, by monks. All that remains there today is an ancient Roman wall, some old gravestones, and the ruins of an old church, blown down by dynamite in 1809.

The reason? Erosion. The vicar of the church called an emergency meeting. Erosion had already taken the northern part of the Roman walls, the Chapel House, several cottages and part of the graveyard. The vicar persuaded the church members to vote to demolish the church and to head for safer ground. It seemed to be a sensible decision, so they blew apart the church and headed for safer ground.

Later on, it came out that the vicar might have been influenced by other factors. His mother hated the area and refused the live there. The vicar never mentioned the option that, ironically, was put into place after they deserted the area: building a wall to prevent further erosion. They really didn't have an erosion problem as much as they didn't love the area enough to stay.


There might be a bit of a metaphor there for the church today. We understand, of course, that the church is not a building. But we also understand that erosion is a factor. We all understand that currents in society are eroding the church. These aren't safe days to be the church. Most Canadians (84%) believe in God. They believe in God, but they also believe their way. Eight out of ten Canadians believe that you don't have to go to church to be a good Christian. Seven out of ten think that their own private beliefs are more important than what the church believes. The result is that we live in a very spiritual time, but for most people, spirituality has nothing to do with church.

We're faced as a church with the reality that most Canadians don't see churches as being relevant or especially necessary to what it means to be a spiritual person, or even a Christian. That's just a fact. A few years ago, Charlene talked to someone who lived down the road, literally a five minute walk from here. She discovered I was a pastor in the area, and asked Charlene exactly where the church was. Despite being on a major road, this neighbor of ours had no idea that we were here. Why? Not because we need better signs or marketing. I'm convinced that the reason is because churches don't even show up on the map of most of our neighbors. The erosion is taking place. Churches aren't happy about it, but that doesn't change the reality.

How do we respond to the erosion? One option is to follow the example of the vicar in Reculver and to retreat to safer ground. The vicar was motivated by two factors: a desire for safety and a dislike of the area. It is possible to choose this option today. I've seen a few churches move to safer ground, and move themselves away from the erosion of society, and while they're at it make it pretty clear that they don't like the mess out there very much.

I may sound like I'm being harsh, but actually, I understand the desire to retreat and move to safer ground. There's another option, though. It's one that you can trace back throughout the entire Bible. It predates the church by hundreds of years. It's an option that goes back right to the beginning of God's interaction with the people. It's a continuation of God's first words to human beings. It goes back so far that the New Testament calls it the Gospel given in advance. Let's look at the most viable option we can choose as a church, beyond the option of retreat.

God's First Word

To start, you have to go back to God's first recorded word to people. God's first word to people was one of blessing. Genesis 1:28 says, "God blessed them and told them, "Multiply and fill the earth and subdue it. Be masters over the fish and birds and all the animals." Did you get that? God's first word to them was a word of blessing. Blessing here involved three things: living in a fruitful place, being able to multiply, and ruling all of creation. God's original word to human beings was one of blessing and approval.

Fast forward to Genesis 12, and you come to an important event. God is initiating a relationship with a man named Abraham, in one of the foundational covenants that lead to the creation of the Jewish nation. What God originally gave to the entire human race, he especially gives to this man, Abraham, and his offspring. God says to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3:

Then the LORD told Abram, "Leave your country, your relatives, and your father's house, and go to the land that I will show you. I will cause you to become the father of a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and I will make you a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you."

There is the word again: I will bless you. I will make you a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you. All the families on the earth will be blessed through you. God's great intention is to bless. The same blessing that he gave Adam and Eve are now given to Abram: a fruitful place (flowing with milk and honey); the ability to reproduce, even though Abram and his wife had been unable to have a baby; and the ability to rule (kingship). The blessing he had given to the human race, he now gives to Abram and his descendants, saying that they will one day ultimately bless the world.

This becomes so important that you can call it God's blessing program. God's intention has always been to bless the world. Through Abram and his descendants, and the covenant he has made with them, it was God's intention to bless the world.

The Gospel in advance

The Apostle Paul picked up on this hundreds of years later. Writing about the spread of the blessing to those who weren't direct descendants of Abraham, Paul wrote, "The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: 'All nations will be blessed through you'" (Galatians 3:8). This idea of God blessing Abram, and Abram blessing the world is so important that Paul calls it the gospel announced in advance. You want to know one of the earliest summaries of the Gospel? It's the world being blessed through God's people. God is about blessing people, and he uses his people in order to accomplish this purpose.

Blessed by God

God blesses us

Let's read what God said to Abram again:

Leave your country, your relatives, and your father's house, and go to the land that I will show you. I will cause you to become the father of a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and I will make you a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. (Genesis 12:1-3)

God called Abram into a relationship with him, and it was a relationship of blessing. The blessing wasn't just a spiritual one. It is one that would encompass all of life, one that is about legacy and greatness.

This is the part of our relationship with God that we are pretty good at. You could do a whole Bible study on the way that God has blessed us. Hole books have been written on the blessings that God gives to people who are in relationship with him. Jesus preached his most famous message and began with nine words of blessing to people who weren't used to being blessed.

Jesus is the promise, the giver of abundant life, the one who invites us to enter into a life of blessing in which even our suffering is transformed into something significant. We live in the promise that God is putting all things right, and that the good and the holy and the right triumphs in the end. We are all about this blessing.

An insider's Gospel says, "For God so loved ME that he gave me his only Son, so that because I believe in him, I will not perish but have everlasting life."

The problem is that this blessing is only half of the Gospel. If we stop here, we end up privatizing God's blessing and keeping it all for ourselves. If we stop here, we retreat from the danger that's out there and move to where it's safe and where we can preserve our blessing. It becomes about us and what God has done for us, and of inviting people into our place of safety so that they too can be blessed.

Blessed to be a Blessing

The second part of the blessing, and the part that Paul called the Gospel given in advance, is this: " All the families of the earth will be blessed through you" (Genesis 12:3). This is where retreat to a safer place is not an option, no matter how much erosion takes place. God hasn't given the blessing to us simply so we could be blessed. God has blessed us so we can bless all nations and all people in the world.

God's call is for us to be blessed so that we can bless the world. This version of the Gospel goes like this:

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. (John 3:16-17)

Len Sweet puts it this way: "If God so loved the world, why can't we?"

The Gospel is about God loving the world enough to enter it. The Gospel is about refusing to stay where it's safe. It's about blessing the world. It's about the Father sending the Son to the world out of love, the Son and the Father sending the Spirit, and the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit sending the church into the world. It's about following a sending God who's on a mission to bless the world.

If you don't hear anything else today, hear this: You have been blessed so you can bless the world. That is your calling. God has put us here as a church so that we could bless the world. That is the Gospel.

This isn't part of the reason for our existence. This is at the heart of why we're here: so we can be in relationship with God, and through that relationship with God, bless the entire world.

Mission: Bless my world!

This means that we see everything differently. We have been placed in Etobicoke, in Toronto, to be an outpost of blessing to our neighborhood. We are here to be a blessing to them: not just the ones who come to church. We're called to follow the example of Jesus who went out there to bless the world.

We've been blessed to be a blessing to the people out there.

Over the next few weeks, we're going to look at how we can do this. For today, I want to challenge you to start to see your life and this church differently. Your life is the means by which God intends to bless those that God has already put into your life, who may never step into the doors of the church. We come here to band together, not so we can retreat from the world, but so we can prepare ourselves to go into the world to bless them.

This can take all kinds of shapes. It can be the church where its people purposely move into the neighborhood because you have to live there to bless there. It can be the church that comes into some extra money and gives it away to the school down the road because they need it more. It can be the church that takes down the "no trespassing" signs and replaces them with "please trespass" signs, which chooses to build skateboard ramps rather than getting upset that the skateboarders are wrecking the concrete.

It can work at the personal level as well. I want to wrap up by looking at three ways that Abram and his descendants blessed the world, since that's probably going to provide a bit of a pattern for us to follow. I thought of three ways, and the good news is that all three are within the reach of everyone here.

Blessing by association - One way that people were blessed by Abram and his descendants is that when God blessed them, some of that blessing just naturally spilled over to anyone who was close to them. Lots of people were blessed just by happening to be close enough to those that God was blessing. One example is Joseph, a man who's story is still celebrated today in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. God kept blessing him, and those who were around him - when he was a slave, in prison, and eventually as prime minister of Egypt - were blessed by the spill over.

This is one way that we can be a blessing to others today - just by living in such a way that we experience God's blessing, and to let that blessing spill over to others. If you can figure out how God has blessed you, you can figure out how you can share that blessing with others. Part of our growth is to experience the wholeness, the peace, the well-being that flows to all of life as we grow more into Christ. As this happens, those who work with us, live with us, are friends with us, will experience some of the benefit.

What has God blessed you with? Whatever that is, make sure you're not hoarding it all to yourself. Share whatever it is with others. Give money away. Open your home. Share your time. Whatever God has given you, give it away.

Blessing by example - One of the best ways we've been blessed by Abram and his descendants is that we can look at them and say, "This is what it looks like to live in relationship with God." They lived and showed us what it looked like when you are in relationship with God. They became a model for other nations. The law was given through them. The prophets came from among their number. Scripture was written from them. Their history became a public record of God in action.

Do you have to be perfect to be an example? Here's what I love: the record of God in relationship with these people was anything but neat and tidy. Some of the history could make the Springer show. It's not the history of people who have it all together. The people are not the heroes of the story. God is the hero of the story. When we are blessed by God, people see God blessing and using and forgiving messed up people. Your life can be a public record of God loving and blessing somebody who is far from perfect. You can go on record as what God can do with those who are equally less than perfect.

The world isn't looking for perfection. It is looking for authenticity. We can be honest about our shortcomings, and demonstrate that normal, messed up people can be loved by God. We can model what it means to live forgiven and to live free.

Blessing because of who we know - The main way that Abram blessed the world was that Jesus was born as one of his descendants. Abram blessed the world because it was through Abram that God gave us Jesus. The only thing that we ultimately have to offer the world is Jesus.

Abram blessed the world because God's Son came through him. We can bless the world because God's Son can come through us to our world. This is one of the reasons why Jesus said, "I am with you always." If we believe this, then when people meet us, they meet someone who lives in the presence of Jesus. They meet someone who is part of him - his body - today.

We're going to expand on this in further weeks. Today, I want to start by reminding us why we are here. We are not here to be blessed. No, we're blessed - to be a blessing to the world. Your mission: to bless your world.

Retreat is not an option. We won't move to safer ground. We are here to join God in loving the world enough to stay in it.

Over the next few weeks, we're going to be building a missional confession. I wonder if you would join me in confessing the first part of this confession, that God has blessed us so that we could be a blessing.

We believe that we are the church, that is, we are a community of God's people called and set apart for witness to the good news of Jesus Christ. We are blessed to be a blessing.

Father, thank you for loving the world enough to want to bless it. Thank you for not just blessing a part of it. It is your desire to bless all peoples of the earth through your people. We are here to bless this community on your behalf.

We don't have all the answers on how to do this, but for today it is enough to say that we want the world to be blessed through us. It is enough to say that we won't retreat to safer ground. It's enough to say that we want to join Jesus in going out in the world not to condemn it, but to love it and to help put it right again. Help us, father, to continue to be blessed. And help us learn how to join you in blessing the world. In Christ's name, Amen.