1. If you can identify with being an oppositional Christian, or even a chameleon Christian, are there any cultural issues that you allow to cloud your vision of others as people loved deeply by our Creator? Political differences? Opposing sports teams? The way you parent or treat your spouse? How much money someone makes (or doesn’t make?)
2. When considering believers who have impacted your life in a meaningful way by loving you as Jesus does, are you able to think of examples in which they’ve set aside any possible differences in thought or belief to prioritize your feeling loved and valued? How did that impact you?
3. Think of one person in your life with whom you have an obvious difference of opinion or thought or value. How can you walk into an opportunity this week to love them in a practical, meaningful way? If you are unsure, have you asked God to show you?
Good morning Hope City! Well, these last few weeks have been nothing short of incredible here, huh? We’ve been in a series called Backyard Gospel where we are taking a look at what it means to share your faith in a way that isn’t weird, and that makes a difference in the lives of those people around you. First we started off this series with Pastor Rich Birch, one of our Overseers here at Hope City…. And Rich did a fantastic job with showing us how Jesus met people where they were over a cold drink from the cooler.
Last week, Pastor Justin, our Youth Pastor talked about how the process of coming to Faith is organic and supernatural. We learned that our job was simply to scatter seeds, to INVEST in your relationships and than INVITE them to join you here at church.
Today we arrive at the conclusion of this series, with a message that I’ve titled the Cross and the Cooler.
We are at a time of the year where everyone is the most offendable… Admittedly, this is a crazy time of the year. Do you know what I mean? Everyone has something that they want to get up in arms about. It started out with the Pumpkin Spice Latte… IT CAME OUT TOO EARLY. The barista’s like would you like a Pumpkin Spice Latte? I’m like, NO! It’s the 4th of July thank you very much.
Do you know who is THE MOST CONFUSED RIGHT NOW? LOWES! At Lowes you could buy a pumpkin, a Turkey Fryer, and a Christmas tree all in the same trip.
Everyone has their own opinion of when it is acceptable to hang Christmas lights…. When is it okay to put up the Christmas Tree… When can you start listening to Christmas music… Show of hands, will you listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving? Is that acceptable?
How many of you have already been listening to Christmas music? Exactly… See, our world is filled with SICK people.
This is the easiest time of the year to judge one another. We can drive by our neighbors homes or click through your Facebook feed to see that you’re a freak about whatever Holiday, and then also take notice of the fact that it is well before or well after what I deem to be appropriate. All of a sudden now you are in the judge’s seat. It’s easy to judge culture and say that’s not the way that it ought to be.
For whatever reason… maybe as a kid you grew up getting in the station wagon and driving out to a Christmas tree farm and cutting down a real tree the week before Christmas, and that has cemented in your mind that NO CHRISTMAS TREE SHALL BE PUT UP BEFORE THAT TIME. And DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED on the REAL vs. FAKE tree issue. Right? Everyone has an opinion on what is culturally acceptable.
Culture is the air we breathe. It’s the water we swim in. It is all around us, and at the same time consistently changing. Culture is what Human beings make of the world, and the meaning we make with the days we have here in this world.
If you’re new to Church, or you’re just checking things out, a lot of what we’re going to be talking about today may feel like you’re sitting in on someone else’s family discussion in their living room. I know that every weekend, there are people here at Hope City who don’t necessarily believe what we believe, and that may describe you. I hope that what you’ll hear this morning will encourage you. Although the church hasn’t always gotten everything right, we are trying. We are trying to follow Jesus and love others well.
As men and women who follow Christ, we believe that God’s word, The Bible is the ultimate authority, and it informs us on how we should live. It informs our view on culture, we would call this a Biblical Worldview, viewing the world through the lens of scripture. At the core of Christianity is a savior named Jesus who lived a sinless life, died on a cross so that we could be forgiven and ultimately have a relationship with God our creator. Jesus showed us how to live in a way that honors God and blesses others. And one of the last things that Jesus said to His disciples was this famous passage that we have since called the Great Commission. This was the charge that Jesus gave to His followers. Look at what He says in the Great Commission:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:18-20
In this great commission passage, we, Christ followers, get really amped up about a few things… We want to see disciples baptized, and we want to see them obey all of the things that Jesus commanded. It’s easy to hang our hat on that, isn’t it? Without really exploring and learning what Jesus is saying, we can assume that this is all behavior based… Are they acting like a good Christian would act? Yes or No?
It is far too easy as a Christian to sit back and look at the culture around you in judgement. We feel when culture presses up against Christ and His teaching. We get the sense that there are things in our culture that are not the way that you would hope they would be, and certainly not the way that God would want them to be. Right?
We know that racism and hatred hurts the heart of God, and it hurts our society. The sin of racism has no place in our culture and yet, we keep seeing it rear its ugly head. We just saw this happen yesterday at the synagogue in Pittsburgh. An angry man filled with hate came in and shot 11 people… It was horrible!
The objectification and assault of women by powerful men grieves the heart of God, and it should grieve our hearts. And yet, it continues to make headlines, leaders, politicians, and yes, even pastors who are guilty of this.
These are things that Christian or not, we can agree that they are not acceptable. What happens though, when the culture we live in pushes against Christ that lives in you? What do you do when your faith causes you not to accept what culture readily accepts? How will you respond?
One of the first ways people respond is with opposition. This is the Oppositional Christian, they take a separatist approach. You stand your ground and condemn the culture around you. The first thing you want to point out in this situation is how wrong this is, and then make sure that everyone around you knows how wrong you think they are for what they are participating in. These are the men and women who stand with signs of protest. And you separate yourself from anything that goes against your convictions. They look down their nose at what may be in the cooler… “What’s in the cooler, huh?”
When Tiffany and I were planning our wedding, we had picked out the venue, the reception hall, and even tried some delicious food that was going to be served. Early one Saturday morning about two months before I was going to get married the phone rang, I picked it up and it was my Grandmother. She had one question for me, “Peter is there going to be alcohol at your wedding?” I said, “Yes Gram there is.” And all I heard was her phone click on the other end. She hung up on me. Now, my grandmother deeply loved me. She also deeply loved Jesus. But she stood in opposition to the cooler. Christ and the Cooler didn’t mix, and she was letting me know.
Another approach is drastically different from the first and this is the Chameleon Christian. This approach to faith is best described as one that just blends in. It’s slightly better than the other guy. It’s the good guy approach. It says, faith just needs to be relevant to society, we need to do good for others, because that’s what Christians do. This is the opposite, the cooler is stocked and loaded simply to fit in and be like everyone else. But what is missing is the compelling story of the Gospel which is where all of these good works come from. The Chameleon Christian seemingly attempts to prove their worth through acts of service and good deeds.
And yet, there is another way. The Engaged Christian. A far messier way, and one that the church would do well to wade into not avoiding the mess. Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. That’s page 783 in the Bibles around you. The Apostle Paul is writing a letter to the Church in Corinth that is explaining the way that they should behave and the way that they should operate in the midst of a society and culture that looks fairly similar to ours today.
Look at what Paul says…
19 Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.
Do you see what Paul’s saying? I don’t owe anyone anything…. But I give everything I have for everyone I meet so that way I can impact as many as I can. Paul is voluntarily serving everyone he meets. To follow in the steps of Paul as He shares his faith, take note that “We are For Everyone, Always”.
Have you ever had that moment in the office where “that guy” is walking to the break room at the same time as you? You know the guy… the one that is annoying, and frustrating, and a loud talker. The one who has little social skills and is always laughing at his own jokes? Well, your natural instinct may be to turn and run… to take your 15 after he’s finished with his… But Paul says, even though I have a choice, I’m free… I can chose who and when I care for people, I willingly give up that right… I put myself square in the path of “That guy”. Why? Because my faith in Christ says that we are For Everyone, Always. There is no one who gets special treatment, nor are there people who should get worse treatment.
Back in the day, in the mid to late 1800’s, when the wood from this cross was first installed, a church like this would have been one of the central places in town. It was placed in a prominent location and it was built with lofted ceilings, and high rooflines. It had a steeple with a cross on the top that could be seen around town. If you saw a steeple, you knew there was a church. It was designed to be the tallest structure in town which represented the sacred belief that the church should be the closest point between heaven and earth, between God and humanity. This thought process translated well into the 20th century. In the 70’s, 80’s, and even the 90’s if you wanted to find God, you would GO to the church. The mentality of the day was that you went towards the steeple. It stood for spiritual enlightenment and influence. And yet today, we see churches with steeples that are becoming museums to a day gone by. But, God says that the church is the messengers of hope for the future… the church is to carry His message, share the gospel, the good news of Jesus to the world around us. What if today, the cross and the steeple, or the church it represented, had a farther reach into our community rather than over our community? After all, the church is made up of the people, not defined by the steeple.
This is Paul’s strategy in the following verses, look back at verse 20…
20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
Paul’s objective is to reach people… To be for everyone, always.
Do you know who Paul excludes in this list? No one. He says when I was with the Jews, I was like a Jew… When I was with those under the law, I abided by the law. When I was with those without the law, I did the same thing. And perhaps the most revolutionary of all the people groups Paul identifies here, is the last. He says, to the weak, I showed my strength. NO! To the weak, I became weak. To this Corinthian church, they would have pictured themselves as being strong and identifying with weakness was not something that they would be all that excited about, and yet Paul says, to the weak, I became weak. To those who were overlooked, burnt out, high on drugs, addicted to substances, homeless, and otherwise cast aside, I became like them so I could share the gospel with them!
Paul is giving us an example and is saying, if you want to reach people for the Gospel, We will go where people are.
We will get out of our seats and into the streets. The church can not wait for people to come to them anymore. Paul knew this… he went to where people were. He understood that there He was willing to do anything except sin to reach those people who were far from God. The people who were hurting, helpless, and hopeless. You earn influence when you walk into someone else’s world rather than require them to walk into yours. We will go where people are!
3 years ago, when Tiffany and I moved into the neighborhood, we didn’t know anyone… we knew that we wanted to be able to share about our faith and meet people where they were. We moved to Florida in August… seriously, the HOTTEST month of the year… We were like, were are all the kids at? We kept sending our kids outside to play in the afternoon… go outside and ride bikes…. It was like 195º… 😉 well, we didn’t realize yet that it wasn’t like up north where you went outside in the summer and stayed inside in the winter. So, October comes along and all of a sudden everyone starts showing up outside again. We were looking for ways to meet our neighbors and invest in those relationships in a way that wasn’t weird or awkward. And we thought, what better night to do that than on Halloween? It is the one night a year where everyone in your neighborhood stops by your house, even if it’s only for candy… So the first year instead of sitting inside and running to the door every time someone came around, we decided to sit at the end of our driveway and hand out candy. The next year we decided to up the ante… it was so hot the first year, we made sno-cones and gave them out along with the candy. Last year, we had sno-cones out again, and candy of course, and again we were down at the edge of our driveway… why? Because that’s where the parents stand. Parents don’t go up to the door. And if we are going to meet people, we needed to be where the people were.
Well, last year, it’s about midway through the evening, and I hear this golf cart go racing by… and a guy from the driver seat yells out, “The Pastor’s Got Sno-Cones Again! Let’s GO!” I love the fact that my neighbors know that’s the pastors house, and that we aren’t shuttered inside our house in opposition with the lights off.
This week, my entire neighborhood is going to be out and about… And I’ll be at the end of my driveway slinging sno-cones, and high fiving kids… saying hi to parents and being a neighbor. Caring for my community because Christ cares about my community.
We need to stop waiting for people to come to us. We will go where people are. As a kid, we didn’t celebrate Halloween, we went to a harvest party. Ironically, they handed out candy, and bobbed for apples, and dressed up. But we didn’t celebrate Halloween… What we did do, was we removed ourselves from culture and created a holy huddle that lost an opportunity to influence, and invest in the relationships around us. Go where people are and pray for opportunities to invest in and influence people for the Gospel of Jesus.
Now, I already can hear husbands saying to wives… Listen babe, Peter said it…. I’ve got to go hang out with the guys… I’ve got to go where the people are. Hold on… we’re not through. This isn’t a license to go buck wild and do whatever you want. No, look at what Paul says, in chapter 10:31
31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
Whatever it is that you are doing, it should be done for God’s glory. Not your pleasure. It doesn’t glorify God to get drunk with the boys. You don’t build God honoring relationships in the gossip ring at work. We work to glorify God in everything that we do. Paul goes on to warn us by saying,
32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. 11 1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1
Paul is intentional about what he is doing… He knows that His behavior, the choices he makes… What he eats, what he drinks, what he puts in his body, the words he says, all of these things matter. They matter to the world around him, they matter to him, and they matter to God!
Paul gives us one final hint as it relates to sharing your faith in a way that matters and makes a difference in the lives of others. We choose others over ourselves. He says, follow my example as I have followed Christ… Put others first the way that Christ put us first. In Matt. 22:37, Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was in all the scriptures, He says this…
37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” 
Love God, and Love others. These are the two most important things in Jesus’ mind. Do you know how you love your neighbor? It may just start by serving them a sno cone. We have been set on mission by God to make disciples yes… but we can’t very well disciple our neighbors if they can’t stand us. This is why We Choose others over Ourselves. This isn’t just a good idea, this is GOD’S IDEA! The gospel was never intended to segregate us, but to integrate us. Imagine what would happen if you did something for someone else that you didn’t have to do. It changes the relationship. When you do your job you get paid. When you go above and beyond at work you get noticed. The same thing is true in relationships. Waving high and being cordial is normal. Going out of your way to care gets noticed. In fact, choosing others over ourselves is a way of taking your faith public.
Another way of taking your faith public is by being baptized. Baptism is an opportunity for you to follow in the example of Jesus and publicly profess your faith in Jesus. It is a way of sharing your faith with the world around you. And next week we are going to be baptizing people here at Hope City. If you’ve never been baptized, or you were baptized as an infant and want to make that decision for yourself, it would be our honor and privilege to baptize you here at Hope City Church. This is a great first step in sharing your faith with others.
As a Christian, we must balance the messiness of the two things Jesus says, Go and make disciples, and teach them to obey all that I’ve commanded you… along with the idea that Jesus says Love your neighbor as yourself. What would it look like for you to love your neighbors in a way that engages our culture rather than shrinks back in opposition, or blends in unnoticed?
Loving people always comes before influencing people. The gospel of Jesus meets at the intersection of the cross and the cooler. We stand in the tension between the culture we live in and the Christ who lives in us.
Let me ask you, what is it worth for your friends, your neighbors, your coworkers to know and experience the hope that you have in Christ. The Peace that only the Holy Spirit can bring to your life. What is it worth for those relationships in your world to know Jesus and experience His grace, and love in their life? I say it’s worth everything!
Let me tell you this… The very first church your neighbor ever visits is your driveway, it’s around the cooler, or in your pool. What would it look like this week for you to hold church at the end of your driveway? Your neighbors are coming… The question is will you be ready for them. Don’t miss out on what God can do through you.