Today on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Welcome back to Summit Life with pastor, author, and theologian, J.D. Greer.
As always, I'm your host, Molly Vojtovich. You know, athletes train like they do for medals and trophies and to see their names in the rafters. These things are the prize for their hard work, right? But over time, most of them will be forgotten. The question for us today is, how much more should we be willing to train ourselves for the race given to us by God to help win the souls of lost people?
I mean, after all, this is a prize that has an eternal reward, right? Today, Pastor J.D. explains how to order your life when the crown that you're striving for is the soul of your neighbor, coworker, or family member. If you missed the beginning of this teaching today, be sure to catch up at JDCreer.com. But for now, let's rejoin Pastor J.D.
where we left off yesterday. We want to be a church that not caters to our needs and preferences, but one that is stripped down, so to speak, for maximum effectiveness and reach in our community, which leads me to number two. We got to care not just about depth, we got to care about width also.
A lot of Christians, the reason I say this when they talk about their church, seem to think that the only measure that God cares about is whether they are doctrinally faithful, so they'll say things like, well, we don't worry about the width of our ministry, we just worry about the depth. And listen, I get it. I get it.
I do. We cannot control how many people receive and believe the gospel. We got to preach the truth as we understand it. And we got to leave the results to God.
But y'all, I at least want you to see that Paul was not satisfied with merely being in the right. He's like, listen, I'll do whatever it takes. I'll become whatever I need to become. I might by all means save more. That's my standard.
That's what I'm going for. Charles Spurgeon, one of the church's most important theologians in its history. Spurgeon said it this way, if my hearers are not converted, I feel like I've wasted my time preaching.
I've lost the energy that I put into the brain and heart exercise. I feel as if I have lost my hope and lost my life unless I'm able to find for my Lord some of his blood bought ones. I would sooner bring one sinner to Jesus Christ and unpack all the mysteries of the divine word for conversion is the thing that we are to live for. That's how I feel. I feel like if people, yes, I'm satisfied to leave the results to God.
But in one sense, if I'm not being able to reach people, I'm like, what am I doing? Yeah, we want to get doctrine right. We want to grow deep, but we're not content to simply preach the truth accurately. We want, by all means, to save some. Now, quick time out, some of you are like, well, look, I'm just not comfortable with all this talk about saving people. It just feels so smug and imperialistic, like we're better than everybody and we got to run out with some Messiah complex to save them as if we're better than them.
Let's just be really clear, OK? We are not capable of saving anybody and we're not out preaching ourselves. You're not going to find any hope in us.
If that's you coming in, well, you're not going to find any hope here. But you see, the gospel message is that God sent a savior. And all people, including you and me, we're lost without him. But he offers forgiveness, healing and restoration and new life to all who will come to him. And friend, I could no more deny that than I could deny Jesus himself. And if in your heart, if you're a believer and you don't yearn to see other people come to Jesus, or if you feel like it's wrong to try and persuade somebody else to come to Jesus. And by the way, of course, I mean, you do that respectfully. But if you're like, yeah, I don't even want to try to persuade because that's just wrong, I question whether or not you actually believe the gospel.
I mean, how could you? The gospel is that there's only one hope for all people everywhere, only one way to escape God's judgment and be reconciled to God. And that is Jesus, the way, the truth and the life.
How could you believe that and not be doing everything you could to try and get that to other people? Which leads me to the third thing for our church. We got to seek to reach all people in the triangle, not just one kind. Isn't it clear from what Paul says here in first Corinthians nine, that he was focused on reaching different kinds of people, not just one. He had Jews and people under the law. You had Gentiles and those outside the law. And Paul was trying to reach all of them.
And that was hard. Do you know how much easier it would have been for Paul to just focus on one kind of person, to go to one side of the city, the Jewish quarter, plant a church focused only on reaching Jews, and then go to the other side of the city in the next couple of weeks and plant one there that reached Gentiles, to get First Baptist Jew on this side and First Baptist Gentile over there, and they'll cooperate in a joint community service project, you all thought would have been way easier and would have led to so much less conflict. I mean, they all would already have thought the same about meat questions and political questions. Paul didn't do that, though. Instead, he challenged the church to put some of their cultural preferences aside to reach somebody else because he knew what Jesus wanted. What would glorify Jesus was a united community, not a bunch of segregated ones. So the Jews, he says, I became like a Jew, which means I did Jewish stuff. I had Jewish food. I listened to Jewish music. I entered into Jewish struggles. I wore Jewish clothes. I asked Jewish political questions. I listened to what they said.
I got Timothy circumcised. Then to the weak, I became weak. Paul says, even though I knew theologically, I was free to eat the bacon, I refused to do anything that put a stumbling block between me and somebody else. I made all of these cultural adaptations to reach people.
And that was hard. Some of the church listen to me. I'm not going to make this rosy at all. The gap between us, many of our neighbors, is often a cultural one. We know, we know, y'all, that Jesus did not only die for Republicans. We know that he didn't only die for political conservatives or white people or middle class families with kids.
He died for all peoples at all stages of life, from all economic strata. And in order to reach all of them, we all have to be willing to turn down certain things and lean hard into some. And I'm going to go ahead and tell you right now, that's hard. It is so easy right now to nod your head, that's right, but it is hard when the rubber meets the road.
Let me show you what I mean. Now, fair warning, this story is going to be hard for many of you. Candidly, it was pretty hard for me the first time I heard it. One of our members of color who attended a black church for most of his life told me, he said, you know, growing up, he said, in times like the ones we went through in the summer of 2020, he said, you know, the church was the one place that I could go for refuge, confident that everybody there felt the same pain, shared in the same anxieties and just understood. And the church was the one place he said, I could just let my guard down and be the trauma of slavery in the past and Jim Crow laws created, he said, a solidarity in the black community that served as a refuge in times of trial. So he said, when something tragic happened in the black community, he could expect that it would be discussed at church that week because that shared pain and fear was on everybody's mind automatically when they came in. He said, in choosing to come to a multiethnic church, our church, especially one where the majority of the membership is still white. He said that he had given up that comfort because not every person in the church understands his worries. He says, I get that not everybody has the same perspective coming in.
And I gave that up. He said some, in fact, seem primarily concerned to show that my worry or my pain is not even legitimate. He has chosen to be a part of our community here because he believes in the vision of this church, but it's hard.
Here's the truth, y'all. He should not have to be the only one who has to adapt. For those of us in the white community, we also have to enter as much as we can into the culture of others to take on their burdens, to listen to them. It doesn't mean that we say that their perspective is infallible and ours is wholly flawed.
It does not mean that at all. But it means that we lay aside cultural preferences and perspectives and try to enter in with each other and remove as many barriers as possible to lay aside whatever we can for the gospel. We do it all for the sake of the gospel.
And we might save some. It also means that all of us will become a little more muted on some of our perspectives to keep us from causing unnecessary division in the body. That means we're silent about them.
Just means we're judicious with how we talk about them. In 1 Corinthians 8 and 9, Paul was willing to be quiet or muted on secondary convictions that he was fully convinced he was right about because he thought the unity of the church and its evangelistic mission were more important than maintaining the uniformity of perspective in all things. Paul never even said, I give up eating bacon altogether.
He's like, I just know that there are times to do it and times not to do it. We have people leave this church all the time. They leave this church all the time because we don't say exactly what they want on some political or social issue. We say too much about some issue.
Oh, we didn't say enough about that one. Listen, hear me. I am not saying all perspectives are equally valid. I am certainly not saying that we are ever muted or unclear about injustice or wrong, the sanctity of life, the evils of racism, equality under the law.
I'm not saying any of that. I'm saying that there are times. There are times that my particular perspective on the best way to set up society or my opinion about the best people to lead us there or my interpretations of some event, there are times y'all I'll dial that back because it's more important that people hear and experience the gospel than it is that everybody see every situation the way that I see it. It's not that these other things are not important.
They are. It's that the gospel of Jesus Christ is that much more important. And I don't want people to get confused into associating a particular cultural or political slant on secondary matters with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I got to write. I'll just go ahead and say it like Paul. I got to write to say what I believe about those things.
But I've voluntarily turned down that right a little, that I might by all means be more effective at saving some. We see a great example of this philosophy at work in the early church. It's such an important example. It's so overlooked. People read over this and they don't realize what's happening.
It's amazing. Acts 15, Jewish and Gentile believers, y'all are so divided over a particular cultural issues that they can't even worship together anymore. So the church leaders, Acts 15, come together and they got to like, we got to try to work something out. Their solution, however, first, I've told you this. It seems really confusing.
Acts 15, 29. You can read later. They're basically, look, Gentiles, look, A, avoid sexual immorality.
B, avoid eating things that died by strangulation. Now, let's just be honest. The reason for the prohibition on sexual immorality seems clear and fair. Stop going to prostitutes.
Hire escorts, come with you to church. Cut that out. Makes sense. But the prohibition on eating something strangled, that's the one you want to say, this is really important. No, they're not saying that was the most important.
James explains the reasoning for the regulation. He says, look, from ancient generations, Moses has been preached in every city and what he means by that is in every city, there's a lot of Jews and Jews, these Jews need to be reached for Jesus. And when Gentiles are out in the parking lot barbecuing things that they had just strangled. That's going to produce a major stumbling block for the Jews to even get in the church. The apostles knew that if these unsaved Jews came into the church and Gentiles are in the back choking the gophers and throwing them on the grill, the Jews are not going to be able to stomach it.
No pun intended. And then they wouldn't get a chance to hear the gospel and be saved. And the apostles are like, yep, you Gentiles have a right to eat choked gophers if you want.
Gross as it is, that's your freedom. But we're asking you to forego that right so that more unsaved Jews in the community can hear the gospel. And then James, the leader of the Jerusalem Church, wraps up their decision by uttering one of the most important but overlooked phrases in the whole New Testament for what a church's mission philosophy should be. Acts 15, 19, he said, we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles or Jews who are turning to God. Summit family, I've told you that I wish I could plaster James' phrase on every single one of our hearts.
I wish I could make it the headline over every single one of your Facebook pages. Do all you can not to make it hard for Gentiles who are turning to God. Don't make it hard for our black friends to find God. Don't make it hard for Democrats. Don't make it hard for Republicans. Don't make it hard for Asian seekers or white seekers or brown seekers or anybody.
Don't make it hard for public school teachers or policemen. We have a gospel too precious and a mission too urgent to let anything stand in its way. You're listening to Summit Life with J.D. Greer. We'll get back to today's teaching in just a second. But before we continue, I want to tell you about an amazing free resource that's available to you right now. Pastor J.D. Greer has a daily email devotional that's perfect for jump-starting your day in God's Word. They're meant to help you stay grounded in your faith throughout the day. Each devotional follows along with our current teaching here on the program so you can stay plugged in regardless of your schedule.
It's the perfect way to establish a daily routine of spending time with God. Sign up for this free resource right now at J.D. Greer dot com slash resources. And while you're there, be sure to check out our transcripts and our entire teaching library.
It's all made available free of charge because of our faithful supporters. Now let's return to our teaching. Once again, here's Pastor J.D. Some of you are passionate about politics and you're passionate about which solutions will work best for society. And I want to be clear, that is a good thing. We got to speak out about injustice and oppression and suffering around us. But the point is in the church, let's not let a secondary culturally shaped perspective on the best strategies or candidates, let's not let any of those become synonymous with the authority of the gospel, because that's when the gospel suffers and people stay lost. We do all this for the sake of the gospel, but by all means, we might save more of them. So that's what it means for our church. Quick minute, let me show you what it means for you personally, because they kind of grew out of this. If you think of reaching people like a race, that you're trying to win, stop thinking about evangelism as a duty you need to fulfill. Think of it as a race you're trying to win. How would that impact how you live your life? Let me just ask you a series of questions, okay?
Think through them. Have you thought about how your career might contribute to the Great Commission? I say that because some of you have been given jobs that can take you into places that are hard to reach with the gospel, places I'll never get to. Question is, are you taking Jesus there with you?
You've probably heard this before, but you're the only Bible a lot of those people will ever read. They'll never hear me preach it, but they'll see you live it. Are you taking Jesus into those places that your career can take you? Some of you have jobs that you can transfer to a less reached place. We often say around here that following Jesus means doing what you do well for the glory of God, but also doing it somewhere strategic for the mission of God. Every single year at the Summit Church, we send out people who uproot their lives from Raleigh-Durham to go with one of our church planting teams to live out their career in a place where they can be part of a new church plant.
Thinking of people like Brian, who got his degree in patent law from Duke, and instead of opening a practice here, opened one in the United Arab Emirates to be a part of one of our teams there, or the Parkers who run a CrossFit gym in North Africa, or Craig, who's head of an engineering firm in South Asia, or Rachel, a counselor who works with abuse victims in a red light district in India. We've also had about 700 of our members go to domestic cities like Denver and Charleston and Greenville and Miami. And together, these people have planted 482 churches.
We'll go and tell you, those people that go don't do it because it's convenient or because they have wanderlust. They do it all for the sake of the gospel that they might by all means reach more of them. Are you spending your money in ways that befits the urgency of the gospel? Listen, I know that God doesn't need our money and that we don't bear the weight of funding the Great Commission.
I get that. But are we giving like we really believe that heaven and hell are real? And the mission is urgent. If Jesus came back tonight and it was all over y'all, would you feel good about how you'd invested your money into his kingdom? And related to that, what lifestyle changes would you make to free up some bandwidth for giving? What lifestyle, you say, hey, you know what, if it really is a race, this is something that I think that I should give to God because I think it would help me reach people. Help the ministries I'm a part of, the church I'm a part of, reach people.
How about this one? Have you prayed about fostering or adopting? It's one of the greatest ministries that you can ask. Have you prayed about it?
If you're a family, you maybe don't have kids yet or you got a few and you're thinking about more, have you prayed about fostering or adopting? It's an incredible ministry. Here's a big one. Can you critique your own culture?
This is where most of us will break down. I mean, that's what Paul does, right? When Paul's like, look, I became a Jew to the Jews. He's showing that he was removed enough from his own culture that he could critique it when necessary.
His commitment to Christ outweighed his commitment to Judaism. Leslie Newbigin, the Christian philosopher, says that the true test of Christian maturity is the ability to allow the gospel to challenge my culture. Y'all listen, I love America.
My kids have endured countless lectures on the uniqueness of America. I love my culture, but I love the gospel more and where my culture falls short of the gospel, I want to be the first one to point that out. Is there an opinion related to that that you need to dial back on so as not to be a distraction to the gospel?
Some of you just got to pull up your Facebook page and know that you don't live off 1 Corinthians 9. What preferences do you need to forgo to create environments better able to reach people here? Are you really willing to be a part of a church where you feel uncomfortable sometimes for the sake of reaching others? Have you gotten comfortable with being uncomfortable? Will you set aside one night a month to invite over a non church person from your neighborhood, your job or a sports team? That's a great, practical place to begin. For some of you, that would be uncomfortable.
Listen, I get it. It's easier to come home, chill every night, eat dinner, hang out with people you're already familiar with. That's comfortable for all of us. Are you willing to try something uncomfortable in an attempt to reach somebody? How can you begin to include somebody not like you in your social rhythms?
Reaching out and including in your social circles, those that are not from your background. That's what Paul had done. Jews, Gentes, it's like Pastor Brian always says, diverse churches start with diverse dinner tables.
Last one, whom could you invite to start reading the word with you or to come to church with you? Someone, do you not know that in a race, all the runners run and they're all doing their duty? Most of them finish. Only one wins the prize. Why don't you run like you're trying to be that person?
Athletes who compete exercise extreme self-control in everything. They just do it to receive a perishable crown. But we, an imperishable crown, you all think, think with me for a minute, really just come with me for a minute. I want you to think about being in eternity. Let's just say you've been there 10,000 years. You're just getting started at eternity. During that 10,000 years, you've gotten to know some other saint that is there.
You never knew him on earth. After 10,000 years, imagine how much you'll love that saint. And then you find out that they're there because of a sacrifice you made that enabled them to hear the gospel. So now you're talking about somebody who is nameless and faceless right now, but they're in heaven. You love them dearly. You never knew them on earth, but they are there because of some sacrifice. You made some accommodation for the gospel. Don't you think you'll say that is a billion times worth it, whatever you laid aside for the gospel. When you love that person and you're like, you're here because I gave, put yourself there and begin to live now. Athletes who compete exercise self-control and everything.
But it's just for a perishable crown, an imperishable crown. Mary Clark is a name you've never heard. She grew up in one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the world, Beverly Hills, California. She started to get really burdened over the brokenness and hopelessness that were felt by many in local prisons there, such an extreme contrast, she thought. So she began to get involved in ministering to prisoners there in Beverly Hills, California. And she found that a huge obstacle was every afternoon when she left every day to drive back to her comfortable home in Beverly Hills and all the prisoners stayed.
So she did something totally unorthodox. She asked the warden for a cell. They gave her one, and that's where she chose to spend decades of her life, a little 10 by 10 cell. The inmates were so baffled by and drawn to her that they began to call her the prison angel. If you want to look up her story, just type that in, prison angel. She was so revered that they say she once walked into a prison riot where there were bullets and tear gas permeating the air. But when all the prisoners saw Mary, the riot stopped. Because she'd become one of them.
She could reach them. What I'm saying is that history has been changed by people willing to do whatever it takes for the sake of the gospel, that by all means they might save more of them. Are we as a church willing to do that for the sake of the lost in our generation? Are you willing to do that for the sake of the lost in your life? Is your yes on the table?
And if it's not, then what are you afraid of? An important question to ponder here on Summit Life. We've been in this study called Cutting Through the Noise for several weeks now, and I got a chance to sit down with Pastor J.D.
recently to get a bird's eye view of what it's all about. Life feels overwhelming, feels like noise, feels confusing, chaotic, loud. And everywhere you turn, there's a voice calling to you saying, hey, this is what I need from you.
This is what you need to do. This is what will really make your life complete. I think a lot of us in a world like we live in with constant digital distraction are saying, is there a way out of all this? Is there a way to cut through the noise and the distraction? What Paul shows them is that the gospel cuts through the noise that will give them a compass that will guide them to the peace and confidence in life that they they yearn for.
And so to help you clear the noise without adding a lot to your plate. What we've done is we've created this little 14 part Bible study. Molly, I don't know about you, but I love things that are five minutes.
And I could just say, OK, I got it and then move forward. We'd love for you to reserve your copy right now. Just go to J.D. Greer dot com.
If you're eager to dive deeper into the Book of First Corinthians, we'd love to send you this resource right away. It comes as our thanks for your generous support of this ministry today. Call us at 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220 or visit J.D. Greer dot com today. I'm Molly Vidovitch reminding you to tune in Friday for a new message titled Pursuing Dust.
Yep, you heard that right. See you here on Summit Life with Pastor J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
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