Podcast Transcript

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Part 2: Witness | January 14, 2018

JONATHAN

Thanks so much for joining us today. My name is Jonathan Deatherage. I'm the Director of Communications here at Bent Tree. I wanted to take some time with Pete here after he preached his sermon from Acts chapter 1 verses 6 through 11, where he really explores what it means to be are witnesses for Jesus. I'd love to invite you into the conversation that we had in his office to hear more about what it might mean for you as you are his witness - a witness for Jesus - this week.

Good morning, Pete!

PETE

Good morning, Jonathan.

JONATHAN

Okay, so you talked about how witnesses share the experience of Jesus with people, and that that was Jesus' statement of fact, not necessarily an imperative. What does that look like in our daily life, to share our experience of Jesus?

PETE

This is why this is easier than we think it is: It's really just telling a story. My experience of Christ is different than yours and anyone else's, although it's all fundamentally the same. The things that are fundamentally the same are that we were lost and spiritually dead, we were introduced to Christ, we received him, and he transformed our life and made us new. That's the same in all our stories of us that are believers. But how we got there, what it looks like, the healing that takes place and the restoration that takes place in each of our lives, are all completely different because we're all unique humans. The brokenness and the hurt that we bring into our relationship with Christ is different. Each of us has a story to tell that no one else can tell. For, really, all "share your experience of Jesus" means (and the way I was taught to tell the story) is: What was my life like before I met Christ? How did I meet him? And what has he done as far as transformation since then?

Now, for some people who found Christ after living a crazy life in college, that makes a pretty cool story. I met Christ when I was four years old, so mine's not nearly that exciting. But I can still tell the same story because I can remember that, before I became a believer, I had a deep desire to know God. I just didn't know how to do it. My mom explained it to me, and now I can tell about how I've come to know him since then. So we all have the same story. Some of our stories are a little more exciting than others, but it doesn't matter.

I think if we ask someone else their story first, they are much more prone to say, "So tell me your story." They'll invite us to share our story. I think if we try to go forward with our story first, a lot of times it feels selfish and self-imposed. I think we're going to get to this a little later in they interview, but part of this whole process is just getting close enough to people to, at some point, look them in the eye and say, "Hey, tell me your story." I've never had someone NOT tell me their story when I've asked them. People are very eager to do it.

JONATHAN

I love what you said about the healing and the restoration that Jesus has done in our lives. Even if you haven't had that crazy story of "I really lived a crazy life in high school, but Jesus really turned me around"... (That's not MY story; my story is very similar to yours. I was saved at a very young age. I don't even remember the event. I came to the Lord, and really took my faith seriously in high school.) ...but I can tell you that, at the age I am now, there's been a lot of healing that I'd love to tell people about. "This is some of the baggage that I brought into even the last few years with Jesus. This is the way he's been working on me in my life." And that's part of the testimony of Jesus' resurrection work in us and through us.

Okay, the next question: If I'm just someone listening this morning, and I'm thinking, "Wow, this is great! I love this, but how do I actually do it? Live it?" what's one thing you could say, or what's one way to apply this?

PETE

So you know obviously a big point of the sermon as that the Holy Spirit is the one who does the work, and we need to be available. So what does it mean to be available? Over the years we've talked about the "3 D's," and I think this is a good definition of what it means to be available.

Let's say, Jonathan, you have a friend who's name is Mike. I hope that's not true, I'm just picking that out of the sky. [he laughs] You sense the Lord leading you to share Christ in his life, and you have no idea where to start. So the first "D" is discover. Discover common ground; discover his story. Just be friends, and at some point say, "Hey, tell me your story. I don't even know your story. What is your background?" And then he'll be like, "What do you mean, 'What is your story?'" "Just start from where you were born and go from there. Just tell me your story." As he's telling you his story he might talk about an experience in church, or an experience with religion, or a spiritual search or something. And then you can start asking clarifying questions. Just learn as much say you can about him. That's your first step.

Now, the second one is develop a relationship. Start to deepen this relationship; start to spend more time together; start to ask more questions. Be a professional listener. Listen as much say you possibly can.

And then the 3rd one is discern next steps. It's not just a give-up - it's really true. Pray, "Holy Spirit, what do you want me to do next? What do you want this to look like?" You may get a very strong internal compulsion one day to go mow his yard, and you'll be like, "Ugh, no no..." but you'll eventually realize the Spirit is telling you to go mow his lawn. And that would be the next step. Or maybe it would be to invite him to something at church, or maybe it would be to invite him to go to your small group, or maybe have him go out with some of your friends, or whatever. But you're just really praying, "Next step, Lord - what is the next step? Holy Spirit lead me on this; lead me on this."

The whole time that you're getting to know him better you're discerning through the Spirit what the next step is. And because you're unique and he's unique, it's going to be a a unique process every time this happens. So you've gotta be listening to the Spirit.

JONATHAN

You know, it's funny, there actually is a Mike in my world, and I have actually thought about mowing his yard. So maybe this is a Holy Spirit thing. [they laugh] But let's speak to that, because there have been times when I thought, "Maybe I should mow his yard...but that would be weird! He wouldn't know how to take it." I think we, as believers, have a context for receiving free gifts, but people outside the church really don't. So if I did go and mow Mike's yard, for example, he would look at me and say, "Why did you do this?" They don't know how to receive that. What do you do in that situation?

PETE

Well first of all, if it's really the Holy Spirit prompting you to do it, he can deal with that. Secondly, it's not unusual for believers to be considered weird. Jesus predicted it, right? So it's okay. To the world, we're foolishness and it's okay to be foolishness to the world. Just the fact that he's not used to receiving a gift of grace like that will show him that there's something in your world that he is completely unfamiliar with, and the Spirit might use that to draw him.

JONATHAN

Okay, next question. Kind of a little bit of a turn here. In the sermon this morning you spoke of lethargy in our church. I'd love for you to expound on that a little bit. Why do you think that's there, and how do you think the witness you talked about is part of the solution?

PETE

Hmm. I don't have empirical data for that. In fact, the empirical data would probably say the opposite. Our attendance is healthy. Our giving last year was the healthiest it's ever been. There are people in small groups and ministries, and missions, faith promise...largest faith promise ever last year. So empirical evidence would say, "Hey, it's going great." So it's not that; it's just a check in my spirit. It's a sense that our heart for evangelism has decreased. This isn't anything new. We talked about this, Jonathan, a few years back, and I did a whole series on it. From LifeSigns we discovered that the evangelistic heart had tempered in our church.

But that aside, I sense it in my own life. And I'm not hearing stories. When the Spirit is moving and things are happening, the stories just bubble up; I hear them all the time. But I'm just not hearing the stories. Either I need people to tell me the stories, or we need more stories to happen. [he laughs]

JONATHAN

[to the listeners] So that is your invitation. If you have stories, send them to Pete now. [they laugh]

I love that. I definitely sense your pastor's heart, and that doesn't need empirical data. That is just you, as the shepherd of this flock, saying, "Hey, this is where I sense the Lord is leading us at this time."

PETE

...yup...

JONATHAN

Following up with that, you said, "Hey, let's ask the Lord to do a supernatural miracle in your heart." So I'm sitting there saying, "Yes, Holy Spirit, do a miracle in my life." Help me with that. What do I do with that? What can I expect to see?

PETE

I have no idea. [he laughs] Because it's the Spirit.

JONATHAN

...yeah...

PETE

I was reading on the Spirit this weekend, and one guy said that one of the best passages in the Bible on numerology (which is the study of the Holy Spirit), in the New Testament is in John's gospel where Jesus said the Holy Spirit is the wind. We have no idea where it's coming from or where it's going [laughs], and that's what's so exciting about it.

I have no idea what it's going to look like for you. I really don't. And cool! I mean, that's something to step into. I read in one of my commentaries this last week in preparing for my message (and I can't remember which one it was) but it was Martin Lloyd-Jones who said that, "I don't know what to tell you if you ask me what it would look like for the Holy Spirit to be working in my life. But here's what I do know - it will be a disruption." I love that because, candidly, a lot of us need a disruption in our life. If we're bored and if we're lethargic, we definitely need a disturbance in our life. That would be my answer to you, Jonathan. I don't know what it would look like for the Holy Spirit to work in your life.

JONATHAN

I love it; I love it. You know, I remember our conversation we had recently with some of the other staff about what you're teaching on this topic, and JoAnn Hummel was in the room. I love what she said. She said it always feels like a risk. The Spirit is going to lead us to mow someone's yard, for example, but it will feel like a risk. And I love the idea that it is the wind. It's unpredictable, but that is it's nature. That means for us that we need to be like you preached last week: waiting. We need to be listening. I think that's so important. That's the first step. Before we go and do something, before we tell someone about our story, we wait.

PETE

Yes. He'd rather we not do anything than do something without the Spirit.

JONATHAN

[to the listeners] So if you're listening now, I'd love for you to take a moment. If this is you, if you'd like to see the Spirit do a miracle in your life and give you a fresh wind of desire to share your story with the people that he's impressed on your heart, I'd love for you where you're at right now, to take a pause. Take a breath. Just do business with God right now. Ask him for that miraculous, fresh wind of desire to share your story, and ask him who maybe he might want you to share that with this week. Maybe this month. Maybe some time at least this year when you see them again. [pause]

[to Pete] Speaking of prayer, I'd love for you to lead us - you closed out the sermon with a great prayer, and we have time - I'd love for you to lead us now. Would you lead us again in that prayer so we can focus on putting our hearts before God in this matter of witness?

PETE

I can try to, Jonathan; it was an extemporaneous prayer and I can't remember what I said [they laugh], but I'll pray something. [he laughs]

JONATHAN

It was a great one. [they laugh]

PETE

Father, thank you for your ridiculous love for us. We're overwhelmed that you would call us sons and daughters, and you would include us in your mission. What a privilege and what a joy that is. And it doesn't always feel like a joy - we get scared, and we're fearful, and we're learning from your Word, Lord, that what is normal for us as your children is, as the Spirit empowers us, to be your witnesses. So that's the desire of our heart. In our Jerusalem (in our home), in our Judea (our surrounding communities), to the ends of the earth (our fingerprints somewhere in the world) - show us. Lead us. Lay it on our hearts, Lord, for that one person that you want us to be available to reach this year. Please bring them to mind and lay them on our hearts, and let us not forget them. Please use us to lead them to a saving knowledge of you, I pray. And I pray it in Jesus' name. Amen.

JONATHAN

Amen.

[to the listeners] We're so glad that we were able to have this time with Pete, and so glad you were able to be here with us to unfold the sermon a little bit deeper. I'd love for you to join us again next week as we come back. We're hoping to have another conversation like this after every sermon of our Reset series to give you a chance to process. Our goal through this series is that we reset our understanding of what it means to 'do church,' as we are the church of Jesus Christ, and what does that mean. We want to give you extra time today to process that from your world. Thanks for joining us. We'll see you next time.