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Part 3: Prayer | January 21, 2018

 

JONATHAN

Hello. We're so glad you've joined us again today. My name is Jonathan Deatherage. I'm the Communications Director here at Bent Tree. This morning I took some time to follow up with Pete after he'd preached his third sermon in the series Reset. This morning he spoke about the importance of prayer, specifically in the context of community with other believers, for the purpose of having boldness when we share Christ, when the Spirit is leading us, saying, "Now is the time to say that thing, to share that word, to speak faith into this person's life." What do we do? How do we lean in? How do we find that boldness? Let's take a listen.

[to Pete] Hello, Pete.

PETE

Good morning, Jonathan. How are you, brother?

JONATHAN

I'm good; I'm good. So diving right in, this message really seemed like it was pointed towards those who might be feeling like the Spirit is telling them, "Hey, now is the time to speak." Last week we talked about the importance of listening. We spoke about the 3 D's, and you said to be a professional listener to that person that God's put on your heart. How do we know the difference when the Spirit is saying "now is the time to speak" or "now is the time to just listen"?

PETE

I'm not sure I would characterize that this message was really for those who feel like it's time to speak. I think it's really for those who don't necessarily see their role in evangelism, or have forgotten, or have grown complacent. I think it's for us who have grown complacent. The call is that this is what Jesus considered normal - it's the default settings that we are witnesses. So if we're not, then something's not right; something's missing. And it might be that we're afraid of what people might do, or what people might say. So the text today really points to the fact that people are going to say stuff, and people are going to do things, and it's going to hurt. One of the hallmarks of the infant church was "Okay, so be it," and then they were witnesses. So if we're going to be like the infant church we're going to look more like that.

I think that whatever the Spirit's prompting you to do as far as evangelism is concerned - and we talked last week that it might be mowing your neighbor's yard, it could be something extremely practical, it could be simply praying, it could be saying something, it could be listening to stories - he's got a lot of tools in his tool chest. If you're just praying and asking, I think he'll lead you.

JONATHAN

So I'm processing, too, here. I think sometimes we think of evangelism as "It's my opportunity to give a monologue. This is my time." [Pete laughs] I've got my whole story rehearsed, and they just asked me a question, and this is my chance to go off for the next 15-20 minutes to tell them about Jesus. But it sounds like you're saying it's a different approach. It's not just asking the questions, not just listening, but knowing when to say a word of truth or a reply of faith and almost a provocative "Hey, tell are more." The person listening says that to you. So I think my next question would be really, when I feel like it is time to speak, if I'm that person, what's a good way for balancing that boldness with a sense of compassion for the person I'm speaking with?

PETE

I like your terminology there: Sometimes I feel like it's a monologue. I think 40 years ago it kind of was. You look for an opportunity and then you present the Four Spiritual Laws, or the Roman's Road, or whatever, and people would listen. Our culture has changed so much that people are so sick of self-proclaimed experts spouting whatever they're spouting. That form of evangelism really is hard now. As soon as you start talking with any authority at all, the walls go up, right? And so I think obviously different strategies are necessary.

And I think that's okay, because the idea here is not a monologue; the idea is a dialogue. The idea is listening enough to know what your friend or family member's felt needs are. Where are they struggling? And not even saying anything until you know where their pain points are, because it's in their pain points that they may realize that they have need for Christ. Just listening, and asking clarifying questions, and hearing stories, and circling around... and this may take months. For some people it takes years of just getting to that place where you think "You know what, I think I know where their struggles are now, that I can speak into those."

As far as balancing compassion and boldness, the message is compassion, and boldness is simply the willingness to do it. So when I say "speaking boldly" I'm not stalking about speaking like a jerk [they laugh]. I'm talking about having the courage by the Spirit to step into whatever he's calling you to do. And the message is a compassionate one. God loves you; God loves you to distraction and he wants you in his family. He will do anything to get you in his family; he's already proven that, because he did the last thing you could imagine to get you into his family, and here's what it looks like. It's a message of compassion and love. So if we're in the Spirit, that's the communication that comes through us.

JONATHAN

I love it; that's great. In your sermon you mentioned how the early church was filled with the Spirit and they proclaimed boldly the message of Jesus. You described that as a new experience of the ever-present Holy Spirit that enabled them with boldness. Pete, would you tell us, what does that look like? How might I, as I'm listening, get that?

PETE

Well, thank you for listening so clearly, Jonathan, because those are practically the exact words I used, and I was very careful with how I said that. "A new experience of the ever-present Holy Spirit." So you're not getting more of the Spirit. The Spirit is in you, and the Spirit is present fully in you. We don't get parcels of the Holy Spirit; we get all of him. But there is definitely something new about this. The only way I could put it is that it's a new experience of the Spirit we already have. He has freedom now to give us an ability we didn't have before, which is to stand firm as the bear is charging, to speak boldly even if it costs us something. The way you get that is by asking for it.

That was kind of the point of my sermon. They gathered together to pray in community and said, "Holy Spirit, enable us. You do it." They simply asked for it, and he did it. It's a gift; it's not something that we can earn or something that we can produce. It's something that's simply given, and when he gives it, things are different for us. So the short answer to your question is to ask until he gives it.

JONATHAN

Now, do you have a personal experience you could share with us where maybe you've seen this, or maybe when you're in a situation yourself? What do you do?

PETE

Yeah, I have seen it. I've shared in this series the story of my friend in Canada that I didn't have boldness when I was with him personally and felt bad about that. But then he asked if we could stay in touch, and we've been having a great email correspondence. I've asked the Holy Spirit, I'm just available for the Holy Spirit to reach this guy through me. I've been kind of amazed at how bold some of my emails have been. [he laughs] Before I push send, I'm like, "Wow, okay! Hope this doesn't run him off." And it doesn't run him off! He's available to learn and to listen. So I have personal experience in the last two months with this one relationship. He's going to be my name in the wall, and he's the one that God's laid on my heart for this year. I don't know if I'll ever see his face again, but boy, he's in my heart.

JONATHAN

I love the way you said not being afraid to speak what the Holy Spirit has put on your heart. Even in email form it can be kind of nerve-wracking, much less when you're face to face with someone. This is a new level of social anxiety. In fact, I'd love for you to talk to that issue. You talked a lot about the persecuted church, which I loved, and it even made me think, "Gosh, I want to have on my heart to pray for the persecuted church, because we have it easy." But we still do face opposition; I would call it maybe, at this time, social discomfort. So speak to that a little bit for us. How do we deal with that? Help us understand what's at stake.

PETE

I was really grappling with this as I was preparing this message, because I'm aware that I'm speaking to believers in three nations that are on that list. And one of them is in the top ten, where if they were caught listening to my sermon they would go to prison. I mean, that's a different world than I live in in north Dallas, right? And I'm preaching to real people in north Dallas that don't have that fear, and have never had that fear. So I was grappling with how to preach this one message to both groups.

But just because we're not under threat of being thrown into prison doesn't mean there's not things for us to lose. I was just thinking about some of the bears that we might face charging us this week. They're very real and incredibly painful if they come to be in our life. The one I hear all the time is rejection from family. They decide to share with their mom or their dad, and when they share, mom or dad doesn't want to talk to them anymore. I mean, that's unbelievably painful. That's real stuff, right? Being ostracized at work: You take a risk with a workmate and they start making fun of you. They start ripping on you, and people start distancing themselves from you. That's real, and that's painful, and you still gotta go to work every day. Being left out of the activities in the dorm room because you shared Christ with someone down the hall, and all of a sudden you're weird and you don't get invited to things anymore, and you're on your own. That's real. Being slandered by the self-appointed social media experts out there [he laughs] in a very public way, and you're stuck with either defending yourself (which looks defensive) or letting it go (which feels gross). I mean, those are social discomfort, but some of them go beyond that. And it's true persecution. It's true pain. So I don't want to minimize those things, and yet at the same time, some of our brothers and sisters deal with much harsher things than that.

All of it can be grouped into this people as Jesus said in Matthew 5, when people say all kinds of things about you because of me. I mean, that's painful, and we run into it, too. The way we deal with that is we make the decision whether we going to be available to the Holy Spirit in peoples' lives or not. And if the answer is yes, then we recognize that some form of persecution will probably come our way. And we say okay.

JONATHAN

You know, even when those times of social discomfort come, I think sometimes it's helpful to remember what's the win at stake here. Because it is hard, those things you listed. But remember, hold on to the core, that this is really about eternal significance. Yes, they might put us off in a variety of ways that might be hurful to us. But in the end, if it results in someone receiving the gift of salvation, that's a big win.

PETE

[laughs] That's the biggest win, right?

JONATHAN

[laughs] Right!

PETE

Right! And it may be more complicated than that. It may be initial rejection and months or even years of distance, and then they circle around and find Christ. And everything in between that, right? I mean, there's so many different variables and scenarios of what might happen. We can get all twisted up in our head, "Oh, what if, what if..." The early church was just so simple. Jesus told us to tell other people about him. Holy Spirit, empower us. And they did it. And some of them suffered for it, but when we see them in glory they'll look us in the eye and say, "Totally worth it. I'd do it again in a heartbeat." We don't fully understand that now, but we will one day.

JONATHAN

I think of what Jesus said when he said that the fields are white for harvest. He's talking about the metaphor of sowing and reaping. Even Paul talked about how one person sowed seeds and one person watered. It is this process that when we do speak, it's not always an immediate, "Hey! Wow! That was it!"

PETE

Mmhmm

JONATHAN

Sometimes it's like you said, it's over years. It's the watering the seeds. I was able to speak truth into that person's life, my name in the wall. I spoke truth to them now, but that might not yield fruit for years. I might not even be the one to harvest, so to speak. I might not be the one to be there when they receive Christ. I might not pray the prayer with them specifically. But it's waiting; it's saying, "God, I don't know what you've got for this person, for the overall plan in their life, but I'm going to be faithful in this moment and see where you take it."

PETE

Yeah, I think it was Cru, formerly Campus Crusade for Christ, that did research (I'm not sure if it's Cru, so I want to make that clear, but I think it was them that did research.), and their conclusion was that the average person who becomes a believer hears the gospel seven times before they put their trust in Christ. When I heard that I was like, "Well okay, I'm cool with being number two or three, 'cause it's getting them to seven, right?" [they laugh]

And so it just takes the pressure off. They don't have to say yes. Sharing Christ might look so many different ways, too. They might hear the gospel seven times, but part of the reason they might have said yes after number seven was because you went to the court with them on the day that they got divorced. You know?

JONATHAN

Mmmm. Yeah.

PETE

You were in their life. You loved them. And that's the glue between those seven times. That's the stuff that moves people to Jesus, when they're loved by Christ through us.

JONATHAN

That's good. You know, last time we closed in a prayer that you led us through. If you don't mind, I'd love for you to lead us in another prayer this time.

PETE

Yup.

JONATHAN

Pray for us about this. Holy Spirit giving us boldness.

PETE

Holy Spirit, we're available to you, which is really all you ever ask. And so here we are. Have your way with us. Do what you want to do in us. Do what you want to do through us. Lord, there's people in our lives. For those of us who are a part of Bent Tree here, there's a name we put in the wall, and that person is precious to us. We long for them to know you. So please, start working in their lives right now in new ways, and start working in our lives in boldness. Just bring those two things together, and I pray they'd each say yes to you, Jesus. Thank you for inviting us on this incredible adventure with you. We pray it all in your name. Amen.