Sermon: It Takes HEART

Text: Acts 9:1-19, James 2:14-19

We have talked for the past few weeks about what it is to be a missional church. What does it mean to reach outside our walls and engage our culture: the least, the last, and the lost. Those who are outcast from our society such as the homeless or those who are last in our culture such as perhaps minority groups or people with little education, and those who are outside a relationship with God. But in order to live into what it means to be a missional church, by the way I think we are very much that in many ways, we must go a step farther to understand not only what it is we are to do, but why and how? Let me begin by making a bold statement that you may or may not agree with: We are not called to be a social service agency. Let me say that again. We are not called as the church of Christ to be a social service agency. Our calling, as defined by Matthew 28, is to go, make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and teaching them Jesus’ commands. Make no mistake that meeting needs is one of the ways we make disciples who follow in the footsteps of Christ.

However, this is easier said than done.

What causes us to go from talking about being a missional church to living it out? How do we move from an action-less faith to one that makes a difference for others and ourselves? I believe it begins on a personal level. It is all about a change of Heart. Paul’s story gives us an inside look at how God can totally transform our lives and make us ready for service that changes the world. It took place after God had Paul’s heart.

First of all, we must HEAR from God. Please see from Paul’s story that God initiated the dialogue. It is God who asks of us and we then have the choice to accept. It does not work in the opposite direction for a couple of reasons. a.) not many would, on their own accord, leave family, friends, and Starbucks coffee to go to Africa. We are creatures of comfort and predictability. I bet you are sitting in the same seat, or pretty close, as you always do here at Offerings. It takes God to move us from our comfort zones into service. We typically won’t do it on our own and that is why God intersects our lives. Secondly, please notice that God did not wait for Paul to repent from his wrongdoing before speaking to him. The important lesson for you and me is this: God does not want to wait for us to completely clean up our act before using us. In fact, many times in the midst of our worst selves, God speaks. Take Paul for instance. Scripture says that he was breathing murderous threats against God’s people. He was on his way to Damascus in order to imprison anyone who was following the “way” of Jesus. In this context, God reached out to Paul.

The E is for earnestly seeking. What is the first thing Paul does when he hears the voice? Who are you? What is the first thing Ananias does when he hears the voice? Yes, Lord. Both were intent on finding out what was happening in their lives. They did not have all the answers, in fact they had more questions than answers at this point. But they were both willing to hear, meaning they were willing to seek after the answers. How many times have we stopped short of doing what God is asking because we do not yet have all the answers, the money, the time, the connections, the education or the HEART? I could spend the rest of the day describing story after story from the Bible of people who were asked to head out on a journey by God who had no idea where it would lead and were ill-equipped to accomplish the task even if they knew where they were going: Abraham, Moses, David, Nehemiah, the Apostle’s along with Paul. We do not get all the answers up front, we get a request to follow and then it is up to us to earnestly seek after the request. We do not get all the necessary gifts up front. Some of those come along the way as well. Paul couldn’t even see when he started his journey.

We must then Accept God’s direction and guidance for our life. Go to Damascus and wait and Paul accepted these instructions. Go to Saul, who up to now was persecuting your brothers and sister in the faith. Ananias questioned for a bit, and then accepted his role. God’s plan for your life might not be what you had envisioned, but it will be what you were made for! You might have had other plans, but you will not be fulfilled, content, or as usable in any other context that God’s.

After hearing, seeking, and accepting, we then need to readily move onto God’s plan for our lives. It is not what our mouths say, it is where our feet go that matters. Again, Paul goes to Damascus and Ananias meets him there. God does have a timeline. God does have a plan that is time sensitive. People are hurting, starving, without homes and drinking water. Reality is this: if we are called to help in resolving this matter, everyday we delay may cost in real terms a life or at minimum quality of life. How is that for a guilt trip? I do not mean to sound heavy handed, but it is true. If it doesn’t matter if we do it or not, then why do it? If someone else will do it for us, why us then?

And finally, we are transformed, equipped to carry out the plan God has for our life. Paul went from crusading to destroy the church to being its chief builders. He was physically and figuratively blind, but God opened his eyes. I don’t know about you, but that is a major transformation in lifestyle, attitude, and vocation. We can expect to be changed when we hear God, seeking after Him, accept his direction for our life and then readily get on with what he has for us.

I have no doubt that God is calling you to something. Perhaps it is to volunteer with the homeless in our city. Perhaps give your life to full-time Christian ministry. Or even God’s want to use your life as a missionary to a foreign land and people. As we end today, I ask that you listen intently as to what God might be saying to you and hurry up and get on with it. The world needs our hands, feet, and heart and more importantly, God wants them.

Let me leave you with these words from James. A reminder that our faith is to be more than a diploma to be hung from our wall.

NIV James 2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that– and shudder.