“The church” is not a building…it’s the people!!! We have seen this displayed over the last months due to church buildings being closed…and ministry being done…off campus…. one person at a time.
1 Thessalonians 5:11…Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
Here is what a letter written by God to “the church” might sound like:
Dear Christians: This is My commission to you – in fact, you might even call it a great commission. You are to go to all people everywhere and call them to become My disciples. You are to baptize them and teach them to obey all that I have commanded you. Don’t forget. I will be with you always to help you, even to the end of the world. I will never leave you nor forsake you, because I love you. Please don’t forsake Me.
With all My love,
Unfortunately…this might be the response written back by many churches:
Dear Jesus Christ:
We acknowledge the receipt of Your recent communication.
Although your proposal is both interesting and challenging; however, due to a shortage of personnel, as well as several other financial and personal considerations, we do not feel that we can give proper emphasis to Your challenge at this time. A committee has been appointed to study the feasibility of the plan. We do appreciate Your offer to serve as a resource person, and should we decide to undertake this project at some point in the future, we’ll get back to You.
Well, Matthew 28 is your letter from God commissioning…YOU.. to…–GO and make disciples of all nations… and to teach them about God’s love and plan and purpose in their lives. And know that to GO means leaving your comfort zones!
I want to talk about building bridges to unbelievers. The word bridge brings many images to mind from a piece of wood across a creek to the bridge over Niagara Falls. A bridge is a structure that provides a way across an obstacle, hazard, or peril – to safely cross from one side to the other.
Today, I want to focus on 2 specific bridges.
First, the cross of Jesus is our bridge to salvation…. from the peril of our separation from God due to our sinful nature …to eternal life and salvation
There is an old, familiar story (I’m sure you have heard…but powerful) about a man who worked as the operator of the drawbridge in a small town. A train track ran across the bridge, and the operator’s job was to keep the bridge up when no train was coming so that the boats could pass underneath. When a train approached, he was to blow the whistle and let down the bridge. One sunny Saturday morning, the man brought his seven-year-old son to work with him. The boy could play along the river, skip rocks on the water, chase butterflies, or try to catch a fish. Shortly before noon, a passenger train was due to come through the area. The man began to make preparations to let the bridge down so that the train could pass safely across the river. As he examined the bridge, he noticed that someone – a small child – had somehow climbed over the guardrail next to the bridge, and was playing on the very spot where the bridge would come down. As he looked closer, he realized with horror that the child was his son. In desperation, he yelled out his son’s name, but the sound of the approaching train drowned out his screams. He knew he had to make a quick decision. If he lowered the bridge down, his son would die.
If he didn’t, all the people on the train would die as the train plunged into the river. As he screamed in agony, the man thrust forward the lever to lower the bridge just as the train arrived. His son died instantly. And as the train passed by, the people just smiled and waved as they passed by the man in the control booth, with his head bowed low, oblivious to what had just taken place.
Isn’t that what God did for us – the cross of Jesus is our bridge to salvation, but it cost us His Son’s life. Don’t be like those on that train. (oblivious to what had happened)
Do you know what Jesus did for you? Who told you? Have you thanked them?
Second, we will look at ways we can become bridges that lead others to the cross of Jesus. Mark 16:15… He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. For some strange reason, God’s plan for salvation uses people like you and me to be bridges that lead others to the bridge of the cross.
A legend recounts the return of Jesus to heaven after His time on earth. He returned bearing the marks of His earthly pilgrimage with its cruel cross and shameful death. The angel Gabriel approached Him and said, “Master, You must have suffered terribly for people down there.” “I did,” said Jesus.
“And,” continued Gabriel, “do they now know all about how You loved them and what You did for them?” “Oh, no,” said Jesus. “Not yet. Right now, only a handful of people in Palestine know.”
Gabriel was perplexed. “Then what have You done,” he asked, “to let all people know about Your love for them?”
“Well, I’ve asked Peter, James, John, and a few others to tell people about Me. Those who are told will in turn tell others, and the Gospel will be spread to the farthest reaches of the globe. Ultimately, all of humankind will hear about Me and what I have done on their behalf.” Gabriel frowned and looked skeptical. He knew that people weren’t dependable. “Yes,” he said, “but what if Peter and James and John grow weary? What if the people who come after them forget? And what if, way down in the twenty-first century, people get too busy to bother to tell others about You? Haven’t You made any other plans?” “No, I’ve made no other plans, Gabriel,” Jesus answered. “I’m counting on them.”
Of course, the Holy Spirit works through God’s Word…and I’m sure some will say that’s the Pastor’s job…and it is! – but God has placed you right where you are! He has placed you in the path of non-believers…and folks facing the storms of life. It’s up to you to take Jesus seriously and to go and preach the Gospel to the people in your circle of influence….with words as well as actions.
Now, we know that a bridge provides a way across a peril or hazard. Who can you be a bridge to?….so they can cross over the perils of sin…death…the devil … maybe…Family members? Co-workers? Fellow students? Neighbors? Business associates?
And what perils are they facing …..what chasm to cross over?….perhaps:
- Valleys of grief
- Low spots of despair
- Pits of spiritual battles
- Rivers of anger and hatred
- Floods of anxiety and depression
- Rapids of lifestyle choices
1 Peter 5:15… But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
These storms, tough times, and life changes are great times to share Christ! We need to be sensitive to these times of transition in those around us. This season of COVID 19 and it’s collateral damage is a great time to reach out to others.
Matthew 5:16… In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
You see, you may not think your witness for Christ does any good, but it does. Obviously, your ultimate hope is that your friends will come to know the Lord; however, that’s not the only result that can come from being a witness. You never know how God will use what you do for him. Even when you can’t see the results of your obedience, you can trust that God will take what you do and use it to bear fruit.
So…Make a list of those that you have in your circle of influence that do not know Jesus as Lord. What ways are you modeling your faith to them? Can you share how Jesus has impacted your life?
Who do you know that knows the Lord, but they are living an unhealthy lifestyle? Can you reach out to them (gently)…using “I” sentences? Can you ask them if you can pray for them?
Who do you know that is facing financial, emotional, relational, spiritual storms? Can you offer to help them in some way…or just be there to listen to them?