I got a surprise call from the BBC recently. “Did I have a spirit of adventure? Could I think on my feet and cope without home comforts? Did I like a challenge? Was I willing to appear on their programme ‘Bare Necessities’? Two teams compete against each other to see who can survive in a remote location somewhere in the world for a week with only the bare essentials provided. Was I willing to join a team of three vicars competing against three bookmakers? Naturally. With God on our side it would be no contest. Could I participate at short notice? Did I have a passport? Could I go anywhere in the world? For an audience of 2 million, when do we start? Did I have any phobias? Real men don’t have phobias – at least we don’t admit them to strangers. Would I be prepared to eat anything? Yes with my eyes closed. Could I work in a team made up of strangers? Try me. The last question – Did I have one wish? ‘To see heaven on earth’ I heard myself say. The interview lasted half an hour. It felt a cert. I was in. They loved me. The delightful programme co-ordinator assured me she would come back to me in a few days. I put the phone down and began to prepare myself.
Joanna thought I was utterly and completely mad. I had three weeks to get fit. The first thing I did was block into my diary a two hour gym session every day for the next three weeks. I had three weeks to learn how to survive in the wild. I got out my SAS Pocket Survival Guide. I began to learn about which plants and animal parts you can and cannot eat. I learnt how to trap game. How to collect water. How to make a shelter from branches and leaves. How to start a fire. I also began to prepare myself psychologically. What it would be like to join a small team of strangers thrown together in full view of the TV cameras? I began to listen to tapes on team building, determined that we were going to work well as a team. It didn’t matter if we won or not as long as by the end of the week we still cared for each other and glorified God. Finally I began to prepare myself spiritually. What did God want me to achieve through the programme? How could I show that being a Christian makes a difference in a godless cynical world? Christian Aid had nominated me because they wanted viewers to realise most people in the world have to survive on bare necessities every day and thought I could help get that message across.
Mentally, physically and spiritually I began to imagine myself already there. I was nearly ready to go – anywhere. Then the BBC phoned back. They were really sorry but they couldn’t use me after all. Apparently I regularly visited the mystery location chosen for the programme and they felt I would have had an unfair advantage…
So I didn’t put my SAS survival training to the test. But I did learn one thing. Had they asked me to go today I would not be ready. And what was the Lord teaching me through all this? With hindsight the deeper question I now ask myself and I ask of you also today is this, If Jesus came today and said ‘follow me’ would I go? Would you go? Are you ready today to share your faith? Not in three weeks. Not tomorrow but today. Right now. In this series “Becoming a Contagious Christian” we have already considered the contagious Christian’s motivation and mandate. This morning we want to consider the Contagious Christian’s Mind-set. Please turn with me to 1 Peter 3 and lets find the answers to three questions.
1. How do we become Contagious? (1 Peter 3:13-15)
2. When are we most Contagious? (1 Peter 3:15-16)
3. Why are we to be Contagious? (1 Peter 3:18)
1. How do we become Contagious?
“Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.” (1 Peter 3:13-15)
Lee Strobel was a reporter for the Chicago Tribune.
He began to attend Willow Creek church in an effort to appease his newly converted wife, Leslie. In his book, Inside the Mind of Unchurched Harry and Mary, he recalls,
“When I walked into church as a sceptical unbeliever, my ‘hypocrisy antenna’ was scanning the place for signs that people were playing at church. In fact, I was aggressively on the lookout for phoniness, opportunism, or deception, because I felt that if I could find an excuse for rejecting the church on the grounds of hypocrisy, I could feel free to reject Christianity as well.”
Most people won’t come right out and say it but you had better believe they are thinking it. They are not interested in believing our message about a risen Christ unless they first observe the living Christ in us. We need to be good news before we share the good news. Integrity is when your thoughts, your words and your actions are at the same place, consistently saying the same thing. Integrity simply means integrated. Bill Hybels says,
“So many pretenders are walking around the corridors of our culture these days that genuine, sincere people wind up creating quite a stir just by being themselves… People who are investigating Christianity don’t expect perfection from Christians. They are too smart for that. What they do hope to find is someone with the courage to confess their blunders and make things right.”
Simply put, authentic confession is a powerful witness to the transforming power of Jesus Christ as Lord of your life.
We instinctively rationalise our short comings, we cover our tracks, and the wealthy ones hire high-powered lawyers to get them off the hook. No one seems to own up and take responsibility anymore. So how about it? Do you come clean when you are in the wrong? In a ‘no-fault’ society, don’t underestimate the power of a sincere apology or when you take responsibility. Only the influence of the living God will prompt a person to say. “It was my fault and I am sorry.” It might be the most compelling manifestation of true Christianity your friends will ever see. How we conduct our daily lives has implications that reach all the way to eternity. First question: How do we become Contagious? Revere Christ as lord and you will be contagious. Second question:
2. When are we to be Contagious?
“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, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:15-17)
The moment for being contagious is always – always – now.
We are never off duty, we are always on show – that’s why it is important to live with honesty and integrity because the world is watching and you should have nothing to hide. Revere Christ as Lord in your heart and you can be yourself. When Christ is Lord of our lives, every encounter with another person becomes a divine appointment.
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
Can you give an answer for the hope within you? If you can’t wait and want to start a spiritual conversation here are a few one liners.
+ I’m curious, do you ever think about spiritual matters?
+ Who, in your opinion, was Jesus Christ?
+ What is your spiritual background?
+ Do you ever wonder what happens to us when we die?
+ What do you think a real Christian is?
What amazes me is how a simple question can begin a process that ultimately transforms another person’s life. They can literally open doorways into eternity. Are you ready? Can you give an answer for the hope within you? Until you can explain something you don’t really understand it. So what is our hope? We have answered the question how and when to become contagious.
3. Why Be Contagious?
3.1 We share Christ because he died in our place
“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” (1 Peter 3:18)
We share Christ because a living relationship with God is only possible through the death of Jesus Christ in our place. We deserve to die for our sin. He died in our place so we would not have to. Through his mediating role he literally brings us back to God. We share Christ because he died in our place.
3.2 We share Christ because he rose from the dead
“He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit…this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also… It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 3:18, 21)
We share Christ because he is unique. All other religious leaders died. Jesus died and rose again. He came back. He came back from death to prove that he is Lord of Life. He came back to prove that our sins are forgiven. To assure us that we have eternal life. We share Christ because he died in our place and because he rose from death.
3.3 We share Christ because he reigns in heaven
“Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.” (1 Peter 3:22)
We share Christ ultimately because there is no other way to heaven. Through Jesus Christ and on the authority of His Word we know that all our sins are forgiven and that we have eternal life. We can know that we a place in heaven with him for ever. We share Christ because he died in our place. We share Christ because he rose from death. We share Christ because he reigns in heaven … and one day he will soon return. This is our hope. And this is the only hope for the world. A living relationship with God our Father through the Lord Jesus Christ. Through his death in our place, all our sins are forgiven and we have the assurance of eternal life. For ever and ever. A place in heaven with God. This is our hope. People who have yet to hear the good news of Jesus have little reason for hope.
Stephen Hawking, the physicist and cosmologist and author of A Brief History of Time gave a lecture recently at the Royal Society in Edinburgh. From his wheel chair and using a computer voice box, Hawking said that chance or global warming could very well wipe out life on earth. He fears the human race will not survive for another thousand years. He said “I am afraid the atmosphere might get hotter and hotter until it will be like Venus with boiling sulphuric acid. I am worried about the greenhouse effect.” One of the greatest scientific minds in the world is worried about the future. If he is, how much more those who rely on experts like him. His anxiety may in part be because he does not believe in a loving Creator God. With no certainty about his origins he has no hope for the future.
But in our Bible reading, the ultimate expert insists, “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” (1 Peter 3:14). We have nothing to fear when we stay close to Jesus. Perfect love casts out fear. Our past is dealt with and our future is secure. This is our hope. He will create a new heaven and new earth. That is our hope. There will be no more sin, no more suffering, no more pain, no more crying, no more death. This is our hope. The old order will pass away. This is the good news we need to share when people ask us why we have hope in a hopeless world.
“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” (1 Peter 3:18).
This is our message. Don’t fudge it, don’t change it, don’t soften it, don’t deny it. Just live it and explain it when asked. Seekers have little respect for Christians who don’t know what they believe or why. Or when they realise we are acting no different from them. Deep down they are looking for somebody, anybody to live with integrity.
So lets be real with people. Lets manifest an authentic healthy relationships. Lets boldly challenge others to follow Jesus too. Peter and Andrew were fishermen. They were probably good at it. Their families depended on them bringing the fish in each morning after a night’s labour. No fish, no food. Its safe to say that fishing was their single most important pursuit. Until they met Jesus.
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” (Matthew 4:19).
Jesus challenged Peter and Andrew to a radical change of direction and perspective on what matters most.
Steve Jobs, was the co-founder of Apple Mac Computers. Early on, he realised the meteoric growth of his corporation required hiring an experienced executive who could provide overall leadership. So he went after someone who was already a top executive. John Sculley was working at the time for Pepsi Cola. After wining and dining him, he started to get the sinking feeling that Sculley was going to turn down his offer. Jobs looked Sculley in the eye and asked one question. “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?” Sculley says it was that one question clinched it.
But that is nothing compared to the challenge Jesus makes to you and I. What are you going to spend the rest of your life pursuing? Designing computers or marketing refreshing drinks pays the bills. They are fine to make a living. We all need to take our careers and professions very seriously. But there is something far more important. More important than any career or vocation is the call to capture the attention of men and women and to bring them to the cross of Christ. There is no higher calling in all the world. There is no more significant challenge. No greater privilege. “Follow me,” said Jesus, “And I will make you contagious.” Are you ready? Lets pray.