It was about 30 AD that Jesus of Nazareth, the son of God, Messiah and savior of the world died. 3 days later he rose from the dead, seen by hundreds of people. And 40 days after that… disappeared from sight.
For the next 12 years followers of his multiplied by the thousands and spread all over the middle east and beyond.
They developed a reputation in the Greco- Roman world of the 1st century:
Christians had a reputation for loving both God and people in unusually intense ways.
Christians were the first to “run to it”…the pain, danger and tragedy of the world.
Christians seemed to bring sanity and peace into desperate situations.
Christians were shockingly inclusive. (gender, slaves, nationalities, socio-economic,)
Christians had a reputation for being selfless and caring. healed, shared,
Christians became known for an internal integrity that didn’t depend on strict legalism.
Christians seemed more courageous through personal storms.
Christians had a startling love for Jesus, holding nothing back from Him.
They were different. They were odd. They were freaks.
And in time…as is true about all freaks…Christians were persecuted for all of this.
Ø The suffered persecution from Judaism their originating religion
Ø Persecution from an enlightened Greek culture
Ø Persecution from Roman government
It was by this government they were given a nickname…Christian
In 67 AD the persecution of Christians went to a whole new level…
· Nero, Roman emperor set his own city on fire - The fire went on for 9 days…Thousands died.
· Under the weight of accusation Nero decided to cast blame on Christians
o He contrived all kinds of punishments for them
§ he had some sewed up in skins of wild beasts, and had them attacked by dogs
§ dressed others in wax and turned them into burning lamps
This only made Christians more committed to their subversive and outlandish love for God and fellow human beings…even as their persecution continued for the next 2 ½ centuries.
It reached a peak in the early 4th century under Diocletian…who ordered:
· their homes to be destroyed
· their sacred books burned
· and Christians themselves to be tortured, mutilated, burned, starved, and condemned to one sided contests with gladiators to amuse spectators.
· A new emperor rose to power…Constantine…a man led to Jesus by his mother Helena.
· A man who had a mysterious and powerful encounter with God as he led his troops into battle in 312…as he looked into the sun he saw a cross of light and the words “in this sign you will conquer”
o He had his troops put crosses on their shields and they won a great victory.
· Shortly thereafter in 313 AD Constantine issued the Edict of Milan which gave Christianity legal status and eventually led to it becoming the official religion of the Roman empire.
This was, of course, a great relief to a persecuted people. But, what at first appeared to be a great blessing, in short order, became a disaster. One that persists to this very day.
· Christians lost their edge.
· Once odd and subversive, Christians became commonplace and mainstream
· Once an alternative community, Jesus followers blended into culture.
o The wonder and uniqueness was gone along with the power
Yes, over the past 1700 years, there have been sporadic revivals and uprisings of authentic faith. There have been reformations and Christian renewals but largely, especially in the West ….Christianity became lame.
· You and I live in a watered down version of that original vibrant faith.
· The Christianity of America is mainstream. It is conventional.
· The vast majority of people who claim some relationship with Jesus are that in name only.
· And this is so very sad. Because the world continues to groan in its brokenness.
o It is broken in 6 huge devastating ways: Separation, isolation, pain, hatred, decay and injustice
The world needs us…. But…
- not a lame, tame us.
- Not a conventional mainstream us.
- Not a muted moderate us.
The world needs outliers. It needs healers. It needs revolutionaries. It needs radicals. It needs Jesus freaks.
My secret hope this past summer was to incite an uprising
· This past summer I hope we would get our mojo back.
· I hoped we would reclaim our heritage of being culture challenging revolutionaries.
We are at our best when we are offbeat not when we are mainstream.
We are most effective when we are radical not when we are normal.
We are powerful when we revolutionary not when we are amenable.
I want our nickname back. Little Christs. But more than that I want our influence back.
So let me assume that you are with me…big assumption, I know. But if you are may I offer some very practical challenges:
1) Hold nothing back from God.
a. Get in the water…. of baptism (make the leap of faith)
b. Get out your calendars – call a family council – and start over
c. Get out your wallets, bank accounts and spread sheets and release your resources to him.
d. Make your obsession the search for your destiny
2) Love people outrageously.
a. Change your presence and posture in this world - Become known as the one who cares and loves. And holds hands, and weeps.
b. Show up all the time.
c. Shut up. And Listen.
d. Throw parties always. Invite unusual people.
3) Run to the Broken Places of this world.
a. Which will it be?
i. Everybody about separation (more in a minute)
4) Speak boldly of Jesus always and everywhere.
Idea #12 - Followers of Jesus are people of the good news
a. Go after your “1”
b. Tell them your story and listen to theirs
c. Insist they consider Jesus.
Reminder - Only Jesus saves people.
· Religion will not save your family – Jesus will
· Morality will not save your friends – Jesus will
It is time to speak of him boldly.
1. Hold nothing back from God.
2. Love people outrageously.
3. Run to the Broken Places of this world.
4. Speak boldly of Jesus always and everywhere.
As I close and speak for the last time until Christmas eve…Grace Church here’s what I want you to do while I’m gone…