What is your favorite place to go within two hours of San Francisco? What do you think my favorite place is within two hours from here? If you don’t me and my wife, Shauna, or if you don’t follow us on Instagram, you probably have no idea. If you sort of know us, you would probably say that you know we love spending time in Napa Valley. You are right; that is our favorite region that we can get to fairly quickly. But some of you know us even better and you would specifically say that our favorite place is the town of Yountville. You’re correct. And when most people think Yountville, they simply think of all of the wonderful places on Washington Street, the main street in this small town. But those of you who know us best could describe the actual place in Yountville that we always go. The stretch of grass where we picnic. The basketball goal our family enjoys playing on. The walk that Shauna and I find so rejuvenating. And you know this because we’ve taken you there or because we pointed it out on a map to you.
When we discover something that enhances our lives, we love helping others discover the same thing.
We do this with places. How many of you have taken a trip somewhere simply because someone else told you how amazing it was? We do this all the time. We also do it with restaurants. What’s your favorite restaurant right now in San Francisco? Some of my favorite places to eat in this city were recommended to me by others. And when I make a discovery of a place you need to try, I share it with you without hesitation. As parents, we do this with each other, don’t we? We share about schools we love. We share about special events going on that our children enjoy. We do this with almost every area of our lives.
But do you know what area we tend to hold back in when it comes to what we’ve personally discovered? Our faith in Jesus. We don’t want to impose our beliefs on someone else. We don’t want to make it seem like we’ve figured it all out. We don’t want to risk rejection.
Today we close out our summer series, One Thing Over Everything. And we have discovered some incredible truths about Jesus in this series.
What we have discovered about Jesus is too good to keep to ourselves.
But how do we share what we’ve discovered about Jesus? What do we say? What is our part in the process? What is God willing to do, if anything? This is what we’re going to talk about today. And I want to be up front about this topic as it relates to my life. Maybe it will encourage you or perhaps discourage you.
What we’re talking about today is something I’m not naturally good at, nor is it a spiritual gift I have. It is a spiritual gift for my wife, Shauna, and for a number of people in our Epic community. And yet, whether it’s our gift or not, it’s something Jesus intends for all of us to do. And he wants to help us do it. I’m calling this message, “Open Doors.”
Colossians 4:2-6 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Whatever Jesus does in us is never intended to end in us.
Yes, Jesus wants to do something in your life…AND Jesus wants to do something through your life…into the life of someone else.
In every endeavor, there is a part for God to play and a part for us to play.
The first thing Paul says we do is devote ourselves to prayer. He means that we are to give our attention to this. If Paul, someone who had seen so many come to faith in Jesus, relied on prayer to see transformation in others, let us prioritize prayer too.
Prayer is the most significant way God’s part and our part come together.
“I’m actually managing my life through my daily prayer time. I’m shaping my heart, my work, my family – in fact, everything that is dear to me – through prayer in fellowship with my heavenly Father. I’m doing that because I don’t have control over my heart and life or the hearts and lives of those around me. But God does.” Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life
Be watchful. This means “mental alertness”. We are not consumed with only what’s on our calendars and agendas. I have to remind myself of this. I can get so focused on the work I need to accomplish each day that I’m not even aware of who God might be putting on my path that day.
Thankful – Gratitude does something to our perspective and to our faith. And gratitude is attractive to those around us.
What is Paul asking them to pray for? Open doors for the message of Jesus. We know how to pray for open doors. We pray for open doors when we’re seeking a job. We pray for open doors when we want to enter a dating relationship with a special someone. We pray for open doors when we’re filling out school applications for our children. We pray for open doors when we’re competing with 63 other people for a home in San Francisco. There’s nothing wrong with praying for these open doors, but there’s a prayer that matters even more. What if we prayed this prayer each morning:
Jesus, open doors for me to share who you are with someone else.
What would an open door look like? It would look like someone asking you about your weekend and you telling them what you did on Sunday morning and the difference it’s making in your life. It would look like being asked how you’re raising kids and doing your job, while appearing to still have joy. It might look like someone expressing a desire for something more or new or different than they’ve been experiencing.
You never know when an open door will show up, so you have to be looking for it. On Tuesday I received a text from my wife that said, “Don’t hate me for posting.” That was it. I’m like, huh? And then I open Instagram to discover that she has outed us by posting a video of our dance lessons.
It had been almost 2 years since we had a dance lesson. As we’re getting reacquainted with our dance instructor, she shares a devastating tragedy she went through last year. We communicated care and compassion. We also invited her to come here and she said she’ll be here the first Sunday she isn’t working. You never know where you’ll find these open doors, so you pray and then you look for them anywhere and everywhere.
If we are orienting more of our lives around more of Jesus, those around us are going to experience more of Jesus.
Now let’s talk about how we live out our faith, what we say about our faith, and how we say it. “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.” This admonition from Paul sounds exactly like what he said in Ephesians 5:15-16:
Ephesians 5:15-16 Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
How do you make the most of every opportunity?
Be present. Pay attention. Really hear what they’re saying. Ask for discernment and trust the Holy Spirit to give you words and to give them an open heart.
We are to proclaim the mystery of Christ, which is that because of Jesus, anyone and everyone can belong to God. This means it’s available to everyone in your circle of life. Paul asks the Colossians to pray for him to proclaim this message with clarity.
We don’t have to know everything about Jesus to talk about him to others, but let’s be clear on what we do know about Jesus.
Always full of Grace. What does this look like? Seasoned with Salt. This is about the flavor of what you say and how you say it.
Know how to answer everyone. This doesn’t mean we have to be able to answer every question, but it does mean we should be able to give answers to every person who asks us about this.
1 Peter 3:15 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
“If you do not exhibit the presence of a life that is above this world, something that is coming into you and giving you joy, peace, and strength in a situation that looks very bad from the outside, there isn’t going to be anything for people to ask about.” Dallas Willard, The Allure of Gentleness
How we proclaim this message as a church: Sundays, Epic Kids, Epic Students, Alpha, local and global partners. Pray for open doors every Sunday.
How we each proclaim this message in our individual lives. You interact with people every day who might never come to this church or any other.
-Relational is best. Invest over time, but pray for forward movement. Pay attention to who’s open and what next steps could be as you continue to share about Jesus.
-One-time opportunities exist too.
This coming Tuesday, Shauna’s new book releases to the world. It’s called Translating Jesus: How to Share Your Faith in Language Today’s Culture can Understand. We’re excited about this getting out and next Sunday at Epic, she’s going to kick off our series with the same title. For everyone who is present next Sunday, you will receive a free copy of this book.
Response – Pray for open doors (your life and our church) or -Open the door of your heart to Jesus today – faith and/or baptism