How many of you know what this is?
Lewis Creamery Whikkakers Chocolate milk…
Earlier in the year a craze began in New Zealand.
People started posting about the milk. Tweets. Instagram. Facebook. Social media blew up.
Without any form of “official marketing” this milk became the hot new product. It sold out in minutes. People stalked the supermaket at delivery times. It was sold on Trade Me for $60 a bottle! It became an overnight viral sensation and a marketing legend. In the six months since its been on the market I have only seen it on the shelves TWICE.
Soon there were news stories and rumours of security guards stationed in the milk section of the supermarket.
Some people in this room travelled to TEN supermarkets to buy a bottle.
If you hadn’t had one, you wanted one.
If you had one, well, you wanted to tell people that you were part of the exclusive “I’ve got milk” club.
There was unashamed bragging and sharing.
The word was out.
Chocolypse was here.
Now you may be wondering what chocolate milk has to do with the glorious gospel?
Or you may be wondering if I am going to give this milk away….?
But let’s get back on topic. The glorious gospel.
The heart of the Gospel is the pierced heart of the Son of God. It is all there, at the cross. God horrified and assaulted by our sin, our clenched fist in His face and His breathtaking act of turning that same cross into the instrument of redeeming love, reconciliation and salvation. He died for those who killed Him. By His blood He forgave those who spilled it. That is the Gospel story. Reinhard Bonnke
The Gospel is a message about God:
The Creator and Sustainer of the universe. He is perfect in all His attributes, blameless in all His ways, righteous in all His judgments. He is all powerful and all knowing. He is strong, mighty, holy, just, wrathful, vengeful, and jealous. He is caring, patient, compassionate, merciful, gracious, loving, and forgiving. God is good.
The Gospel is a message about Man:
Created in God’s image—created good: yet fallen, disobedient, rebellious, corrupt, proud, wicked, evil, sinful, unholy, unrighteous, ungodly, guilty, helpless, hopeless, lost, condemned, separate from God and destined for eternal punishment in the torments of hell.
The Gospel is a message about Jesus Christ:
The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The anointed one of God who saves. Born of a virgin; killed on a cross; resurrected on the third day. Beloved by the Father, yet smitten by Him for our transgressions. Perfectly innocent, yet punished by God for our sin.
Jesus Christ is the only way to forgiveness. The only way to reconciliation, restoration, and redemption. The only way to eternal hope and true meaning and real purpose. The only way to lasting joy and enduring happiness and endless pleasure. The only way to salvation. The only way to heaven. The only way to God’s grace.
“The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” Tim Keller
The gospel is better than chocolate milk. Yet we’re often reluctant to talk about it. We often make assumptions about people and assumptions about ourselves which limits our belief about the importance of what we have to share.
We’re brave to talk about the milk. But we’re shy to talk about the gospel.
I asked myself why is this? Why do I keep the good news quiet and to myself? What is it that holds me back from being brave and bold?
As I thought about this I thought about Jonah and could see myself in his story. I am like Jonah.
Now when a lot of people think about the book of Jonah they characterise it as a narrative about a man and the call of God, they put Jonah as the hero of the story. But the book of Jonah is about God’s incredible mercy, His everlasting love, not only for Jonah but for the people of Ninevah. The book of Jonah is about the glorious gospel and the power it has to rescue us from ourselves and from sin, and to change the world.
We, like Jonah can turn and run from situations and conversations that could flip into an opportunity to talk about God. We like Jonah can put it in the too hard basket. We like Jonah can forget about the heart of God for people and that life isn’t just about ME but it is all about demonstrating that God is good and great and real.
We can learn some powerful lessons from the book of Jonah.
- God chooses to use ordinary flawed people to proclaim His incredible message of good news.
Have you noticed when you read the bible that most, if not all of the people who do amazing exploits for God are human. Aka flawed and broken.
David the murdering adulater is the greatest king of Israel and his name is given as a title to Jesus, Son of David.
Solomon the wisest man on earth had 600 or so wives and concubines.
Peter, the rock was flaky and denied Jesus 3 times, even after Jesus told him black and white he would do it!
Elijah was depressed and suicidal, and Jacob was a terrible liar who made it an art form to cheat his own brother out of blessings and birthright. And Samson was a jerk.
When God called Moses, he said he could not speak.
When God called Jeremiah, he said he was too young.
When God called Abraham and Sarah, they said they were too old.
When God called Jonah, he took it one step further and ran.
Flawed. Ordinary people.
Now if I was God I’m not sure I would entrust such a glorious message, such an important message, such a life and death and eternity determining message to ordinary human beings. Angels would be more my style. Sky writing even.
Yet the glorious plan of God is that once we know His love and forgiveness and goodness is that we spread it to others. The gospel isn’t something we just experience and then hide away to enjoy in secret but it is to be demonstrated and outworked and lived and shared! We are the human agents of God, demonstrating His power and grace and love. How many of us have experienced the wonder and joy of the hallowed chocolate milk and then rushed to social media to tell the world?
God’s plan is to rescue the world and the very agents of change to proclaim the gospel is you and me.
Rescued people. People who have experienced grace for real.
God was in Christ, offering peace and forgiveness to the people of this world. And he has given us the work of sharing his message about peace. We were sent to speak for Christ, and God is begging you to listen to our message. We speak for Christ and sincerely ask you to make peace with God. Christ never sinned! But God treated him as a sinner, so that Christ could make us acceptable to God. 2 Corinthians 5:19-21
We don’t have to have it all together to be God’s representative. We don’t have to know the bible inside out. We don’t have to feel spiritual. We don’t have to have all the answers. We don’t have to be perfect. We just have to be real. Real people who know a very real God and who are willing to make that real to other people. Just as Jonah wasn’t the hero in his story, we are not the hero in our own story. Every story is about God.
I am just ordinary. But God is extraordinary. I want people to know that. If God can accept my humanness and say GO and SPEAK then who am I to say but God, I am too human?
We must remove our own limitations and restrictions that hold us back from being bold and intentional. How many times do we write ourselves off based on our past? Based on our flaws? Based on our limitations? Based on our brokenness? Based on our circumstances?
Christine Caine says: “What is impossible with people is possible with God. We just have to believe that God has called us to go into the world in His name, and not listen to the crippling or even paralyzing labels and limitations imposed by others or ourselves. “
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7
- Just say YES
We are ordinary people, flawed even, but God chooses to use us. Jonah’s first response to God’s call to Go and Tell the gospel to the people of Nineveh was “hell no” – my paraphrase. But Jonah as we may know, did end up having a change of heart, being thrown into the ocean and swallowed by a whale can do that to you, and said Yes to God.
And this is the good news to us.
God uses us not in our great wisdom or eloquence but in our yes. Our yes to be willing to speak. Our yes to be intentional at transitioning a conversation to talk about spiritual things. Our yes to be brave to talking about the gospel.
This year I have been doing and awesome course on a Saturday. On the very first week as I drove over the harbour bridge I resolved myself to say YES to what God was going to do. I knew that there very well likely would be opportunities to talk about God and my faith in Him. Little did I know how BIG that opportunity would be. Of course, being the first day we had to introduce ourselves to the class and share a little bit about us and why we were doing the course. Now, I have the very convenient tagline of being able to say I’m a youth pastor at the moment, but I had signed up for this course prior to taking on this role had some big call of God reasons in it. So I threw it out there. I made a choice to make God a big element in even this small window to introduce myself. Later on that morning as we had morning tea one of the other ladies on the course asked me to share a bit more which led to a 20 minute discussion about God over the coffee. Which has led to massive discussions about purpose and God and grace and love in the subsequent weeks.
What are the yes moments in your life?
Yes, I will talk to my workmates at morning tea time.
Yes, I will ask someone if I can pray for them if they’re sick or hurting.
Yes, I will offer the answers I have found in God.
Yes, I will talk about the things that are really important to me.
Yes, I will ask them if they’re a church person. It’s my go to question and works as a great flip switch to talk about spiritual things and find out about their own personal history with church and God.
This is my go to question. I can use it when someone asks me what I did in the weekend, how do I know someone, how did I get through that situation, what do I think about x y z. It’s a multipurpose flip switch.
The great thing is if someone says well, not really, I went when I was a kid I can tell my story #hkchabit and talk about how when I was young how church was so boring for me too but then I went to a youth group and found out that God was really real, like really, and how much more amazing and real He was, more than I had dared or imagined.
A conversation can flip at any time – are we ready and saying yes?
Bill Hybels says “People were Jesus One Thing. And they still are. People who are sick. People who are lonely. People who are wandering, depressed and hopeless. People who have gotten themselves tangled up in suffocating habits and destructive relationships.”
God has positioned you with people. People He loves. People who need Him.
Our YES is the catalyst for God to move.
- Let go of assumptions
Let me give you a little bit of background about Nineveh. NINEVEH was the famous capital of ancient Assyria in seventh century BC, a economic and trade hub for the Assyrian empire. Its ruins can be found in modern day Iraq. It was also famous in the ancient world because it was a centre for the worship of Ishtar (Astarte) the fertility goddess. The Assyrians brought many scientific, philosophical and practical advances to humanity including many inventions that we take for granted today. Everyday most of us lock our doors when we leave the house, locks and keys were invented in Assyria. They also invented a system that kept time and ascribed 360 degrees to a circle. They are given credit for inventing paved roads, the first postal system, the first use of iron, the first libraries, the first plumbing, flush toilets and aqueducts.
Jonah saw Nineveh as a barbaric terrorist state – the Assyrians were their worst enemy – but God looked at Nineveh and marked them for repentance and salvation. Jonah had a history of assumptions about the people of Nineveh that made him turn and run away. His assumptions closed his heart to the possibility and potential of God to move and reach them THROUGH his preaching.
Just as in Hosea 1 it says about the people of Israel – In the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people”, they will be called “children of the living God”. Hosea 1:10
In a way Jonah looked at Nineveh and said THEY ARE NOT MY PEOPLE. That’s not my calling! They are not my target demographic! I don’t relate to them! I have nothing in common with them! I am not going to THEM! He may have looked at them and said “they don’t need God, they don’t want God, they are doing things their way.”
How often do we consciously or subconsciously put people into that box. They won’t want to listen. They don’t care about spiritual things. They’ll make fun of me. They are too messed up. They’re not messed up enough. They’ve got it all together.
But the reality – the true assumption we can make – is that everyone needs to know about God’s love and grace for them. Without it they go to an eternity without God. For eternity.
Which brings me to my next point.
- It is God who saves
We can feel inadequate and feel that the person is unreachable but it is not our job or our role to save someone. That is what Jesus does. Jesus does it all from beginning to end. Jesus draws, Jesus compels, Jesus saves. Our role is to speak and to share the message of good news. To go and tell. When we go and tell God saves. Now you may think to yourself, but Claire, not every time I talk to someone about church or God do they do the full “what must I do to be saved” thing. True. That is because people are on a journey. God is at work through EVERY conversation.
Paul puts it like this in 1 Cor 3:7 It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.
God did something incredible at Nineveh. The whole city cried out to God for mercy and forgiveness. God is the hero of the story. He is the hero of our story.
We forget the big picture. We forget God’s great love.
Today I want to encourage you to be a yes person, to be aware of the people God has positioned in your life on purpose and to catch His heart beat for salvation. Be intentional in going into your world and having conversations about God.
Back to the chocolate milk. Hopefully the link inspires and challenges you. We have no problems spreading the good news of chocolate milk… We have tasted and seen that the milk is good. let us in the same way have such a heart and perspective when it comes to the glorious gospel. Taste and see that God is good and then tell everyone about it.