New Hope Notes

Change Agents
Life Essentials

Pastor Elwin Ahu
July 12, 2009 - W0928

As members of New Hope, how would you describe us? The Bible answers, "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness... [it] is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world . . . let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (Matt. 5:13-16 NIV)  In other words, we are change agents and we should be influencers and positive transformers of the world. Why do you think it is important for us to be reminded of this?  Because sometimes we forget who we are and sometimes we compromise our Christian values. We tend to develop what I call a consumerism theology. This is when we believe that since God is OUR Lord and Savior, that He exists to provide for our needs and wants. And if He does not, then He is disposable. But God says no, that is not it. We are the salt of the earth and are here to serve in transforming the world.

 

Keeping your Christian values to yourself is like putting salt in a container and then not using it. You have to use it for it to have value. You have to put salt on a steak to enhance its flavor. You have to put Hawaiian salt on Ahi to make the poke taste ono.

But too much salt can ruin a dish. We should give just so much of our Christian self to the world to change it without being overbearing.

 

We are the light of the world. If we turn a light bulb on in an already lit room, it makes little difference. But it makes a big difference if we turn the light on in a dark room because light influences darkness Ė not the other way around. If we open the door between a light and dark room, the dark room lights up without the lit room darkening.

Someone once said that a church is like manure - if you pile it all together in one place it just stinks. But if you spread it around, things begin to grow and it influences the world.

We should ask ourselves, if our church left this community, what would this community say? Would it be good riddance or would it be sorry to see us go because we had been a positive influence on the area and people.

 

According to a survey, our image as Christians has been slipping. People ages 16-29 have become increasingly skeptical about us. About a decade ago it was generally believed that Christians did good things for the community. Today only 3% expressed favorable opinions of evangelistic Christians like New Hope Fellowship. They said that we are judgmental, hypocritical, old fashioned and too much into politics. People say that Christianity has changed Ė that we no longer look like Jesus. So are we losing our flavor or our saltiness?

 

Studies like that seem to be trampling Christianity down. You can get mad or you can Ö 

 

 

1.      Let your LIFESTYLE speak louder than your words.

Remember, the world is looking for authenticity in Christians, so "[In] all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us." (Titus 2:7-8) The Gospel can be canceled out in the eyes of others by how sinfully we live.

 

There was a letter sent to New Hope around Easter expressing that thought. It said that God would not long bless our church if we did not change our ways. The writer wrote that he had first been invited to New Hope by a couple that were living in sin and that did not change even though they were New Hope members for years.

 

Lifestyles mean a whole lot. Your lifestyle honors the credibility of the Gospels or steals from the credibility of the Gospels in the eyes of others. So "Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you . . . they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God . . ." (1 Pet. 2:12)

 

New Hope member and family man Eric Hanaoka lives his beliefs to the fullest. He has faithfully served as a New Hope volunteer cameraman for years and his daily dream is simply to serve God and to love and be with his young family. He has been dying of cancer for some time now. Yet he continued doing those very things he loved. In fact, when finally told that he only had months to live and so he should start doing everything he ever wanted to do with his life in the little time he had left, he said he was already doing it Ė serving God and loving his family.

 

Eric has since stopped chemotherapy because the cancer is too far advanced and is simply on pain medications. One of his last wishes was to be water baptized with his young family. With the help of his New Hope family, he was helped into the water and his family was baptized with him.

 

Ask yourself, how have YOU been an influence on your family and community? By living his beliefs, people saw God through Eric.

 

So how else can we change and be agents of change?

 

 

2.      Don't allow your PAST to limit your FUTURE.

 

How many of you are glad that we have a God of second chances? We all should be because He is and prophet Isaiah was glad. The Bible says, "Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand... and touched my mouth with it and said, 'Behold... your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.' Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?' Then I said, 'Here am I. Send me!'" (Is. 6:6-8) Isaiah was the first to volunteer after God took away his sins and gave him a second chance. So do not let the past stop you from changing and living Godís best life for you.

 

It seems that as we live our lives we see things through windows and sometimes the windows we look through have negative messages written on them that say we are losers or are hopeless. But our past should not define our future. God will erase all your sinful past if you let Him. So erase all your bad windows and begin anew. As the Bible says, "Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new. Now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it?" (Is. 43:18-19)

 

God always puts new opportunities before us. New Hope member Jackie Bissen never gave up though she made many major mistakes in her life. She began marijuana drug use at an early age. She got caught stealing from her bank and became addicted to drugs and alcohol and became homeless. Finally, she was put in prison but found God while there. As a new Christian she hoped for a lighter sentence when her parole hearing date finally arrived.  She was disappointed and devastated when they gave her the much longer 6 years in prison instead. But later when asked if that disappointment meant she would give up on God, she said no and remained faithful. Today she is free and helps children of parents in prison. Jackie received Godís gift of saving and so is now giving it to others.

So how else can we be agents of change?

 

 

3.      Treasure what you've received, but GIVE IT AWAY.

 

The value of Godís gifts to us is somehow diminished if we do not give it away to others. If we value the Gospel then we should want give that value to others. As it is written, ďBut when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.Ē( Titus 3:4-8 (NIV)

 

So remember, it is not our good deeds that saved us but Godís mercy. We need to do something with Godís gift of saving. We should give it away to others so that it is profitable for everyone. Accordingly, "We know what real love is because Jesus gave up His life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion-how can God's love be in that person? Dear children, let's not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions." (1 John 3:16-18 NLT)

 

Pastor Roy Yamamoto, our prison ministry pastor, is grateful to the Lord for being able to help prison inmates. He was invited back to Saguaro Correctional Center in order to water baptize 132 inmates but even went miraculously beyond that by baptizing 32 more inmates from the maximum security section where the real hardcore prisoners are held. The warden was totally amazed. The bad incident rate went down by 100%. It was a miracle that these hardcore inmates could come out to be baptized because they normally are locked in their cell for 23 Ĺ hours a day. But it was amazing to see how many were sorry for their mistakes and wanted to start over.

 

Why does Pastor Roy do this tremendously difficult task? Because of Godís grace that saved him from his own prison sentence. He wants to give that gift away to other inmates.  He gets joy from seeing people come to the Lord. It is like having life rafts in a storm.  Should you keep them to yourself or give them to others so that they too can be saved?

 

God provides many opportunities to give away what you have received from God. Find a place because you are the salt of the earth and the light of the world and you need to be spread around.

 

You Christians are the salt of the earth and the light of the world so you need to be sprinkled around and your light needs to extinguish darkness everywhere. Let your lifestyle speak louder than your words. Do not allow your past to limit your future. Treasure what you have been given by God but give it away to others so that they too may be saved.

 

 

DISCUSSION SUGGESTIONS

 

1.      Why are we called the salt of the earth?

2.      Why is your lifestyle more important than your words?

3.      How can you prevent your past from limiting your future?

4.      Why should you give away your gifts?

5.      How can we prevent ourselves from being overbearing when we spread ourselves around?

6.      How can you improve your lifestyle to reflect your Christian beliefs?

7.      Why does God not give you what you want?