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Matthew 28:18-20 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 5:13-16 13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Mark 10:16-“He took them in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them.”

Silent Prayer

Well, I guess I had a car accident. I didn’t realize it until 24 hours after it happened. I had just gotten on I-64 to go to the next exit, the Teays Valley exit. I was headed to the hospital to visit someone. A semi a few hundred feet in front of me had something break off of it. It came toward me, hit the lower front of my van and made quite a “boom.” I knew contact had been made, but honestly I forgot about it by the time I got to the hospital just about two short miles later.

It wasn’t until the next day when I thought, “You know I probably ought to look at the front end of my van and see if there is a scratch or anything on it.” Scratch?! Here is the front end of my van! My entire front bumper had cracked and whatever hit me went up under my van and did damage there too. In fact, when I got my van to the collision center they told me it wasn’t even in drivable condition even though I had been driving it for 24 hours by that time! It did several thousand dollars-worth of damage.

That impact happened to be a negative one. It rearranged my whole front end and altered the next week of my life as I drove a rental car while it was being fixed. I couldn’t not acknowledge the impact. I had to consider the impact. I couldn’t take or leave the impact. I couldn’t ignore it. Changes had to be made to my vehicle as a result of the impact. And while that’s not the kind of impact I want to talk to you about it does make my point. We want to impact people in such a way with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His love that they cannot just take or leave Him. They can’t just ignore Him. They will be forced to consider the impact of His love and make the necessary changes.

This is the Year of Impact. We want to collide with our culture. We want to leave a mark on people’s lives. We want to alter people’s circumstances. We want to press into people in such a way as to change unbelievers’ ideas about God and His people. We want to have an effect that makes a permanent change in people’s lives. In short, we want to do the ministry of Jesus. We want to make a positive impact.

A Thanksgiving Day editorial in the newspaper told of a schoolteacher who asked her first graders to draw a picture of something they were thankful for. She thought of how little these children from poor neighborhoods actually had to be thankful for. But she knew that most of them would draw pictures of turkeys on tables of food. The teacher was taken back with the picture Douglas handed in a simple childishly drawn hand.
But whose hand? This class was captivated by the abstract image. “I think is must be the hand of God that brings us food,” said one child. “A farmer,” said another, “because he grows the turkeys.” Finally when the others were back at work the teacher bent over Douglas’s desk and asked whose hand it was. “It’s your hand, teacher,” he mumbled.

She recalled that frequently at recess she had taken Douglas, a scrubby, deserted child, by the hand. She often did that with the children. But it meant so much to Douglas. Out of all the things he could he been thankful for thanksgiving, he was most thankful for his teacher’s hand. (http://www.biblecenter.com/illustrations/serving.php)

It was that personal touch that made a profound impact on that little first grade boy! People today are in need a hand that reaches out to them with love of Christ.

Too many Christians have adopted the attitude that we are fighting a losing battle when last time I checked Jesus had already won the war! Yes, it has gotten tougher to live a Christian life, but we cannot abdicate our ability and responsibility to be cultural shapers and game changers. Our American culture says it is “ok” to be a Christian as long as my life doesn’t have to impact anyone else’s if they don’t want it to. Too many Christians have been boxed in and “put in their place” and resigned from the opportunity to make an impact. Why are we taking our orders from the culture instead of Jesus? We are we willingly sitting in the corner when we are to be intentionally out in the streets in order to impact the culture for Jesus? Jesus isn’t outdated, and we are not without hope to see sweeping reform in our culture today.

Christianity has had more impact on history and society than any other religion or enterprise. Time is measured by the birth of Christ. There is BC and there is AD.

The idea of human rights and equality comes not from the edict of an earthly ruler or the will of the people, but it is straight out of the Bible. Christianity has freed women from being property of a husband to equals created in the image of God.

It is Christianity that has upheld that children are a gift from God and should be treated as precious. In Ancient Greece, infanticide was not only legal, but it was laudable. It was the early Christian movement that ended the killing of infants. Even today, the pro-life movement is largely Christian. A Christian document called the Didache, which dates from the late first century actually contained instructions against abortion. The first century! The earliest of Christians were pro-life game changers in that culture!

While unfortunately Christians did own slaves as the Bible was distorted to support slavery for a time, Christians were the first people in history to oppose slavery systematically. Early Christians purchased slaves in the markets simply to set them free.” (Glenn Sunshine-“Why You Think the Way You Do”) Also, many Christian activists helped put an end to slavery. Many historians credit William Wilberforce, the British evangelical Christian, as the MAIN person to help end the international slave trade which happened before the American Civil War. 2/3 of the members of the American abolition society in 1835 were Christian ministers!

It has been documented that after the death and resurrection of Christ, organized charity in His name became prolific. For Jesus Himself had emphasized helping the poor. The Good Samaritan parable He told is still a classic part of our language today. The Mother Teresa’s, the Salvation Army, the religious hospitals, and the church soup kitchens and thrift shops speak every day of the commitment of Jesus to raise the standard of living for the poor. Even the generous character of Santa Claus can be traced back to the spirit of the Christ-child.

The idea of education for the masses and the promotion of literacy had its roots in Christianity during the Protestant Reformation as the Bible was translated into many languages by Christians. It was the Puritans who enacted the first law that all should be educated. The law was called “The Old Deluder Satan Act” which was a reference to Satan. The Puritans believed Satan could get a foothold into people’s lives because of their ignorance of the Bible, and boy were they right. Therefore, part of the compulsory education was training in the Scriptures, and literacy in general was a huge priority. All but one of the first 123 colleges in colonial America were Christian institutions! While those schools have moved away from those roots, Christianity was their foundation. Even Harvard was founded on this statement: “Let every student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life, John 17:3.”

There is no doubt that our Laws and our checks and balance system in our government were all rolled out of the principles of Scripture. 50 of the 55 signers of the US Constitution were Christians.

Even science has its roots in Christianity. Almost all the founders of modern science including Keppler, Boyle, Pascal, Pasteur, and Newton were Christians.

I could go on to detail how Christianity has influenced art, music, literature, and architecture, but time won’t permit it. The impact of Christianity on history and culture is simply undeniable. At times it was a movement of people. At times great change was ushered in by the courage of one or a few. History also shows us that where there was no stronghold of Christianity in a society, the atrocities in those places have been magnified many times over. For example, the regimes of Hitler, Mao, Stalin, and Pol Pot were basically atheistic bloodbaths. Well over 100 million murders resulted from those leaders who had no faith in God.

The verse we read in Mark’s Gospel talks about the loving, but direct way Jesus impacted people’s lives. In this verse the impact happened to be on children. Jesus reached out to them. There was an embrace that He made possible. He made a move toward them. He drew them close, taking them into His arms, and then He blessed them. They left His presence different. Jesus blessed them in order that hope could grow in their hearts and lives. He blessed them in order to heal and help them. He blessed them in order to encourage them and instill confidence in them so that they could dream dreams and become difference makers themselves.

Oh, the impact of the reach of God through Jesus Christ! It was a reach to rescue them. It was a reach to restore them. It was a reach that would enable them to be released to go make an impact on their world.

Our church has earned a reputation. We have made a good impression on our community. But how do we measure our true impact? How many people have we reached to in an effort to restore them and release them to become full disciples of Jesus and live their best possible life? How many lives have been truly transformed through our ministry? A good reputation is a good thing, but this is the year that we focus not on reputation, but on reclamation. It is time to take back what the devil is stealing from people. It is time to bring the Gospel so close and personal into people’s lives that they are forever altered. It is time to rearrange people’s ideas about God and the church by making the kind of intentional impact Jesus did.

Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. The Church of God has a shelter for children in Cuttack, India that our church has supported. The Shelter was started over 100 years ago to rescue children out of poverty and to keep them from being sold into the sex trade as slaves. Ratani Mallick was raised at The Shelter. She was taken there when her father died of tuberculosis and her mother was unable to care for her. She was just 6. The year was 1995.

Ratani was nurtured, fed, educated and cared for. Today, she has earned her Masters degree in social work and is seeking employment in that field. She is working today at The Shelter now giving back to young children who need to know they too can have a future hope. She was rescued. She was restored. She has now been released into ministry to do the works of Jesus!

We aren’t just to have a little impact, or a community impact or a state impact, but Jesus commissioned the disciples and all who follow Him to have an impact on the world. Matthew 28 tells us we are to “Go into all of the world” and have an impact. Now, beyond sending resources around the world, it would be impossible for every one of us in this room to go into every part of the world, right? So what did Jesus mean? What could we understand our role to be?

I believe Jesus wants us to live our lives in such a way that we have a maximum impact on those around us.

Are our educational facilities more safe, more peaceful, and more filled with truth because we work and go to school there?

Are the businesses where we earn a living more reputable because we work there?

Are our neighborhoods places of mutual support and encouragement because we live there?

One statistician has said:

  • 91% of the world’s population has heard of coke.
  • 74% have seen coke
  • 51% have tasted
  • 10% of the world’s population has heard the Gospel. (Source unknown)

Is that the church having a maximum impact on the world? Jesus compared us to salt and light in Matthew 5:13-16.

Salt impacts the food it comes into contact with. Light impacts the darkness. Both have transforming powers. Light doesn’t just make the darkness better. It transforms it. Salt doesn’t just make food better. It transforms or changes the taste. It is noticeable when a light is turned on in a dark room. It is noticeable when salt is applied to food that has none. Our impact on this world is also supposed to be noticeable. Light points the way so that people can follow a certain path. How effective is your life to guide people to the path of Life through Jesus Christ?

Salt is a preservative. It keeps food from rotting. Light and darkness are opposites. Salt and rotting food could be said to be opposites. Those metaphors were used for a reason. They were used for their stark contrast to each of their opposites on purpose. Christians aren’t supposed to blend in. We aren’t to be conspicuous. We are to stand out. People should be able to point to me and say, “She is a Christian” because of the way I am salt and light.

The point of all of those OT Laws wasn’t to make the Israelites’ lives hard or miserable, but it was to highlight the fact that God’s people are to live dramatically different from the rest of the world. They weren’t to live like the Egyptians who had held them captive. They weren’t to live like the Canaanites who inhabited the Promised Land before them. This theme of God’s people being different is reiterated in the New Testament in multiple places, but let me share where God spells it out very clearly. It is in Matthew 6:8, right after the chapter on being salt and light. It’s even a red-letter passage. You know what that means? The red letters are the words of Jesus! Jesus referenced pagan people in Matthew 6:7, non-Christian people. He then said as verse 8 opens, “Don’t be like them.” The emphasis isn’t so much what pagan people are, but what we are not to emulate and how we are to be different in an effort to make an impact on those around us.

On this first Sunday of 2015, I ask you, “Do you just want to be on the team or do you want to be a game changer?” It won’t matter one bit what happens in here every Sunday during our “Holy Huddle” if the plays being called for aren’t being enacted out on the field.

There is a miracle in the making that started about a month ago. It was ramped up this week as someone in our congregation took bold steps to leave a lifestyle that didn’t glorify God or edify them. Part of their bold decision was the role you, as a church, have played in their life. There were two things this person shared with me that stood out. 1. They said they felt accepted as they were when they came here even though it wasn’t where God wanted them to be. 2. They had tried to make changes before but didn’t have the support they needed to do so. As they leave this old lifestyle behind they feel they now have the support of a church family. Acceptance (love) and the challenge and support to change. That is IMAPCT! Glory to God!

What would happen if this year we looked for ways every day to make a life-altering impact in someone’s life?

How can you make an impact in your home and on your extended family?
How can you make an impact in your school or place of business?
How can you make an impact in your neighborhood?
How can you make an impact on your friends?
How can you make an impact on strangers?

What would happen if, as a result of one of our efforts, a homeless person could gain housing? What if a scared pregnant teen chose life and we paid for whatever the needs were during the pregnancy and beyond? What if an illiterate person was taught to read? What if someone was helped to study for and attain their GED? What if we were able to come alongside a family that was about to lose their home and assist them in keeping it? What if we were able to mentor a troubled teen and encourage them to stay in school? What if a young girl was rescued out of prostitution? What if someone who was considering suicide was befriended and prayed for? What if we made a life or death difference for someone? What if we saw people not just connect with us through church, but we saw them transformed out of lives of addiction and other sinful bondages? How can we change history and how can we create the kind of history that proves knowing and following Jesus is the best, most powerful and peaceful way to live?

This year we will have IMPACT CARDS in our west lobby. If you made an impact or you witnessed an impact, every week when you come in, please fill out of a card and attach it to the cross there. We want to celebrate the ways God is making an impact in and around us in our community.

While the tide of culture would suggest we should stand back, stay put, and keep our distance, I am praying 2015 will be the year of collision, the Year of Impact. I want us to run into people on purpose  with purpose. If you are committed to bringing transformation and change, if you are “all in” with me to see this culture shaped by the love and grace of Christ, if you are willing to look for ways to bring about change in someone’s circumstances in an effort to point them to Christ, come kneel or stand and pray with me that this year will be the biggest Year of Impact TVCOG has ever known.


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