Carry This Message to Others

This Sunday, find out why carrying a message of hope and love is essential for your own growth and fulfillment. Join us as we unpack the practical ways to share with people what Jesus is doing in your life and how it can impact those around you.

This is the last message in our series Practicing the Way of Jesus.

We started this series eight weeks ago and we’ve looked at practices that allow us to arrange our lives around following Jesus.


We said the foundation is to surrender my life and will to the care of God — “Not my will, but yours be done.”

Then, I renew my mind by reading the Bible — allowing the thoughts and words of God to shape the way I think.

Then, I talk with God constantly, asking, “God, give me the knowledge of your will for this moment and the strength to carry it out.”

Then, we move from me to we and do live together in community.

Then, I invite another person to hold me accountable to my commitments, and values, and to the life I want to live.

Then, we confess to those we’ve wronged and to God so that we can live in forgiveness and grace.

Last week we talked about how one of the most important parts of the way of Jesus involves trials, pain, problems, and suffering. And we need to work out our faith in the ordinary events of life and work, particularly by our patient acceptance of everyday problems. How I understand and deal with suffering has a huge influence on the person I become.


And we said these are not practices we do once and we’re done. These are practices that we do for a lifetime as we try to live out the way of Jesus.


Alright, I want to start today by reading the last of the 12 steps of AA.

We’ve talked about how this series has been informed by the 12 steps, because the 12 steps actually got borrowed from the church, and the church needs them back.

The last step goes like this:

Coming alive to God and his power and presence in my life, I will carry this message to others, both by my example and my words.


So the last practice is Carry this message to others.


And this leads to a great question this week —

What message are you carrying?


Everyone carries a message…

by our body language and our words
by how we spend our time and our money
by how we treat people
by what makes us smile
by what makes us mad
by what makes us cry

On purpose or by accident, for better or for worse, everyone is carrying a message.

A lot of the time, it’s not the one we thought we were carrying.


There’s a designer named Clif Dickens who thought of a unique way to make fun of global brands. He replaced their original slogan with something a little more honest.

Here are just a few:

Ikea: we throw in parts just to mess with you.

Lays: flavored air.

Starbucks: we serve you decaf if you’re rude.

Netflix: spend more time searching than actually watching.

Old Spice: smell like Grandpa.

Maybelline: maybe it’s photoshop

Victoria’s Secret: lowering a woman’s self-esteem since 1977.

Hallmark: when you care enough to give a card mass-produced by a corporation.


Anyway, the point is everyone is carrying a message, and it may not be the one you think you’re carrying.

It could be, “Life is a competition.”
It could be, “I’m a victim. You have to save me.”
It could be, “Image is everything.”
It could be, “I’m too busy for you.”


What message would you like to carry?

That’s what this practice is about.

We’re saying, “Since I have come alive to God and his power and presence in my life (AA calls this a spiritual awakening), I will carry this message to others.”


Now where does this idea come from?


It coms from Jesus.

At the end of his time on earth, even though his disciples still had doubts and were very imperfect, we’re told Jesus undeterred went right ahead and gave his charge.

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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20)

Jesus said to his followers, “I will give you a message worth carrying. Coming alive to God and his power and presence in your life through me, through Jesus, you can carry the message to other people that a living God changes lives and gives people hope.”


One of my favorite poets is Dr Seuss… and my favorite book of his is, “Oh The Places You Will Go.”

Congratulations! Today is your day!
You’re off to great places. You’re off and away.
You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
Oh, the places you will go.


I want to talk to you about why you might want to consider carrying this message.

And two real simple ways we actually carry the message.

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I want to start with the why because it’s extremely important.

We want to carry the message about the love of God through Jesus to people, but the reason you need to be a message-carrier is not the reason that is often talked about in churches.


When AA was getting started, Bill W. had been going through the twelve steps. He did all of this with a little Christian community called the Oxford Group.

They were part of a church, Calvary Episcopal Church in New York with a pastor named Sam Shoemaker who introduced Bill W. to Jesus.

Bill W. did what we’ve been learning about.

He surrendered his life to God.
He came to believe God had the power to change his life.
He turned his life and his will over to the care of Jesus.
He admitted to God, himself, and another human being the exact nature of his wrongs.
He became willing to make amends, and made amends.
And he reserved a time each day for self-examination, bible reading and prayer in order to know God and his power in his life.


After living in these practices, he still had one more discovery to make, which would be the difference between life and death.


Bill was at a hotel in Akron, Ohio. He had been seeking to follow God for some time. He had been sober for some time… but he was lonely.

It was the day before Mother’s Day, and his own mom had deserted him decades earlier.

He stood in this hotel lobby, and there was a bar at one end.

In his loneliness and self-pity, he said, “Oh God, I’m going to get drunk.”


He panicked because he knew this meant death. He knew if this new spiritual pathway did not work for him, he had no hope.


One thought came to his mind.

It’s the strangest thing. The thought that came was, “I need another alcoholic. I need to find another alcoholic. I have to tell my story to another drunk. I have to find someone who needs the help I need.”

He ended up finding — through a church actually — another alcoholic, a hopeless drunk who became known as Dr. Bob.

Bill W. went to see him and stayed with him for hours, telling him his story.

As it happens, Dr. Bob listened to him — the amazing journey he began to go on — and Dr. Bob met the living God.

Dr. Bob got saved, and with the two of them, Bill W. and Dr. Bob, Alcoholics Anonymous was born.

It’s dated June 10, 1935.


Here’s the thing… Bill W. didn’t go to talk to Dr. Bob in order to save Dr. Bob.

Bill W. carried the message because if he didn’t do that, he would get drunk, and he would die.

Now it was enormously helpful. Dr. Bob needed it. But Bill W. needed to carry it for himself.


Here’s the thing. He found this strange dynamic. And this is where we all come in.

When I carry the message to others, when I find someone else who I can tell my story to, when I find another person who has a need where I might be able to help them, something happens inside me.

I get a little less self-absorbed.
My mind focuses more on how I can serve someone else and a little less on my own life and my unfulfilled demands and desires.
I discover this joy that there is meaning and purpose in my life that gives me energy beyond myself.
I have the dignity and even the thrill of being used by God.
I find this strange thing — If I focus inward on me, I do worse, but if I focus outward on others, I do better.

This is true for individuals. It’s true for churches.

I carry the message to others not because they’re weak and I’m strong, not because I’m right and they’re wrong. I do it because there is no healing without helping.


If I don’t carry the message to other people who are on the outside, it will lose its aliveness for me on the inside.

So I carry the message to others. We carry the message to others.


We have this strange resistance to carrying the message though.

Over and over, when God comes to people in the Bible… “Moses, I want you to carry the message.” People resist.


I think in all of the Bible, maybe the patron saint of resistance to carrying the message was a prophet by the name of Jonah.

Does anyone remember Jonah?

One day, the word of the Lord came to Jonah. “Would you go to preach to and reach the people in Assyria… for you fit my criteria?”

Jonah said to the Lord:

I would not go there in a boat.
I would not go there in a float.

I would not go there in a gale.
I would not go there in a whale.

I do not like the people there.
If they all died, I would not care.

I will not go to that great town.
I’d rather choke. I’d rather drown.

I will not go by land or sea.
So stop this talk, and let me be.


That’s the book of Jonah in a nutshell.


A writer actually by the name of Abraham Maslow, a brilliant guy, wrote about what he called the Jonah complex, that we all have this strange tendency to avoid our calling, to evade our destiny.

See, you were born to carry a message to others.

We have this way of saying, “Nope, I’d rather not.”

That’s the Jonah complex.

It happens to people, and it happens to churches.

But not here, not you, not me, not us.


I want to make this practice super simple for all of us to do, and it involves just two activities, and you can do them today.


The first activity is this — you carry the message to other people when you…

Talk to people about what Jesus is doing in your life.

It’s that simple. Just talk to people about what Jesus is doing in your life.

Talk to people in your home.
Talk to people in your neighborhood.
Talk to people at your work or at your school.
Just talk to people who don’t know God.


Now, I know. Especially in the Bay Area where so many people can be so suspicious about religion and churches and faith, this can sound daunting.

Sometimes people don’t do it because they feel inadequate. I know.

People feel like…

Someone might ask me a question I can’t answer.
Or, I’m just not trained appropriately to talk to other people about Jesus.

Here’s the thing. You don’t have to be. You know all you need to know right now. Because you’re just talking to people about what Jesus is doing in your life.


I was thinking this past week if someone were to ask you, “What’s the best sermon that has ever been preached?” what would you say?

If you don’t mind, right now, turn to the person next to you. What is the best sermon of all time? What would you say?


The Sermon on the Mount is actually the one I was thinking about. It’s in the Bible.


What’s the worst sermon that has ever been preached?


I’ll tell you my candidate for the worst sermon that has ever been preached. It also is in the Bible.

I think this may be the worst sermon of all time, and it’s from the book of Jonah.

God calls Jonah to preach to the city of Nineveh.

Now, Nineveh is the capital of Assyria. It wasn’t part of Israel, so the people who live there know nothing about God.

They don’t have the Bible.
They don’t even have the Ten Commandments.
They don’t even know God’s name.

So this is going to be a tough assignment to preach to Nineveh. Jonah is going to have to craft a masterpiece to introduce people to God who don’t know anything about God.

Look what the writer of Scripture says.

Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” (Jonah 3:4)

The end.

That is not a great sermon.

There is no introduction.
There is nothing practical.
There is no application.
It doesn’t even mention the word God. Did you notice that?

“In 40 days, you’re all toast.” That’s his sermon.


Look at the results in the next verse.

The Ninevites believed God. (Jonah 3:5)

The Ninevites repented. The Ninevites changed their lives.


It turns out what someone else is ready to hear matters more than what you’re ready to say.


It turns out it’s better to have an inadequate message about a glorious God than a glorious message about an inadequate God.


It turns out it’s what God does with the words after they leave your lips and before they hit the other person’s ear that counts.


But we just feel like, “I don’t know what to say. I haven’t been trained.”

It doesn’t matter. God is at work.


See, here’s the deal. We don’t carry the message by ourselves. Jesus is involved when we start talking about him.

We have a spiritual awakening because we’re actually experiencing the power and the presence of Jesus in our lives, and we just tell our stories.


Even more than inadequacy, I can tell you from experience the biggest barrier to talking to people about Jesus is fear.

Again, I know. I experience this. I hear this from people all the time — “I’m afraid of what might happen. I would talk to people about Jesus, but I’m afraid.”


Let’s think about this for a moment.

Whenever you’re facing a fear, a super helpful question to ask is, “What’s the worst that can happen? If I’m afraid of something, what’s the worst that can happen?”


Now, in previous eras, when other followers of Jesus would talk about what Jesus was doing in their lives (these are like our brothers and sisters if you’re a follower of Jesus) even though they got ridiculed, rejected, disowned…

Paul got arrested, imprisoned, stoned, shipwrecked, eventually martyred.
John the Baptist lost his head.
James and his brother John got beaten and counted themselves honored to be considered worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus throughout the centuries.

People, real people, flesh-and-blood people no braver than you or me…

They’ve been persecuted for talking about him.
They’ve lost their capacity to make a living.
They’ve had their possessions stolen.
They’ve had their houses burned. This goes on in our world today.
They’ve lost their citizenship, their freedom.
In millions and millions of cases, people have lost their lives.

And it couldn’t stop the church from carrying the message of Jesus to others.


Now, let’s take us.

You’re chatting with someone in the cubicle next to you, and they talk about a relational hardship, and you ask, “Is it okay if I pray for you? I’d like to ask God to comfort you. Is that okay?” What’s the worst that can happen?

You’re talking to a neighbor, and they mention a family member who has substance abuse issues. You say, “You know, we’re talking about that at our church right now. Do you want to come next week?” What’s the worst that can happen?

They might say, “No.” Oh, that would be awful, wouldn’t it? They might say, “No.”


People in the Bay Area hardly ever get arrested for inviting someone to church… not even in Berkeley.

Are we going to be intimidated into message-carrying failure when those who went before us gave their lives so the faith could get passed down to our generation?

I hope not.


Talk to people about what Jesus is doing in your life, or ask someone who’s having a problem, “Could I pray for you?”

Just when you’re talking with someone, and they’re having a difficulty financially or with their health or with their family or something, “Can I pray for you?” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done that.

Often, that’s a first step into a spiritual conversation.

I’ve never had someone even get offended by that, not even say, “No,” to it.

Mention the fact that you’re part of a church.
Tell them what we’re learning.
Invite them to come with you. Better yet, bring them with you and take them out to lunch after.

They might say, “Well, you know, I’m kind of new to the area.” If they say that, say, “Great. This would be a great time to come.”
They might say, “Things are a little bumpy in my life right now.” If they say that, say, “Great. This would be a great time to come.”
They might say, “I don’t know. We have little kids, so it’s kind of chaotic.” Say, “Great. This would be a great time to come. We have a great program for kids. You can drop them off when you come to our church and not see them the whole time you’re there. You can leave them all week long and pick them up again the next Sunday.”


We’re going to celebrate Easter in two weeks.

At the heart of the message we carry is that in Jesus, we find a God loving enough to defeat sin on the cross and strong enough to defeat death in a tomb.

Those of us who follow Jesus know our church does not exist so we can focus on us on the inside. It exists so we can be a blessing to those on the outside. Jesus loves them too, and we have a message to carry.

Maybe this will be the week for someone you know and love, and you get to carry that message.


Talk to people about what Jesus is doing in your life.

If you feel inadequate, that’s okay. You are… but God uses inadequate messages.
If you’re afraid, that’s okay. God uses us when we’re afraid.

There will be people in your life this week who you can carry the message of Jesus to. Tell them your story. Invite them to be with us next week.


2. Give yourself away.


Jesus said in the gospel of Matthew, “…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

It’s so interesting. I was thinking about this with the twelfth step and why we do it.

He didn’t say, “You will be Jesus for the people you help.” He said, “You will find Jesus in the people you help.” “Whatever you do for the least of these brothers, you do for me.”

In other words, we’re not bringing Jesus to them. They’re bringing Jesus to us.


This is what Dr. Bob said after God touched his life. He said,

“The spiritual approach was as useless as any other approach when it came to finding power to be changed if you soaked it up like a sponge and kept it to yourself. The purpose of life is not to get; it is to give.” — Dr Bob


The way things work in the realm of the flesh is when you get something, the only way to keep it is to hold onto it.


I was at In N Out Burger recently with my daughter waiting in line to order. I asked her, “Do you want fries?” She said, “No, I’ll just have some of yours.”

When she said, “I’ll just eat some of your fries,” what do you think I said?

“No way.”

Because what I keep, I get. What I give, I lose.

In the realm of the flesh, the way you keep something is to hold onto it.

In the realm of the Spirit, it is just the other way. When I give, I get back. What I hold for myself, I end up losing. That’s how it is in the realm of the Spirit.


The last time I talked about tithing I got an email from one couple who made a commitment to give ten percent of their income. They just decided they were going to be obedient with their finances.

And they talked about how for the first time in 30 years of marriage, they were working toward the same financial goal.


And after meeting all their expenses while they were tithing, they said, “We only have one question. Where did the tithe money come from?”


They said there was only one explanation — God is a generous God.

The purpose of life is not to get; it’s to give.


I heard from another person who made a commitment to tithe and ended up having an employment opportunity that far exceeded anything on the horizon when they made that commitment and said, “We’re going to trust God and give.”

It’s all part of giving yourself away.


“The spiritual approach was as useless as any other if you soak it up like a sponge and kept it to yourself. The purpose of life is not to get; it is to give.”

That’s why we carry this message to others.


As we’re looking forward to Easter and talking about this last step, I want to close this message with some of my favorite words.

These were written by one of the most important people in the development of the 12 steps. His name was Sam Shoemaker.

He was the pastor of this church, Calvary Episcopal Church in New York. He was the leader in the US of these Oxford Groups.

All of a sudden, after Bill W., these people started showing up in these groups and at his church, just a bunch of drunks. This is way back in the 30s.

They didn’t look good.
They didn’t dress right.
They didn’t act right.
They don’t use polite Episcopalian language.

Some people in the church were not too crazy about this idea, and Sam had to ask himself, “Do I want a bunch of drunks around my church?”

Do you know what his answer was? “Oh, God, yes. Could I be a part of that?”


He wrote these words that will be a rallying cry for us and I hope for you this week.

I stay near the door. I neither go too far in nor stay too far out. The door is the most important door in the world. It is the door through which men walk when they find God.

There is no use my going way inside and staying there when so many are still outside, and they, as much as I, crave to know where the door is, and all so many ever find is a wall where a door ought to be.

They creep along the wall like blind men with outstretched, groping hands, feeling for a door, knowing there must be a door, yet they never find it, so I stay near the door.

The most tremendous thing in the world is for men to find that door, the door to God. The most important thing any man can do is take hold of one of those blind, groping hands and put it on the latch, the latch that only clicks and opens to the man’s own touch.

Men die outside that door as starving beggars die on cold nights in cruel cities in the dead of winter, die for want of what is within their grasp. They live on the other side of it, live because they found it.

Nothing else matters compared to helping them find it and open it and walk in and find him, so I stay near the door.

The people too far in do not see how near these are to leaving, preoccupied with the wonder of it all.

Somebody must watch for those who have entered the door but would like to run away, so for them too I stay near the door. I admire the people who go way in, but I wish they would not forget how it was before they got in.

Then they would be able to help the people who have not even found the door or the people who want to run away from God.

You can go in too deep and stay in too long and forget the people outside the door.

As for me, I shall take my accustomed place near enough to God to hear him and know he is there but not so far from men as to not hear them and remember they are there too outside the door, millions of them.

More important for me, one of them, two of them, three of them whose hands I am intended to put on the latch, so I stay by the door and wait for those who seek it. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of our God.


Everyone carries a message. What’s yours going to be?

Blue Oaks, let’s stand in the door.


Would you pray with me?


Would you take a moment right now and just think about someone in your life who needs Jesus?

Maybe it’s someone in your family.
Maybe it’s a husband or a wife or an ex-spouse.
Maybe it’s a son or a daughter, and your heart just yearns.
Maybe it’s a mom or a dad or a neighbor or a boss or someone who sits in the next desk or cubicle.

Would you say to God right now, “God, help me carry the message. I will carry the message. I’m going to do this twelfth step. I’m kind of afraid. I feel kind of inadequate, but I don’t want the message to die inside of me. I don’t want to just be all preoccupied with myself. I want to carry it.”

God, thank you for the door through which men and women walk to find you, to be found by you. Help us to be a church of people who stay near the door. Help us to carry the message. We ask this in Jesus’ name, amen.