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Exhibiting a loving demeanor
Scripture: Matthew 19:13-15
Track 7 of 12 in the Being with Him means Looking Like Him series
Running time: 28 minutes, 43 seconds.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Sermon for Sunday, April 18, 2004
"Exhibiting a Loving Demeanor"
"Being With Him Means Looking Like Him"
(Matthew, 19:13-15)
Copyright 2004 G. Charles Sackett

Two years ago, if you remember right, we had our whole entire back wall of the entry area covered with fish net and kind of funny, almost orange colored fish with names on them. We had literally taken the entire area phone book, torn it into pieces and asked people to pray for everybody in that area of our part of the country. Literally, dozens and dozens of people spending hundreds and hundreds of hours praying for thousands and thousands of people. Thousands of post cards went out from this place simply to announce to the folk that had been prayed for, somebody has been praying for you. I thought it was a remarkable experience and I suspect some of you may have received those post cards in the mail and been reminded that, you, in fact, had been prayed for.

Why would anybody do that? Well, they would do that because they cared about people. They were concerned about them and frankly, we learn that from Jesus. The One who showed ultimate care for people.

You may have noticed that there are a number of posters and things floating around the building today. This is "Prayer Sunday" -- it's not designed to be a day when we are necessarily going to spend the whole morning service praying. It is, in fact, the kick off of our prayer time for our "Stewardship of Life Capital Campaign". You're being invited today to begin praying seriously about where we're headed in this moving forward, growing deeper emphasis upon how to capture our whole life and give it all to God in ways that we may have never thought about giving it before. We're about to unfold, over the next six weeks, plans that have been in the making for the last year or year and a half. Things that many of you have helped create for us. The presence of a new entry area out directly in front of me where there will be lots of space to meet and greet your friends when they come to church. A re-connection between this building and the John Wood building that is not a nice little tin hallway. A way for us to take advantage of the space in the John Wood facility because we're getting that back sometime in the next several months. A way for us to expand the size of this worship space so that we have more space for more people to come to know Jesus. We're inviting you to pray about those issues. In fact, you should have gotten some stuff in the mail this last week. There should have been a letter that looks a lot like this. Now if you're like me, this is laying on a counter someplace with a kind of a mental note that says pick this up sometime and look at it. I mean, after all, it doesn't have a clear window on it. You didn't get a bill and it wasn't a check; so, probably it's in the pile to be looked at later. Now is later.

And with that came this remarkable booklet. Now it's not huge but it does have some really good things in here for you to be thinking about as far as your relationship with the Lord, all of your life, as a stewardship before God. Just some basic devotional material that's presented to you on a daily basis for you just to begin thinking. How is God working in my life? How could he work better?

And when you opened your worship bulletin this morning you should have found in there this prayer calendar. This is a thing for you to put on your mirror or your refrigerator or the bed night, the night bed, whatever that thing is you put there by your bed, wherever you would be most apt to see it. And it says on April the 18th, please pray for the worship team, for Chuck and the message. Now, if you haven't done that already, it may be too late for this service, but if you start now, maybe something good will happen before second service. Would you please take this and put it someplace where you can find it and would you just begin to pray about what God is doing among us. We really do have a significant and deep commitment that we as a people will move forward with the Gospel in this community that more people will have an opportunity to know Jesus and that you and I, alike, will have an opportunity to deepen our faith. Have a stronger relationship with Christ. Frankly, will fulfill the vision of Madison Park which is to look more like Jesus.

Now, why would we do that? Because we care about people. We learned that from Jesus.

It was back in the mid 1970's. I'm guessing since my oldest daughter was born in 1973 and my next oldest daughter was born in 1975. It had to be like that 1975-76 time frame when I learned that in the state of Oregon, if you didn't have something in place that was a legal document, if something happened to you, your children became wards of the court automatically. And since I don't have siblings, it was kind of like, well, they probably would and since Gail's brother was not the parent I wanted for my children. No offense to him. We decided we needed to name somebody in a will of some kind so that they could take care of our children. So we did. We named Jack and Carolyn Osborn as the caretakers of our family should something happen to Gail and me. Only to discover about a week or two after we signed the document to make this all legal, we discovered to our surprise that we were about to have a third child, only to discover about the time we gave birth to our third that she found out that they were going to have a third, to their surprise. So instead of an instant family of four, they faced the possibility of an instant family of six. It just kept getting a little more scary all the time for them. You know you don't just give your children to anybody. We were very careful who we named in our will to be the caretaker of our family. We thought that Jack and Carolyn Osborn were the kind of people that would raise our children in the love of the Lord in a way that we felt like we would be comfortable knowing that, well, frankly, to be real honest with you, we thought they'd probably do a better job than we would. But we weren't going to give our kids up so they were stuck with us as long as we were around.

There's something about Jesus that caused parents to be attracted to him. Did you notice this? Matthew Chapter 19. I don't know if you look ahead and read your bible before you get here, but, the text we're looking at today is Matthew 19. It's just a very brief text, verses 13 - 15 in Chapter 19 in Matthew's Gospel. It's just this little vignette' in the life of Jesus that begins to characterize the kind of person that Jesus was.

Verse 13, Matthew 19 Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them.

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.

Something about Jesus caused parents to say, "Would you touch my baby? Would you pray for my child?" There was something about him that was just "attractive". People were drawn to Jesus. He had the kind of character and demeanor that people felt safe. In fact, at least six different times in the book of Matthew alone it says, people "brought" someone to Jesus. Sometimes it was a person who needed healing. Sometimes it was a child to be prayed for, but people had this sense that you could approach Jesus and he would receive you.

At least four times in Matthew's Gospel the text reminds us that Jesus looked at people and "had compassion" on them.

It seems to me that if we're going to look like Jesus; if, in fact, we're going to fulfill the goal of our congregation to help us become a body of people who look like Jesus; then we're going to need to exhibit that same loving demeanor that Jesus did. That we're going to have to learn to have the same kind of attractive character that Christ had. That people should, in fact, become comfortable in approaching Madison Park Christian Church people with their heart issues. In fact, I would suggest to you that there are some characteristics of what it means to have that kind of attractive behavior, that kind of attractive character. I think one of the things that it says so abundantly is that we are approachable people. In other words, people are not afraid to come to us. That is certainly true about Jesus. In fact, one of the things that's most interesting about Jesus is that the untouchable people, lepers, wanted to be touched by Jesus. Everybody else in their culture demanded that they speak from a couple of hundred feet away. Sorry, unclean, don't approach, don't touch. And yet, Jesus invited them into his presence and they felt like they could walk up to him and expect him to reach out and actually, physically touch them. It's that approachable character that strikes me must have been somewhat like what those early disciples were.

I don't know if you have mental images of those early disciples. I have a number of created mental images of them. But the one thing that really strikes me is how many times people brought people to the disciples so that they could bring people to Jesus. So those disciples must have been exuding some kind of approachable character that allowed people to feel like I can bring them to you.

I gotta be real honest with you. I honestly believe that one of the striking characteristics about the body of people that calls itself Madison Park Christian Church is that we have a whole bunch of people already here who are approachable people, who have this aura that it's okay to come. You know why I say that? Because 1500 people come here every Christmas. They don't come here because there's an ad in the paper. They come here because there's a connection with somebody in the body that has made them feel like, "I'd like to sit at your table for an evening of fellowship and worship."

Fourteen hundred people came here last week to celebrate Resurrection Sunday. Well, that didn't happen because there's a billboard out here saying "Everybody Come to Church". It happens because people like you have made yourself available to other people and they feel comfortable coming and sitting next to you in a pew hearing about the Gospel of Jesus. I think that there are some things about us that are important and I'm grateful for that. I have to confess to you that I'm deeply grateful for that because, quite frankly, well, you know, of all those lists of gifts that are in the New Testament, the kinds of personal things that God places in all of us supernaturally.

My children tell me I have one that's not found in the Bible. It's called the "gift of intimidation". For some reason, and I don't mean for it to be this way. It just has proven to be over the years, it's kinda like people are afraid to come up to me. It's like, somehow, I may, just strike them. I'm not sure. Big sign on me that says, "Don't approach". I want you to know it's not true. The only person I'd hit is Dale. Now him I'm not sure about. I might just have to take him by the lapels. You know there's just something that ought to characterize us that says, "please feel free to come in my presence, come talk."

See, one of the things that I like that we do around here is we take a break in the middle of our worship of singing in order to have the worship of fellowship when we turn around and we hug each other and we shake hands with one another. And, I told you, those who are our guests, please feel free to put your hands up and say "stay away". We all know what that means. You don't have to be received if you don't want to be. But for those of you who are Madison Park regulars, would you please make sure that you put a smile on your face when you turn around and greet those folks around you. Cause you know, there are some times when folks come in here with really heavy burdens and all they really need is a word of kindness today that somebody cared enough to smile and put out a hand and say "Good morning! I'm glad you're here". So don't just turn to your friends. Turn to the folks around you and make yourself an acquaintance. You may discover that there's a future friend sitting right there next to you that's just waiting for you to open up your life and become that approachable person.

Well, I think that not only is the characteristic that we will be approachable people, we're are going to be like Jesus, characterized by compassion. That is certainly true about Jesus. I mean, over and over again, the text says, he was "moved with compassion". You don't have to look at Jesus very long before you realize that he could look at the crowd and have compassion just ooze out. You know, I think it was true of the early disciples, as well. Early in the book of Acts, Peter and James are on their way up to the temple gate. You know, they're on their way in, I assume, for a prayer meeting. That would be my guess. And there's a beggar laying there beside the gate. He's been there for years. He says, "Can I have some money basically?" And Peter says, "I don't have any silver and gold that I can give you but I'll tell you what, I'll give you what I can. And, how about getting up and walking?"

Now I don't know about you. You've probably never done this. Unfortunately I have. Only once in my life, nearly thirty years ago, but I have never forgotten it. I pulled into a parking garage in Seattle, WA and I got out of my car. And in the parking slot next to mine, was a homeless man sleeping in a parking garage and I stepped over him and went on my way. Jesus would have never done that, nor will I ever do it again.

Do you understand this term, "moved with compassion"? That word literally means to have your stomach turn in knots. Does that ever happen to you? You look around at a world situation. You look around at your neighbor. You look around at a friend or a family. You look around your community and all of a sudden your stomach just kind of turns into knots and you say, "we have got to do something about that". I have to do something and sometimes, all you can do is pray. But, sometimes there are other things you can do but it's that sense that inherits the life of any believer who is beginning to take upon themselves the character of Jesus that says, "this cannot continue. We have to address this issue."

I see that happening around here. I think it's already true of many of the people that come to church in this place. They are "moved with compassion" so they do things like volunteer hour after hour after hour to put a warehouse together for our young people. They go down during the week and they help at Walter Hammond or Redmon & Lee. Or they do the, literally, dozens of other things that nobody knows about when they call a friend on the phone or they take a meal to someone. It is that sense that we inherit when we begin to really develop the spirit of compassion that moves us to do something when we see people in need and hurt.

I just read this last week about four or five guys that lived in Chicago when the Promise Keepers thing was at Soldiers Field. They lived up on the north side of Chicago so they hopped in a cab in order to avoid the traffic and instead got caught as these thousands of men tried to make their way into the old Soldiers Field for Promise Keepers. In fact they were hoping to get there early enough to get a really good seat and discovered that the traffic was so bad that they probably ought to just bail out of the cab and walk because they were going to get there quicker. When one of the guys turned to the others and said, "If we get out of the cab right now, our cab driver is going to sit here in this traffic jam and he's not going to make any money because we have gotten him into a spot where he will be sitting here for potentially another hour with no fare." He said, "I suggest that we ride this thing out and we pay him, otherwise we will have caused him to lose money." I wouldn't have thought of that. Huh! I'd a hopped and run but you know, I appreciate what this guy went through.

September 5, 1997 the lady who is known as the "Saint of the Gutter" went to be with Jesus, Mother Teresa who spent her life among the helpless of India. Jimmy Carter, former President of the United States made this comment, "her great humanitarian work, her tireless and selfless devotion to others, her sense of mercy and humility, were beacons of light in this world. Our best homage to her can be to seek and cultivate the goodness within ourselves and others."

I might alter his words slightly and say the best thing we could do to pay honor to a woman of her character is to imitate that kind of compassion.

See, when you're approachable and you have a compassionate heart, then the third characteristic becomes readily clear and abundant, and that is, that we begin to meet people's needs. We don't step over people. We meet their needs right where they are whenever we can. Now that was certainly true about Jesus. We wouldn't have any trouble at all coming up with illustrations of Jesus literally feeding people, healing people, touching people.

Now my wife won't let me listen to country music. But I did discover that there is a country music song out there by John Michael Montgomery. Now I've never heard it. Don't know even know who the guy is but the lyrics got my attention. It's called "The Girl". . . . . . . . . . .familiar with it.

Her parents never took the young girl to church.
Never spoke of his name never read her his word.
Two non-believers walking lost in this world
took their baby with them what a sad little girl. . . .
Her daddy drank all day and mommy did drugs.
Never wanted to play or give kisses & hugs.
She'd watched the tv and sit there on the couch
while her mom fell asleep and her daddy went out
And the drinking and the fighting
just got worse every night.
Behind their couch she'd be hiding
oh what a sad little life. . . .
And like it always does the bad just got worse.
With every slap and every curse
Until her daddy's in a drunk rage one night
Used a gun on her mom and then took his life
And some people from the city took the girl far away
To a new Mom and a new Dad
Kisses & Hugs every day!
Her first day at Sunday school
The teacher walked in
and a small little girl stared at a picture of Him. . . . .
She said I know that man
there on that cross I don't know his name
but I know he's got arms
cause he was there in my old house
held me close to his side. . . .
As I hid there behind our couch the night my parents died. . . .

Is that not the Jesus you know? The Jesus that comes along a little child and puts his arms around her and holds her in the midst of her hardest night, who meets the immediate pressing need of the hour. That's the nature of what it means to be a Christian, to simply meet the daily needs of people. All you gotta do is read the book of Acts to understand that was the early church. . . . .meeting the needs of people. Hungry people. . . .feed them. Do you have to give up property to do it. . . .then you sell your farm and give the money to the church because that's what we need in order to meet the needs of people. Read the first few chapters of Acts. See how that church took care of itself. Read about the churches in Corinth, who, out of their poverty, sacrificed in order for the church in Jerusalem not to starve through the famine. Because the church understood that one of its jobs was to meet people's needs.

The author, Peter Kreeft, has a sign on his wall that says -- it's two turtles talking. One of the turtles turns and says, "Sometimes I'd like to ask why God allows poverty, famine, and injustice when he could do something about it." The other turtle says, "I'm afraid God might ask me the same question."

We can do something about it. We can meet the needs of people around us and it happens here all the time. I don't know if you understand how much of that happens around here. Benevolent offerings that go to people in need. The amount of food cards and gas cards that go out of our office. The people who are put to work doing stuff around the building in order to earn a few dollars to get to the next pay check. The number of times the church has rallied around the family to put on a benefit. The number of times that the men and women in our church have simply taken money out of their pocket to hand to somebody. The fact that we have people who have the privilege like a Deb Tallcott to go to Europe and distribute wheelchairs.

The fact that we have people who volunteer in our inner city. The fact that our moms get together in a group so that they can help each other raise their children or give each other time to have some freedom. Do you understand that we have a personal connection with the local Police department and when there are men who can't find a house for the night, we pay for that housing. Because we believe that the call of the church is to meet the needs of people wherever they are.

Now, why would you do that? Because we care about people. We learned that from Jesus. We watch Him. We look at Him. And all we want to do is just be like Him and that loving demeanor in Jesus has to become the loving demeanor of the church. That's His call. To become more like Him.

And that's what we're really inviting you to do is to pray that you can become like Him. To pray that God will open doors. To pray that God will move us forward. To pray that God will grow us deeper. To pray that, even in the midst of trying to figure out how to better serve our community, we become better disciples in the process. That this never becomes simply about adding space to a building but it becomes primarily about increasing opportunities to be like Jesus and to act like Jesus.

So this morning we're commissioning you to pray. To pray that God will work in, among and through us until we become just exactly like Him -- approachable, compassionate, helpful.

It really is true my friends -- you cannot be like Jesus until you first know Jesus.

Nancy Barry was just telling me this fabulous story before church started. You probably know that her father, Leo Mott passed away Easter Sunday morning. When they took him in to the emergency room, it was the typical clinical questions. One of the questions was this, "Is there someone who you really trust?" I think they were asking about someone who could help make decisions. You know what his response was ? "Jesus, don't you understand that?" It's Jesus! Is that not true of you?

Whom do you really trust? The only acceptable answer my friends is Jesus. If you don't know Him, we desperately want the opportunity to talk to you about Him. If you need to come, if there's a need that we can meet, we invite you to come. If you just want to know about Jesus and you want to initiate that conversation, you may come while we sing. You may find one of us in the hallway, down in the hospitality room, but we want you to know Jesus personally, today.

Will you stand with me while we sing?