MARCH 20 2016

Four Circles


            “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

(Luke 12:35-40 ESV)




In this passage the disciples are instructed by our Lord to do three things:


  • Stay dressed for action
  • Keep their lamps burning
  • Be waiting with anticipation by being awake.


The Lord Jesus is coming again. We do not know when and neither can we know. He could come at any time. Not only could he come at any time, but Jesus said plainly in verse 40 that he would come at a time when we do not expect him to come.


Are you expecting Jesus to come back this week on Wednesday? No, you are not. Well, this very well means that he could come this Wednesday! Or, next weekend. Or, next month. Or, next year. We do not know. Yet, we ought to be waiting with anticipation. We ought to be awake. This means to be alert to his coming and active in the Lord’s work.


We are to keep our lamps burning. The lamp is our human spirit and the oil which keeps it burning is the Holy Spirit. The way to remain active in the Lord’s work and to prevent slumber is to be burning with the Holy Spirit! Fan into flame the gift that has been both bequeathed and given to you if you belong to Christ.


Since Jesus commands that we keep our lamps burning, this indicates that there are things that we can do, that we must do, to have the Spirit stirring within us. Things like practicing solitude, reading and praying through the Scriptures, fellowshipping with the church, calling on the name of the Lord!


If we do not keep our lamps burning:


  • our light will die out,
  • we will fall asleep;
  • then, we will not be ready when he comes.

We are to stay dressed for action. What does it mean to stay dressed? Of what action does the Lord Jesus refer? The action is that which he has called us to do. So, what has he called us to do? He has called us to do more than one thing and all of the matters to which we have been called are good, good for us, and good for those around us. They are good because God is good!


He has called us to love Him above all things and all persons. But that is a disposition of the heart. Here, Jesus speaks of action. We have been called to do certain things. Two of those things are found in this chapter: caring for the needy and acknowledging Christ before others. Both take a certain measure of sacrifice. While caring for the needy demands some of our time, acknowledging Christ may require a tad bit more preparation.  Not much, but enough that we, as His people, need to be equipped for it.


Jesus asked us to stay dressed for action. I want us to get dressed this morning. Let’s not go out of our houses in our pajamas. Let’s get dressed.


A few weeks ago some members here were able to attend the Missouri State Evangelism Conference in Spingfield. Josie and I were privileged to attend. One of the sessions was entitled Three Circles. The speaker emphasized the fact that there was nothing special about the three circles and that the attendees should feel free to accommodate the illustration that he used as they saw fit – adding, subtracting, etc. This is what I have done. I have added a circle and am calling this presentation the Four Circles.


I am excited about it mainly for one reason: it is so very simple  and so very easy to remember! We have had evangelism training here before and have used more than one way to share the gospel. There is the Romans Road. The Romans Road is not only a well-used method but it is a sound method. Many have been brought to faith through its presentation. It consists of reading four verses with someone out of the book of Romans. They are 3:23, 6:23, 5:8, and 10:9-10.  As you read each verse you may ask a question or provide just a little explanation. The advantage to the Romans Road is that one does not have to hop all over the Bible like some other methods. You stay in the letter of Romans and the first three verses are all close together.


Another, even simpler method is the Bridge Illustration. This uses just one verse, again from Romans: 6:23. It is a method that has been popularized by both Campus Crusade for Christ and the Navigators.


The only disadvantage to these methods is that they do require some memory work. You have to remember where the four verses are in the Romans Road and you have to remember the symbols in the Bridge Illustration. Moreover, unless you’ve memorized the verses (that would actually be a good thing to do!), you need to have a New Testament with you.


I am of the opinion that a disciple of Christ should both always have a New Testament with them (in their car or bicycle if not on their body) and have many verses memorized. But the fact is that most do not.


This is why I am excited about the four circles! You do not have to know any Bible verses at all to use it. And, it is so simple that anyone, even Genevieve, can learn it in a matter of minutes! Not only learn it, but remember it easily.


Why is it so easy? Because it is nothing more than every Christian’s experience and it is conversational. It is something we can talk about without effort. In fact, the subtitle of the little booklet that was passed out at the session is “3 Circles: Life Conversation Guide.”


Jimmy Scroggins, the author and speaker, shared an experience that he had when he was travelling. He was sitting next to a woman and they started talking. She shared with him a great struggle she was having. She was going through a difficult time and she was telling him about it. He listened with compassion. When she was done he asked her if he could share with her an insight that he had that was an answer to her struggle. She said “yes,” and he showed her the circles.


We live in a broken world, surrounded by broken lives, broken relationships, and broken systems. This brokenness is seen in suffering, violence, poverty, pain, and death around us. It also results in disappointment, disillusionment, and discouragement.


Brokenness leads us to search for a way to make life work.


In contrast to this brokenness, we also see beauty and purpose around us, although it may be hidden at times.


The Bible tells us that God created a world that worked perfectly, where everyone and everything fit together in harmony.


God made each one of us, made you, with a purpose: to love him, walk with him, and glorify him.


[Draw a circle and write in it: God’s Design]


Life doesn’t work when we ignore God and his design for our lives. We selfishly insist on doing things our own way. The Bible calls this sin. We have sinned and distorted the design.


[Draw an arrow with the word “SIN” over it.]


The consequence of our sin is separation from God in this life and forever. Separation from God now leads to brokenness.

[Draw a circle and write in it: Brokenness.]


When we realize that life is not working, we begin to look for a way to fix it. We usually go in many directions, trying different things.


[Draw short, squiggly arrows going out of the circle.]


Brokenness leads to realizing a need for something greater.


We need a remedy. We need good news. This “good news” is the gospel given by God and proclaimed by Jesus Christ. The word “gospel” just means good news.


[Draw a circle and write in it: Gospel]


The good news is that God did not leave us in our brokenness but made a way out. Jesus, God in the flesh, came and died for our sins on a cross. He took some people’s sins away at the cross and was then raised from the dead to prove that is what he, indeed, did!


I said that he took some people’s sins away. Whose? Those who would do two simple things: repent and believe.


[Draw an arrow from Brokenness to Gospel and write: Repent & Believe]


Repent means to turn away from our sin and commit to live for Christ. Believe means to trust in a Person – Christ, who He is and what He did. We stop trusting ourselves and trust Jesus.


When we repent and believe we experience new life and a new direction as God begins restoring us to his original design. Our brokenness will be mended by God.


Say: Now that you have heard the good news, God wants you to respond to him. Do you desire to respond to God?


[If yes, draw a circles and write in it: Baptism]


In the New Testament the way that people responded was by being baptized. Just like it is easy for a man to say he loves a woman (maybe to get something he wants from her), it is another thing altogether to vow to fidelity all the days of his life and give her a ring. That vow and ring, of course, represents the covenant of marriage.


Likewise, it is easy for people to say a prayer. But, just as it is easy to say words to people without genuine commitment, it is easy to say words to God without genuine commitment. Baptism is a formal declaration that you mean what you say and that you have begun a new life – that you have identified with a Person, Jesus Christ, who mends our brokenness.


[Draw an arrow from Gospel to Baptism and write Obey & Identify]

We respond to the gospel by obeying in baptism. Peter commanded “Repent and be baptized,” as did Jesus before him (Mark 16:16). Hence, baptism is showing that we obey. It is a demonstration that our repentance is real. Baptism also identifies us with our Savior.  Paul wrote in his letter to the churches in Galatia: 


            For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

(Galatians 3:27 ESV)


Then, we are filled with the Holy Spirit to live the design that fulfills who we were meant to be.


[Draw an arrow from Baptism back to the original circle, God’s Design and write on it: Recover & Enjoy]


Belief, repentance and baptism leads us to recovering God’s design for us. As we experience returning to the way we were meant to live, we experience joy in our journey. Design in place of degradation. Joy in place of sorrow.


One way to end such a conversation is by saying something along these lines: Hearing the gospel by itself is never enough to rescue us from our condition. We must respond. If you are ready to respond I can pray with you right now and we can baptize you at your earliest opportunity. Would you like to pray together?


[Divide congregation into five groups. Pass out the four circles. Ask volunteers to practice it in their groups.]


[Reconvene after about 15 minutes.]


Becoming familiar with the circles is being dressed for action. This is the first step in being ready for the Master when he comes. Let us also keep our lamps burning and be waiting with joyful anticipation.