Apprentice to Jesus – Thermometer or Thermostat?
Good morning! Let me kick straight off with a question. What’s the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat? Good question. Well just park that for a minute, we’ll come back to that shortly. I want us to go back a week and think about what Pastor Rob said about sharing our faith in Jesus with those around us, where God has placed us. Well, let me just tell you a quick story. My eldest daughter, Bethan, is going to be eligible to start to learn to drive at the end of this year and so is her best friend. The difference between them is that her best friend has an eye condition that has always been getting worse. In fact, it’s so bad that she’s had to have a test to check whether she’s going to be eligible to even begin thinking about driving. Her friends aren’t Christians, but Bethan knows the best thing she can do is to pray. So without them knowing Bethan prayed and she prayed a prayer, something like this “Please Lord, can you help my best friend to drive by letting her be okay and be passed to start to learn, let her eyes be okay”. But then she had a bit more boldness and she asked God and said “But actually, I know that doctor said this will never ever get better but please could you even bring some improvement to her eyes?”. Well, the next day she had a call from her best friend and her best friend said “You’ll never guess what it’s great, I’ve passed the test to be able to think about learning to drive and my eyes are good enough”. Oh, that’s amazing Bethan thought that’s incredible and Bethan was out and just for a walk with a friend and another friend and a couple of them in fact and she was quite excited about this, but then all of a sudden, she got a message through from her best friend that said “Oh, by the way I left something out, I forgot to tell you that they said one of my eyes has even improved, it’s incredible”. At which point Bethan let out a squeal and she even started to cry because she was so happy. A friend started to ask what’s going on, so she shared what had happened that she prayed and shared her faith in Jesus. Those friends just started asking question after question after question and they spent a lot of time talking about Jesus. How incredible is that! You know, we’re called to not just share our faith in Jesus with words, but we’re also called to share our faith in Jesus in the way in which we act.
Let’s get back to that question, what’s the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat? Well, a thermometer is affected by the temperature in the room, it’s influenced. Whereas a thermostat sets the temperature in the room, it’s an influencer. So for us today, we’re going to look at what it means to be a thermostat, because God calls us to affect a change in those around us. We’re going to look at this in three points, but just before we get into those three points, let’s just look at the context of the society in which we find ourselves right now. You know, our present culture really does know the difference between being influenced or being an influencer. In fact, so much so, people have jobs now as an “influencer”, whether that’s in TV, Instagram, or any kind of media because there is power in influencing others for a particular gain. The world says that to be successful, we have to have more likes than anyone else, we have to make more money than anyone else, we have to have more titles, more recognition, people need to know us and recognize us more than anyone else and we need to leave a legacy that says “I’ve been here and I have changed something in the world around me”. That’s at complete odds to what Jesus said. This very series “Apprentice to Jesus” tells you everything you need to know. We’re called to follow him. Jesus said:
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.
John 14:6 NLT
We’ve got to be followers of Jesus and become like Him and die to ourselves. That’s very different to the culture in which we find ourselves.
A quick story, in life I’ve kind of had a moderate level of success that the world would see in qualifications and in business and relationships and sport even. But there’s one time where someone was asking me, a director was saying to me, “we want to promote you”. They started wanting to throw lots of money at me, lots of accolades at me and lots of positions at me. Then I twigged and realised they wanted me to be promoted to actually push out one of my friends and colleagues. I said no and they came back to me with this simple statement “Don’t you want to be a success?” Wow, they thought they get me on that. I said “No. I already feel like I am a success”. It doesn’t matter what I’ve got in terms of qualifications or experience or relationship, I know my brokenness and I know that the only true success that I have is that I’m in God’s hands. That’s not by strength or force or qualification. It’s not by success of the world is actually only through Jesus dying on the cross and the work of the Holy Spirit in my life.
We are called to be thermostats to influence and change the place around us for Jesus and not for ourselves. We’re also called not just to sit back like thermometers and just change with the temperature of the room around us. Let’s look at those three points.
1. Who sets our temperature?
Going back to my science research days, we had all sorts of pieces of equipment in the lab that used to set temperatures, set all sorts of levels, but even they needed a “gold standard” to be set against. It’s the same with us. We might be called to influence others, to change the temperature, to set the temperature in the room or in our communities, but unless Jesus sets our temperature, then it’s all for nothing. I just want us to look at a character, a guy in the Bible from about 2600 years ago, a guy called Daniel in the Old Testament, just as an example of how he set his life by God first and in doing so he was able to affect a huge change amongst kings and a huge nation.
Let’s have a look in the book of Daniel in the Old Testament in chapter one and at the beginning the context of this is that Daniel was part of the of the nation of Judah and they lived in Jerusalem these guys at the time and they were really not following God’s ways. They were not good and so God used the Babylonian King, King Nebuchadnezzar, to come in and to defeat them and take them captive. In Daniel chapter one verses 3 to 6 it says this:
Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief of staff, to bring to the palace some of the young men of Judah’s royal family and other noble families, who had been brought to Babylon as captives. “Select only strong, healthy, and good-looking young men,” he said. “Make sure they are well versed in every branch of learning, are gifted with knowledge and good judgment, and are suited to serve in the royal palace. Train these young men in the language and literature of Babylon.” The king assigned them a daily ration of food and wine from his own kitchens. They were to be trained for three years, and then they would enter the royal service. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were four of the young men chosen, all from the tribe of Judah. Daniel 1:3-6 NLT
King Nebuchadnezzar was being really clever because he knew that if he took some of the top influences of one of the nations that he’d captured and he retrained them and re-educated them into his ways and have them on his team, then he knows their influence will stop a lot of problems that he has from that nation that he’s taken captive. That was his plan, what he didn’t think about was that he had captured God’s people and however much they’ve done wrong, there were many who were still following God and Daniel and his friends were those people. The King notes in verse 20:
Whenever the king consulted them in any matter requiring wisdom and balanced judgment, he found them ten times more capable than any of the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom. Daniel 1:20 NLT
You know, God, when He calls us to have an influence, we can have a huge influence as long as He’s the one who sets our temperature, He’s the one we are influenced by in the first place. Daniel knew this and when he went through a number of different trials and things, he always went back to his friends and said let’s consult what God says about this. He knew where to go, he never got big for his boots, he never thought it was about him. He knew it was always about God
2. We are called to be salt and light
Jesus says this himself and it’s documented in the New Testament in the book of Matthew chapter 5 verses 13 to 16. It’s under a heading called the sermon on the Mount. The reason why it’s called that was because Jesus had taken his disciples, his apprentices, up onto a mountain and started teaching them. We get to this section in verse 13 and Jesus says this:
“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavour? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. Matthew 5:13-16 NLT
Just a couple of take-homes in this point and that’s this – we’re called to be salt. Salt preserves and stops things going bad. We are called to preserve the goodness of God in our society and in the world and we’re to halt the decay that’s going on by doing that. It’s giving more time for people to respond to Jesus and to see Him. We’re called to be light, we’re called to be those who reveal who God is, to be the ones who set the temperature, who show people the way to go, as long as our temperature is set by Jesus. The temperature we are called to set is one of goodness because God is good. In the first few verses of chapter 5 of Matthew, when Jesus begins to teach them, He tells them various things that should demonstrate that goodness. There’s humility, mercy, that we should have pure hearts and we should be those who work for peace.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9 NLT
In Philippians 4:8, Paul says to us that we are to fix our eyes on the things that are good, that are true and honourable, that are right and then he says, keep practicing those things, keep working them out. Don’t just talk about them or just look at them, do it!
3. Who and what has God called us to influence?
This is really important and I want to set up a principle here, that it’s not always about doing the huge thing, or becoming well known. The world tells us to “go big or go home” and yet actually, God says “do it my way and in my time” and often it’s in the quiet places and it’s in the consistency and it’s the continually doing good in every circumstance that we can have an influence well beyond all we can think or imagine.
I want to look at an example of a guy called Barnabas in the New Testament. But first of all, let me tell you about a guy called Saul. He was a man who terrorized the early church, who killed many Christians and imprisoned many others and caused the church to scatter. One day, on the road to Damascus, he was struck by a bright light that blinded him and in that light, Jesus spoke to him. You can imagine many didn’t want to believe that and thought that it was a trap. But we read in Acts 9 verse 26 and 27 something about this guy called Barnabas.
When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to meet with the believers, but they were all afraid of him. They did not believe he had truly become a believer! Then Barnabas brought him to the apostles and told them how Saul had seen the Lord on the way to Damascus and how the Lord had spoken to Saul. He also told them that Saul had preached boldly in the name of Jesus in Damascus. Acts 9:26-27 NLT
Barnabas stuck his head out to vouch for him, but his influence to bring Saul in with the rest of the Christians really had a huge impact because Saul became Paul, and Paul changed the early church phenomenally. And really did affect a huge change for a nation. Barnabas was an incredible influencer by stepping out and not being the big name, but doing what was right, quietly and consistently. Barnabas and Paul became really good friends, they then went out on a mission and we’re called to do so. We see that in Acts 13 but then in Acts 15 they’re called to go back and they want to go back to see a lot of these places that they’ve seen churches started. But they have a disagreement because on their original mission, in Acts 13, they took a guy called John Mark with them and John Mark abandoned them at one point during their mission. So, when they want to go back to these places, Paul is saying “I don’t want to have anything to do with John Mark because the task is my focus”. Whereas Barnabas was wanting to bring John Mark again and say “actually I want to do what’s right by this person, it’s people that matter”. Neither were right or wrong, but the style differences here are clear to be seen, one is someone who knows where they’re going and how they’re going to get there, in Paul, and Barnabas is really interested in restoration of people. What comes from this is incredible, because if Barnabas had just gone with Paul and just abandoned John Mark, then we would have heard no more. But actually, through Barnabas stepping out, originally for Saul himself and then for John Mark, we find that John Mark was the one who wrote Mark’s gospel in the New Testament from Peter’s account, he became a good friend of Peter. If Barnabas hadn’t stepped out and hadn’t influenced in that way, we would never have Mark’s gospel. How incredible is that?
So, who are we called to influence? Well, those all around us. We’re not to have to do it big but we’re called to do it consistently, in every day and in the quiet ways, in the quiet things. Those that you influence for Jesus, you don’t know what can happen, they could go on to change the world because God calls them to do it, but we are called to be obedient to Him.
Are you a thermometer or a thermostat?
Are you going to be influenced or are you going to be one who influences others?
And in that, are you going to influence for God, by God, and through the power of the Holy Spirit?