Sermons in this series
Passage: 2 Corinthians 5:11-21
As we continue our series on spiritual disciplines this morning we come to the discipline of evangelism.
It goes without saying that it is the responsibility of every Christian to share his or her faith with other people. At its most elementary level, evangelism is talking to people about Jesus with a view towards seeing them accept Him and serve Him as Lord of their lives. It is the primary function of a disciple of Jesus Christ, to make disciples and expand the kingdom of God. And yet, rapidly this is becoming one of the more neglected spiritual disciplines because it is one of the more difficult things to do. There are many reasons why people don't share their faith. We'll cover just a few.
1. It is politically incorrect to do so.
In a world that is increasingly tolerant of every religious view except that of Christians, we have been badgered into believing that telling other people that Jesus is the only way is somehow arrogant or disrespectful of other religious views. You see, Christianity is unquestionably exclusive. That is, there is no room for other gods or other pathways to God. If you are a Christian you take Jesus at His Word. In John 14 He said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life and no one comes to the Father except through Me." That's exclusive. It means Jesus is the only way. You can see how that simply doesn't sit well in a culture as given over to political correctness, especially when that political correctness is extremely prejudiced against Christianity and its values.
Another reason people don't share their faith is because of
2. The philosophy of the day, which of course is postmodernism.
Postmodernism as a philosophy seems to permeate everything we hear these days. It is the underlying value system supporting political correctness. It says that there is no absolute truth, and if there were an absolute truth we could not know it. Furthermore whatever we call truth is nothing more than cultural and situational values which are born out of community. Thus, the postmodernists would say, there is no one truth which is applicable at all places for all people at all times. This would negate the universality of sin and the reality that there is one God over all of creation who offers eternal life to anyone who will trust in His Son Jesus. The claims of Jesus are dismissed by the postmodernists as cultural and situational. Thus they don't see them as being applicable to everyone.
While many Christians have unconsciously succumbed to this way of thinking, many others are not really equipped to answer the questions or to respond to the objections that postmodernists have. There are many good books, by the way, which show you how to talk to a postmodernist.
A third reason people don't share their faith is.
Christians fear being ostracized by their lost friends. They don't want to be seen as some kind of religious zealot or spiritual kook, and so instead they have cloaked their faith, making sure it only shines through when it is safe from ridicule. In reality they are more like Peter when Jesus was on trial then they are like Peter at Pentecost. They love Jesus but only when it's convenient. They are afraid of what it will cost them to be identified with Him so they are secret agents in God's service.
Others fail to share the good news of Jesus because they have, somehow, through scriptural gymnastics, convinced themselves that it is not their responsibility. Perhaps they have reasoned that they simply don't have the gift of evangelism and thus they are somehow released from the responsibility. Of course nothing could be further from the truth. While there are some people who have the gift of mercy, none of us are excused from being merciful. While there are some people who have the gift of giving, none of us are excused from the responsibility to be good stewards of all that God has given us.
Some fail to share the gospel because they have nothing more than a head knowledge of Jesus, they have never truly been transformed by His power and have never experienced the new birth. It is easy to see why they don't share their faith. They have nothing to share. You can't relay an experience you've never experienced. Others don't share because sin in their lives has sidelined them.
The list of excuses could go on and on and on, but at the end of the day they remain nothing but excuses because, if you get your understanding of what it means to be a disciple from scripture, you will come away with a clear understanding that all of us who take His name and follow Jesus, are to be disciple makers, we are to share the good news with others.
Proverbs 11:30 says, "The fruit of the righteous is as a tree of life and he who is wise wins souls."
Daniel 12:3 says, "And those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like stars forever and ever."
Malachi 1:11 says, "For from the rising of the sun, even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts.
Matthew 24:14 says, "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations and then the end shall come."
Matthew 28:19 says, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the father and the Holy Spirit.
In John 20:21, before Jesus ascended to the Father He commissioned all of those who would follow Him by telling them, "As the Father has sent Me, I also send you."
In Acts 1:8 Jesus says, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."
This responsibility to share the gospel with those who were lost, with those who believed other doctrines, with those who were involved in false religions, it was something which was evident to the apostles. In fact, read the book of Acts and you see that after Pentecost that's what they did, they went out and preached Jesus. It did not make them popular, it did not make them rich, it did not set them in good standing with the world around them, but it is clear that this is what they understood their responsibility to be.
Listen to how the Apostle Paul puts it in 1st Corinthians 9:19-23 (read text).
In these five verses he uses the word win or save some six times. It is clear that he understood the call to follow Christ as a call to share the good news or the gospel with others.
This is the reoccurring theme of Paul's letters to the early churches. Not only here in 1st Corinthians, but in 2nd Corinthians as well. Look with me at 2nd Corinthians chapter 5, we'll limit our study this morning to verses 11-21.
To begin with we need to follow Paul's train of thought here in chapter 5 so we can see his rationale for what he is going to say in the latter part of this chapter. He begins by affirming that although we long to be with Jesus, to have a resurrected body that is free from the pain, the struggles and the temptations of our present flesh, we are able to patiently wait for God's perfect time, especially since we have the Holy Spirit living within us as a pledge or a promise assuring us that we will spend eternity with Him as He said we would.
Thus, he says in verse 6, we should be encouraged, confident that, as we walk by faith and not by sight, even though we want to physically be with Jesus, that our ambition, our goal in life is to live lives pleasing to Him. Because, as he says in verse 10, we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ and each of us will be rewarded or repaid, according to what we did while on this earth, whether good or bad.
Now this is an important verse because it speaks to the reality of a day of reckoning, a day when not only will we be called to account for how we spent the substance of our lives, but we will be dealt with accordingly. The rest of what he says in this chapter will hinge on this awareness, this conscious thought that we are going to have to stand and give account to Jesus for what we did while here on earth.
So as he moves into verses 11-21, which is where we will focus our attention this morning, everything he says looks back to this reality of having to stand before God and give an account.
Now, this passage is one of the richest in all of the scripture, particularly with respect to what the gospel is and our responsibility to share it. This morning we're going to focus primarily on those parts of this text which deal with our responsibility to share the good news with others.
There are several things here you'll want to notice here, several motivating reasons why we should share the gospel. Remember, all of this is in light of the reality that we have to give account to God for our lives, as to whether we were truly His followers or not. Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, speaks to us out of his own experience.
Listen to why He shared the gospel and why we should as well.
1. We share the good news of Jesus with others because we live in the presence of God
How would it change our lives if we were to consciously realize that every word we spoke, every deed we did, was something we were not only going to have to explain but something for which we would either be rewarded or reprimanded?
The truth of the matter is, we don't have to wait to stand before Jesus in order to be accountable. Since the Holy Spirit is in us and God is always with us, everything we do, we do in the presence of God. To fail in this vital mission of sharing the gospel is to willfully and intentionally disobey Jesus in His very presence.
Paul was walking in fellowship with Christ to the degree that He was aware; he was conscious of the presence of Jesus with Him and willful disobedience was not an option. He was living with a referent fear of God, an awareness that motivated his actions, specifically with respect to sharing the good news. "Knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God." That is, God knew His heart, God saw beyond the actions and looked at the heart.
The same is true for you and me. Sharing our faith is not something we simply do because we must; it is something we do because we know the truth about eternity. If are truly His followers, if our hearts truly belong to Him we will share the good news of what He has done for us because we cannot ourselves. It is something which will come from our hearts.
We share the good news of Jesus because we live in the presence of God.
Now, move on to verse 14 where he says, "For the love of Christ controls us."
2. We share the good news of Jesus because we are possessed by and controlled by the Love of Christ.
John 3:16 tells us that God loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son, and whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.
Romans 5:8 says that God commended His love towards us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
It was love that sent Jesus to the cross, God's love for His supreme creation, God's love for humanity, even though we were all in rebellion against Him. That same love is what kept Jesus on the cross and that same love is what Paul said, controlled, or constrained him.
The word translated "control" here, carries with it the idea of pushing on every side or constraining. It is used in Luke 8:45, where Jesus was touched by the woman with a hemorrhage and He asked, "Who is the one who touched Me?" and the Peter said, "Master, the multitudes are crowding and pressing upon you." This word, "Pressing," is the same word in the original language.
Paul is saying, "God's love is such a compelling force in my life, it so possesses me and directs me that I cannot help but share the good news of Jesus with others."
If you are filled with the Holy Spirit, if Jesus has given you new life, does not His love possess you as well? Have you no compassion on those who are lost? Are you content to see them live aimlessly and drift away into an eternity of torment in hell, or do you love them enough to find some way to share with them that Jesus loves them, that He died for them, will forgive their sins and give them eternal life?
The love of Christ should compel us. But there is more here in verses 14 and 15. Look at the remainder of verses 14 and following.
"... having concluded this: that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all that they who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf."
3. We share the good news of Jesus because as His followers we are no longer living for ourselves but we are living for Him who died for us and rose on our behalf.
Can it get any more plain than that? He is talking about dying to ourselves and finding our new life in Christ. This is what we talk about when we baptize people and say, "buried with Christ in baptism, raised to walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:4).
Listen to the verse from which this comes in context. This is Romans 6:4-5.
"Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection."
Paul's point here is that if it is Jesus who truly lives in and through us, if in fact we have died to ourselves and live for Him, then our lives are spent serving Him and not ourselves. We are living for Him and not for ourselves. And if we are truly living for Jesus, how can we keep from sharing the gospel? This is what he is talking about in verse 17 when he says, "If any man is in Christ he is a new creation, old things are passed away, behold new things have come."
The person who has come to know Christ, the person who has been made new, has a new outlook on life, a new mission or purpose for living. Instead of living for themselves; now they are living for Jesus, they are living to further His message and His kingdom.
Simply put, Paul's point here is that we who have truly come to know Him live our lives for Him because He gave His life for us. One of the true evidences of a person who is born again and in right relationship with God is that they share their faith with others. They can't help it, all things have become new. The old way of living, merely for themselves is gone, now they are made new.
But there is another reason here for sharing the gospel. Look in verses18 through 20 where he says, "Now all these things are from God who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation . . . therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us, we beg you, on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God."
4. We share the good news of Jesus with others because God has assigned us the job of helping others make peace with Him.
That's what reconciliation is - to make peace where there was hostility. That's what marriage counselors do - they seek to reconcile the relationship between a husband and a wife. Somewhere after the couple said "I Do," somewhere after the honeymoon glow faded, something when wrong. Someone said something did something or failed to say something or failed to do something and a rift began to show, a barrier began to grow in their relationship and so they go to a counselor, to someone who knows how to find peace and they seek to be reconciled.
As ambassadors for Christ it is our job to be the counselors, to be the ones who seek to bring peace between others and God. In the relationship between God and humanity it was humanity which sinned against God. All we like sheep have gone astray, says the scripture, there is none that does good, no not one. All have sinned and fallen short of God's glory. But God is being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, sent Jesus to die for us, to pay the penalty for our sins.
Look in verse 21, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."
God poured out all of the punishment, all of the wrath of our sins on Jesus. He died in our place, on our behalf. Jesus took the punishment of our sins as though they were His own so that when we ask Him to forgive us of our sins and we place our trust in Him, we are forgiven and can be at peace with God the Father. That's what Ephesians 2:14 means when it says, "For He Himself is our peace…" Because of what Jesus did, because of His death burial and resurrection, peace is possible between God and man.
Our job, our responsibility is to share that good news with others; To be ambassadors, counselors or peacemakers helping others make peace with God through Jesus. He has given us the job, given us the message and promised to empower us to do it.
But the question remains, why don't we do it? You see, if each one of us were to win just one person in the next 12 months, just one person each, and we were to bring them to this fellowship with a view toward seeing them become fully devoted disciples of Christ, our church would double in the next year. In fact, it would more than double because new Christians are the most evangelistic Christians there are. The new disciples would bring others to faith and there would be no room.
This week, like most weeks, was busy and full. Meetings here, correspondence there, phone calls, emails, studies and such, and Tuesday morning, as my assistant was going over my schedule for the week with me she told me that a lady had made an appointment with me for 4:00 that afternoon.
I was teaching the men's Bible study that evening and was trying to set the afternoon aside for study, but as a pastor I try to be available to people so I told her I would go ahead and meet with this lady. I asked our women's ministry director to be there, since I make it a policy not to meet alone with women and so at 4:00 the lady showed up and the three of us sat down to visit.
She began by telling us that she had not been to church in 10 to 15 years. She had grown up a Roman Catholic but that the Catholic church left her empty. She said that recently she had been talking to a friend about this and told him that she thought she should go back to church. He recommended Applewood Baptist Church.
She said she had been here for the last two Sundays and that she had heard the message on Scripture intake and that she had never really read the Bible, in fact she had never owned one. The message on prayer was particularly meaningful to her because she had always been taught that you needed to go through the priests or Mary or one of the saints to pray. The idea of praying directly to God because of Jesus was eye opening to her. So she said, "Something's happening to me and I want to know what I need to do next."
So, I began to walk her through the plan of salvation and told her that before she could employ spiritual disciplines she needed to establish a relationship with Jesus. I asked her if she wanted to do that and without hesitation she said, "Yes." So I told her all she had to do was to pray and ask Jesus to forgive her of her sins and to surrender her life to Him. She said she was not sure how to pray and so I explained that I would help her, all she had to do was to repeat after me, so long as she meant what she was saying to God. She said, "what if I forget the words?" That's when Missy, who grew up a Catholic, reached over, touched her arm and said, "It's ok, it's not the apostle's creed." So we went through the sinner's prayer and, I gotta tell you, it was one of those eureka moments when God's presence was not only real but you could feel Him in the room. When she finished praying she had tears in her eyes and Missy and I could both sense the gravity of what had just taken place.
Then she asked, "So what are the rules?" To which I replied, "We'll there are only two, you've got to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, body and soul and love your neighbor as yourself, if you get those two down, the rest are covered."
But the fascinating thing is that over the next hour as we talked about what it meant to follow Christ, after I explained what believer's baptism was, she brought up several things to which she wanted answers.
She wanted to know how she could win her family. She wanted to know how she could get involved in serving. She wanted to know how she could give to the ongoing work of the church and she said she was going to be traveling this weekend but wanted the name of a church in the city she would be visiting.
As I reflected on this high point of my week, it occurred to me that this woman who did not know the Old Testament from the New, had never owned a copy of the Scripture till her friend who recommended our church gave her one, and who had no idea of what a Christian is supposed to be about, within the first hour after receiving Christ as her Savior, was concerned about winning her family. She was naturally evangelistic. She wanted to get involved in serving, recognizing what Jesus had done for her. She wanted to do something in return. She wanted to give. No one had to tell her to do it. God's Spirit living inside of her put it on her mind. And she was hungry for the Word and for Christian fellowship. Church attendance was one of the first things in which she wanted to be faithful.
Of course the question is this: If this precious sister in Jesus, in the first hour after coming to know the Lord and being indwelt by the Holy Spirit, was passionate about evangelism, about service, about giving, and about growing in the Word, what's wrong with those Christians who have been in the church for decades and have no concern for the lost, are content to let others do the work, have no sense of responsibility as a steward to give to the kingdom of God, and are sporadic at best in their church attendance?
Where's the fear of God? Where's the knowledge of standing before His throne? Where's the love of God in our lives if we are more concerned about what others think of us than we are about them spending eternity in hell? What about dying to ourselves and living for Jesus? Is it real or not?
Sharing our faith is not optional, so each of us must cultivate this discipline if we are going to continue to grow in our walk with Christ. And like all other disciplines it gets easier the more we practice it. God has not called us to be successful, only to be faithful. Will you talk to someone about Jesus this week? Will you be available to be an ambassador for Christ?