Let's talk about everyone's favorite topic... EVANGELISM.
The Christian life has many aspects - Prayer - Bible Reading - Fellowship - Discipleship... But if I said to you that there is something we could do that would be so glorifying to God - that would lift up the name of Jesus - something that would show our gratitude and thankfulness to him - this activity would be an act of worship - a way to show love to our neighbors - and we could see real change take place in our world when hearts get changed - not only that - but this thing that we are privileged to take part in - is the means in which God draws others to himself. That's evangelism.
Mark Chapter 16 gives us the command so clearly - "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation." This is a direct command from Jesus himself. How we doing with that command? Are Christians doing a good job sharing the Gospel with unbelievers?"
Listen to these statistics - Bill Bright from Campus Crusade for Christ says only 2% of Christians in America share their faith on a regular basis. Promise Keepers says that 90% of American men have never shared their faith one single time in their life. Jesus spoke accurately when he said - "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few."
So based on those stats - I think it's fair to say that evangelism is being severly neglected. Why is it that we're not sharing this great news with people? Let me off a few reasons -
Jesus said - "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." Some professing Christians aren't sharing their faith because they aren't possessing Christians. They haven't received the Holy Spirit that dwells inside every true follower of Christ.
This is foundational - and the question I would ask is - If you aren't witnessing - is it because you have nothing to witness about? Jesus told us that there will be MANY on that day who will say 'Lord, Lord' and he will say depart from me - I never knew you.
Let me hit you with a quote from the Prince of Preachers Charles Spurgeon - brace yourself for this one - this one might hurt a little bit - he said, "Have you no desire to see others saved - then you're not saved yourself. Be sure of that." Another reason why people may not be sharing their faith - might be due to unbelief.
Do you believe Jesus when he says - "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Is that true for the Muslim? Is that true for the Buddhist? Those who say Jesus is simply a prophet? Or a created being? Or one of many gods? Does theology even matter?
What about that unbelieving friend you have who lives a really moral life? Worldly speaking - they are a good person. They try to do the right thing. They're not perfect - but they don't cheat on their spouse - they're pretty good to their kids - they will even say nice things about Jesus - they're just not born again. What's going to happen to that person? Do we believe Jesus when he spoke of the reality of Hell?
Are the only verses that we have underlined in our Bible the ones that comfort us and make us feel good - and do we neglect those passages that grieve us - and would therefore motivate us to go and talk to someone about the forgiveness offered only through Christ. Simply ask yourself - "If I'm not sharing my faith - is it true that when it comes right down to it - I really don't believe what God has said?"
Now I would say this - I believe every one of us does do evangelism. And you say - "What are you nuts? Didn't you listen to the stats you just gave a minute ago?" Let me explain what I mean... You go out to a restaurant for dinner and you have a great meal. The food's delicious - reasonable prices - the service is on point - great atmosphere - what do you end up doing? You tell someone about it. You don't wait for a segway - you don't want until the conversation comes around to restaurants - You blurt out - "Man, you gotta check out this restaurant we went to last night! - It was great! - You'll love it!"
You have become - in effect - an evangelist for that restaurant. So the question isn't whether or not we are evangelizing. It's what are we evangelizing about. Also, part of the problem is that some think of evangelism as cramming your beliefs down someone else's throat. I prefer to use a different "E" word - Engage.
Listen to people - listen to their worldview - ask questions - I prefer a conversational approach - showing people respect - loving them - rather than having an agenda and viewing every non-Christian as simply someone who needs converting. And when their worldview differs from a Biblical worldview - we can then examine that view - ask some challenging questions - have them question what it is they believe. Then lovingly point them to the the truth.
A guy name Greg Koukl calls this "Putting a stone in someone's shoe." Let them walk away bothered - in a good way - and cause them to evaluate what they hold to be true. But - ultimately - our goal is always to present the Gospel - because it's the Gospel that is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.
I want to talk about what the Gospel is... But before we do that - Let me share with you a concern that I have. The author of Hebrews tells us...
The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. When it comes to evangelism - we often leave our sword on the shelf - instead we pick up modern evangelical lingo and catch phrases - many of which - lack Biblical support. This is a man-centered message which forsakes the sharp sword for something that is more like a dull butter knife.
Our language focuses on man rather than God. It's about what God can give you and what he can do for you. It addresses the person's felt needs. It's about life enhancement. "Come to Jesus - your life will get better - you'll be happier - Life will be easier. Are you sad, lonely or depressed - is life not turning out the way you hoped it would? - Come to Jesus he'll fix that." Now some people are doing pretty well in life - they have money - success - happiness - they're pretty content - The Man-centered Gospel tells those people - "Yea - but, you have this God-shaped hole in your heart that only Jesus can fill.
Do people have a God-shaped hole in their heart? I don't know. I bet there are many people who die without Christ feeling pretty happy and satisfied - but what will it profit a man to gain the whole world - yet lose his soul. Is that the good news about Jesus? That he fills some sort of vacancy in our lives? Should that be our message? I'd say no. That message de-emphasizes - or altogether leaves out very important words like sin, wrath, judgment, hell, and holiness. These appear all throughout Scripture - yet modern day evangelism seems to avoid using them.
We use confusing unbiblical phrases like - "Ask Jesus into your heart or Make a decision for Christ." What does it mean to "Ask Jesus into your heart?" I don't know what that means. We're looking for people to make some sort of decision or commitment without any mention of sin, righteousness or judgment.
Sometimes I feel as though Jesus is presented almost as a beggar - with his hat-in-hand - hoping 'almighty man' will make a decision for him and choose to 'accept' him. We don't accept Jesus - We need Jesus to accept us - and he will - when we come to him on his terms.
Some may say - "What's wrong with the phrase 'accept' Jesus? The Bible says to receive Jesus. And there's no difference between 'accept' and 'receive'. Now your just nit picking." MAYBE. But I think there is a difference. Let me try to make my case... If I showed up here today with 2 black eyes and a bloody lip and said to you on the way here I ran into the back of some guy's car at a red light and we both got out of our cars and he was really mad and I "RECEIVED" a beating. You'd say yes you did.
Now if I said he was really mad and I "ACCEPTED" a beating - that hits the ear a little different. It sounds like I allowed it to happen - like I had some sort of power that I didn't exercise. When it comes to salvation - we are spiritually dead - we have no power whatsoever - we receive - we don't accept. We bring nothing to the table - the only thing we bring - is sin.
Accepting Jesus carries the connotation that we posses some sort of power or we made a decision out of a certain spiritual sensitivity that we have and others don't. Therefore we would have something to boast about - where the Bible says we have nothing to boast about - it is excluded. God receives all the glory - we get none of it. Terminology is important because the message we are trying to communicate is so important. I believe God gave us certain terminology in the Bible - Let's just stick with that - When we abandon the sword - for the butter knife - we leave room for all sorts of confusion and misunderstanding.
Let's do away with phrases like - "Make Jesus Lord of your life" - Rather we should say to people... He IS Lord of your life - You don't make him anything - He does all that he pleases - He's Lord of everyone and everything - The God of the Universe -
And tell them... because I love you and I don't want you to be confused - I am going to give you the straightforward truth. The Gospel doesn't begin with you - it begins with God. His righteous character - His perfect justice demands punishment for sin. Sin is the breaking of God's law - in thought, word, or deed. And because of that sinful rebellion - you are an enemy of God - and His wrath abides upon you. It is appointed for you to die once - then face judgment. But God is merciful - and because of His great love - The Father sent His son Jesus Christ who is fully God and fully man - He lived a sinless life - and was guilty of nothing - Yet he went to the cross - And faced the fury of God's wrath - and He endured the penalty of sin as the perfect substitute - Jesus was sinless - yet treated as a sinner - and in the same way - the Father now treats believers as righteous. There's this beautiful exchange that takes place. God made him who knew no sin, to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Cor. 5:21 And we think about all he went through - the beating he took - the scourging - the mocking - the nails - and all the physical suffering and we think - He went through that for us? THAT'S LOVE... And that is love. But when the gospel is God-centered - we should also talk about the emotional and spiritual pain of being forsaken by the Father. While Christ bore the sins of his people - that eternal bond between Father and Son was broken - In addition to the physical suffering - He was cut off - abandoned and utterly forsaken.
That knowledge enhances our understanding of God's deep and profound love for us. And Jesus gave up his life as a ransom for many - defeating death, He rose from the grave - and he ascended into heaven to the right hand of the Father - and he's coming back as judge. And he doesn't ask anyone to open their heart to him - but rather commands all men everywhere to repent (Turn away from your sin - by turning to Jesus) and put your trust in him. It's a free gift - by his mercy and grace - through faith - we receive Him - and He accepts us.
It's an awesome Gospel. Let's explain it as clearly as we can - And yea, sometimes we need to define words for people - there's work to do, no doubt. And we should be willing and able to do that - but we can do it without abandoning the sword of God's Word. Now - Before we engage the people around us... There are 3 things we must do - and they are PRAY PRAY and PRAY. And then pray some more. Paul said - "Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak." Eph 6:18-20
Let's look at a Biblical principle that I think is absolutely crucial. It's this - LAW TO THE PROUD AND GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. The Bible says - "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."
We see this principle played out in how Jesus interacted with people. Take for example the Rich Young Ruler as someone who was proud. He thought he was a good person. Jesus gave him the law - "You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness..."
Jesus went on to show him that his god was his money - It turns out he was not as "good" as he thought he was. His self righteousness and idolatry were revealed through the use of the law. Paul said - It was the Law that showed him his Sin - And in Romans Chapter 3 he said - "Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin."
The law acts as our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. On the other hand - consider how Jesus dealt with the Woman Caught in Adultery. She knew she was in big trouble because of her sin. She knew she was guilty.
Lying in the dust - humbled - Jesus gave her grace. He gave her love, mercy and forgiveness - Telling her "Go and sin no more." It's my belief that the majority of people we run into - are like the former not the latter. We live in a very proud society. We need to break through that proud heart with God's law.
A man named A.B. Earl said - "People need to see themselves as lost before they will cry for mercy, they will not escape danger until they see it." The reformers understood this - Martin Luther said - "The 1st duty of the gospel preacher is to declare God's Law and show the nature of sin."
John Wesley - "Before I can preach love, mercy and grace, I must preach sin, law and judgment." Now whenever you talk about evangelism - one word always comes up - it's that paralyzing monster we gotta deal with - FEAR.
The Bible talks about it - it's referred to as the FEAR OF MAN. Fear in evangelism is very common - and I don't think it's all bad. If you're nervous about sharing the Gospel with your friends and family - I think that's actually a good sign - it shows that you understand the message correctly.
Paul said in Galatians that the Cross is offensive to people. Therefore the gospel is offensive - Why? It tells people that they are sinners and separated from God because of that sin. It tells them that their works will never be good enough. And salvation isn't gained through human effort, intellect or anything within us. But a humbling of one's self - under the mighty hand of God - and then denying yourself and taking up a cross to follow after Jesus. You can see why people want to take this stuff out and water down the message. It goes like this - The bad news offends people - so why don't we just get rid of the bad news - and just tell them just the good stuff. If you just go around simply telling people 'God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life' - that won't bother anybody - and there's no reason to fear telling people that. But we need to make sure we're not offensive - Because the fact is - many evangelists are hated - not because of their message - but because the messenger is acting like a jerk. We don't want to do that either. There's ditches on both sides. I'm just saying let's just keep the car on the road - and not water down the message - but speak the
One of my favorite passages in all the New Testament is in Colossians 4 where Paul says - "Pray for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison - that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person." So what's the answer to the fear of man? Again, let's go to the Word of God. God has a lot to say on this issue - let these verses be an encouragement to you -
The Book of Proverbs says - "The fear of man brings a snare (or a trap) ; But whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe." Jesus said - "So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." Matt 10:26-28
And when you think - "I might be mocked or ridiculed." Jesus says - "Yep. That'll happen." He says - "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you." John 15:18-20
I love that about Jesus - he tells it like it is. He would make a bad politician (With all the verbal gymnastics - and double-talk that they do) Jesus says "Expect persecution." Because when the gospel is declared the way God intends - many people won't like it. It was true back then - and it's true now.
So what's the answer? Jesus gave it to us...He said - Fear God, rather than fearing people - Seek His approval, not somebody else's - Love God more than the praises of men. That's the answer to most of my issues in life - "Love Jesus more." It's that simple. That mindset fixes a ton of stuff. LOVE JESUS MORE.
An example of somebody who gets it - is a girl named Rachel Scott. If that name sounds familiar to you - she was killed (and I would use the word martyred) in the school shooting at Columbine High School a number of years ago. Prior to that day - she had wrote in her diary these words: "I have no more personal friends at school. But you know what? I am not going to apologize for speaking the name of Jesus. I am not going to justify my faith to them, and I am not going to hide the light God has put into me. If I have to sacrifice everything, I will. I will take it. If my friends have to become my enemies, for me to be with my best friend, Jesus, then that's fine with me."
She was killed at the age of 17. If you followed that horrific story at Columbine - She was targeted for her faith in Christ. I can't wait to meet this girl. She understood what it meant "To live is Christ - and die is gain." But you say - I just don't have the ability. I'm not very smart. I'm not eloquent. And I still have fear. - YEA - Join the club.
Because - not only do you sound like Moses - but basically you have just put yourself in alignment with the Apostle Paul who said - When I came to you, brothers, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Cor 2:1-5 Paul had weakness - he had fear - he had trembling - if you have those things - then you qualify. Paul didn't use lofty speech or wisdom - he preached Christ crucified. We don't need to be Bible scholars or be able to refute Darwinian evolution to be used by God. Where does our power come from? The answer is the Holy Spirit. Again, back to Acts 1:8 "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth." Our boldness comes from His strength not ours. Listen to the type of people God delights in using - For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. 1 Cor 1:26-27
This is who God has called - you and me - therefore these are the type of people God uses to proclaim his message to the world. Again, God is going to get all the glory - Just as it should be. There was a guy in Syracuse, NY who got shot - multiple times - over and over again. He made it to the hospital and survived the shooting. The doctors said he survived because he weighed over 400 lbs. The bullets didn't reach any of his vital organs. I tell you that because what appears to be a liability can actually be an asset. When it comes to preaching the gospel - your weakness can become your strength. It's your inability on your own that makes you rely on God's strength and ability.
That means even the most shy and introverted among us can make a difference for the Kingdom of God. I'm sure you have heard of a win-win situation. When we witness to others it is actually a win-win-win situation. I read this in Mark Cahill's book "One thing you can't do in heaven"
He gives 3 scenarios - 1) You share the gospel and the person receives Christ - That is definitely a win. 2) You share the gospel and the person says - "Thanks you've definitely given me something to think about - I need to give this some thought - and count the cost." Well - You have planted the seed of the gospel - someone else may come along and water it - but God is the one that gives the growth or the increase. I think we would agree - that is also a win situation.
Lastly, you share the gospel and the person says - "I don't want to hear it - Keep that Jesus business to yourself - You're a fool for believing all that." - And he/she tells you in very graphic language what you can do with your Bible. Believe it or not - That is also a win. Listen to the words Jesus spoke - “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven." Luke 6:22-23
Do you believe those words? Do I believe those words? If we say "Yes" - then our actions should reflect that. Because the fact is - the only time we lose is when we keep quiet. There's this famous atheist named Penn Gillette - He's from Penn & Teller - Maybe you've heard of them - Penn Gillette is just this raging atheist - he hates the Lord - He has a video online where he talks about a guy who approached him with a Bible -
Surprisingly, he talks about what a great experience it was - because this guy treated him in such a kind way - and that he cared enough to evangelize him (He used the word proselytize in the video) Listen to what the atheist Penn Gillette said - "I don't respect people who don't evangelize - I don't respect that at all - If you believe that there is a heaven and a hell and people could be going to hell and you think 'It's not really worth talking about this because it would make things socially awkward' - How much do you have to hate somebody to believe eternal life is possible and not tell people that. He says - If I believe there is a truck bearing down on you about to run you over - and you didn't believe that - There is a certain point where I tackle you - And this is more important than that."
He's right - I'm not saying we become evangelizing linebackers - but this atheist gets it. And I never knew this until I started to engage the people around me. I thought everybody laughs at you - calls you intolerant - tells you to "Get Lost".
But that's not true. There are people out there that God is preparing their hearts. These are people made in the image of God - and are therefore valuable.
Talk about Jesus - Because people don't know the Gospel - I hate when the Gospel is assumed - We can't assume people know the Gospel - Because many don't - They talk about works - They talk about religious activity - They talk about all roads leading to God - They talk about being good - They don't get it - We're not good - God is good! Talk about what Jesus did on that cross for sinful people. - People like me. And let gratitude towards God and compassion for others kill that paralyzing fear. We're talking about people's souls here.
If I asked you the question - "Do you care?" You'd say "Yea - of course." But I don't think that's the question we should be asking. The real question is - "Do you care enough to do something about it?" Cause if we're not willing to do something about it - How can we say that we care?
Those statistics at the beginning don't exactly scream to the world that we care. Our inactivity in this area speaks volumes - and the silence is deafening. The message that we're actually sending is "We're happy we're going to heaven - as for those that aren't - well, that's their problem."
It's like - The ship is going down - we're in our Christian lifeboat - we're glad to be there - and there's more room in the boat - but we're not too concerned about rescuing others - and people around us are perishing left and right. Jesus said - "Follow Me - I will make you fishers of men."
(Now I'm no fisherman) - but fish don't typically jump into the boat. We have to go to them.
Get in the boat - and cast your line into the water. And remember - the results are God's department.
We preach it Biblically, we preach it prayerfully, we preach it faithfully - and God - takes it from there.