February 17, 2011 David Balzer

1 Corinthians 9:12-27: 40 Days of Purpose 6: Evangelism: Made for a Mission

L. played his soccer grand final yesterday. They lost. But I think he’s moved on already. For the last few months Lachlan’s dragged himself off to practice twice a week. But he’s OVER soccer – at least for THIS year.

 

He still likes PLAYING, but he gets bored with the same old drills at training week after week. And he’s had enough of the tantrums from some of the other players.

 

But his coach still pushes them hard. Gets very worked up. He REALLY wants to win.

 

It’s a bit of a problem when you don’t want the same things as the one who’s in charge. When your priorities are different.

 

And it sometimes seems like Christians are like that when it comes to EVANGELISM. Telling people the good news about Jesus.

 

We can see the IMPORTANCE of it. At least THEORETICALLY. But for most people it doesn’t seem that important PRACTICALLY. There’s not much in their life that SHOWS that people becoming Christians is important.

 

It seems we don’t think it’s as important as GOD does. Dare I say it, sometimes it seems like we’re OVER it.

 

I read about two men who’d been business partners for over twenty years. They met one Sunday morning at the newsagent.

 

One of them asked, “Where are you going this morning?” “I’m going to play golf.  What about you?” The first man responded, “I’m going to church.”

 

The other man said, “Why don’t you give up that church stuff?” The man asked, “What do you mean?” “Well, we’ve been partners for twenty years.  We’ve worked together, attended board meetings together, and had lunch together, and all of these twenty years you’ve never asked me to go to church.  You’ve never invited me to come with you.  Obviously, it doesn’t mean that much to you.”

 

For many Cs, it doesn’t seem like evangelism is that important at all. Rick Warren says that Christians and non-Christians AGREE when it comes to evangelism – NEITHER of them LIKE IT!!

 

Evangelism. Or MISSION. Is the fifth, and final, purpose God has for your life.

 

What God Wants

It’s a bit of a problem when you don’t want the same things as the one who’s in charge. And the reality is God wants nothing more than to see people SAVED. Becoming Christians.

 

There’s a        of verses printed there in the news sheet that make that point. The first verse is from 1 Tim 2:4.

1 Tim 2:4-6: God our Savior wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

He hates to see people thumbing their noses at him. He hates the thought of people headed for eternity without him. But he LOVES it when people RECOGNISE him, and turn back in repentance. Jesus says there’s a party in heaven every time ONE sinner repents!

And you wondered whether you made a difference in the Universe? But heaven ROARED when you accepted God’s gift of forgiveness.

And just in case you doubt that God really DOES want people to be saved. Look at how it continues.

5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all men-the testimony given in its proper time.

 

The cross is God’s PROOF of his love. HOW MUCH does God want to save you? How much does he LOVE you? How much does he want to spend eternity with you?

 

THIS MUCH (       arms wide)

 

Among other things, the cross is God’s PUBLIC DECLARATION of how much he loved the world.

 

Some people pay for a newspaper advertisement to show their love. Or buy a huge diamond ring. Or skywriting. Or a public marriage proposal at a footy game.

 

Or even a tattoo with their loved ones name or picture. That’s COMMITMENT! But there’s plenty of people who’ve regretted THAT one.

 

But God publicly declared his love for his world, and wrote it in LETTERS OF BLOOD. John 3:16

16 “For God so LOVED THE WORLD that he gave his ONE AND ONLY SON, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

 

The cross is ONE proof that God loves to see people saved. And here’s the SECOND proof – the fact he hasn’t sent Jesus back yet.

 

Have a look at the second verse printed there. It’s from 2 Peter Ch 3. Some people were making fun of the Christians. “Where’s this Jesus you said was going to come back? He’s taking AGES. Perhaps he’s not really coming.”

 

And so Peter writes to REASSURE the Christian church.

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is NOT slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is PATIENT with you, NOT WANTING ANYONE TO PERISH, but EVERYONE to come to repentance.

 

Peter says, it’s got nothing to do with God not keeping his promise. Or giving up on you. In fact, the OPPOSITE’S true. It’s all because he wants to see people saved so much. He’s hanging on AS LONG AS HE POSSIBLY CAN because he doesn’t want anyone to perish.

 

Like the father who runs back into the burning house again and again. Searching every room, rescuing everyone of his children. Risking death himself. The flames grow bigger and bigger, but his love is so great, he’ll hang on as long as he possibly can because he doesn’t want anyone to perish.

 

To value evangelism, you need to want the same things God wants. And NOTHING is more important to God than saving lost people.

 

Mission Possible

It’s why Jesus came. It was HIS mission. And the mission he gave for US to continue.

 

After his resurrection, Jesus was preparing his disciples. He had A MISSION for them. In John 20:21, he says

“Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I AM SENDING YOU.”

 

The mission HE had is the mission he’s given THE DISCIPLES. And what’s more, he’s given it to US AS WELL. The mission to GO FISH. Of proclaiming the news that Jesus is King. And that he’s beaten sin and death.

 

A few days later, Jesus is about to return to heaven. But here’s what his final words were. Describing the nature of the mission he’s sending the disciples on. Acts1:8

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my WITNESSES in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

 

Jesus calls us to be WITNESSES. Notice what he DOESN’T say. He doesn’t say, “You will be my DEFENCE LAWYER.”  He didn’t say, “You will be my SALESMAN.”

 

You don’t have to come up with a tricky and complicated strategy. You don’t have to CONVINCE someone to buy your product. And you don’t need to DEFEND God.

 

All God wants you to do is to be A WITNESS. What is a witness?  A witness is somebody who just tells what they’ve SEEN. From their point of view.

 

And that makes you an EXPERT WITNESS. Because no one knows YOUR LIFE  better than YOU.

 

And Jesus calls you to tell people about YOUR EXPERIENCE of Jesus. What does Jesus mean to YOU? What difference has he made in your life? How have your prayers been answered? How do you see life differently now you’re following Jesus?

 

And the up-side of that is that people like to hear about personal stories. Much more interesting that THEORY. Or FACTS. People these days are less interested in whether something’s TRUE than they are in whether something WORKS.

 

Does Jesus WORK for you? Is life BETTER with Jesus? Is it richer, deeper, brighter? Do you have more purpose? More joy? More assurance? More hope? More LOVE? More forgiveness?

 

Do you have less fear? Less guilt? Less frustration? Less bitterness?

 

Have you THOUGHT about those things? Why not spend some time writing them down?

 

Jesus calls you to be a WITNESS. A witness of what you’ve seen and experienced.

 

An introduction agency – 2 Cor 5:18

ANOTHER way of thinking about your mission. Is that God wants you to be an INTRODUCTION AGENCY.

 

I don’t know whether any of you have had much success as a MATCH-MAKER. Setting up two friends who you KNOW would make a great       .

 

My sister’s still single. And we’ve been trying to introduce her to suitable single guys for YEARS.

 

I’ve said to Casey McNeill as long as I’ve known her I want to find her A NICE CHRISTIAN BOY. Maybe one day I’ll succeed.

 

If you’ve had any success as a matchmaker, you’ll know what a nice feeling it is to introduce two of YOUR friends to each other. And then to see them HAPPY.

 

And it’s the same with evangelism. Here’s the way Paul describes his mission in 2 Cor 5.18.

2 Cor 5:18-20 God reconciled us to himself through Christ and GAVE US THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION:(that’s just MAKING FRIENDS)

 

Look at the next verse. How that friendship begins.

19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us THE MESSAGE OF RECONCILIATION. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be RECONCILED TO GOD.

 

We’re to be bringing people and God together. Match-making. Turning enemies into friends.

 

It’s heart-breaking when we know that close friends or family don’t understand the joy we’ve got. That they’re missing out on Jesus. And that they won’t be with us in eternity.

 

And if we get joy out of seeing two FRIENDS get together, how much MORE joy should we get when we see Jesus and one of our OTHER friends introduced to each other. How good is THAT!!!

 

Be prepared! – 1 Peter 3:15-16

One other aspect of your mission the Bible teaches is that we’re to BE PREPARED. The opportunity to say something about Jesus could pop up when you least expect it. And you need to be READY. 1 Peter 3:15-16 says this

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience,

 

Which has got nothing to do with Bible-bashing someone, or lecturing them. It’s about BUILDING bridges, not TEARING THEM DOWN. You want to have conversations with people that will make them keen to speak to you AGAIN about Jesus. Not turn them off so they cross to the other side of the street when they see you coming.

 

Colossians 4: 5 says

Be WISE in the way you act toward outsiders; MAKE THE MOST OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY.

 

Be Prepared!

 

All things to all men – 1 Cor 9:19-23

Let me say a few words about the HOW of taking opportunities. HOW we go about giving an answer for the hope that’s in us. Open your Bibles to 1 Cor 9. It’s the passage read earlier. Down at v19.

 

Paul’s talking about how he gives up his right to earning a wage for the sake of the gospel. And then he goes on to show how this attitude flows into EVERYTHING he does. It’s not just to do with MONEY. He gives up EVERY OTHER RIGHT. Whatever is needed, so that people might be saved. Verse 19.

(1 Cor 9:19 NIV)  Though I am free and belong to no man, I MAKE MYSELF A SLAVE TO EVERYONE, to WIN as MANY as possible.

 

And then he gives some examples. A whole approach to life that’s based on giving up HIS preferences for the sake of others. MOVING TOWARDS SOMEONE ELSE to make the gospel more acceptable. Whether it’s Jews in v20. Or non-Jews in v21. Look at his summary in v22.

I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some

 

For you it might mean joining the RSL Club because that’s where your workmates go after work. It might mean signing up for an Adult Education craft, or cooking, course with your neighbour. Or joining a gym with your workmate during your lunch hour. Or organising a Father and Son camping weekend with your son’s soccer team. Or coaching your daughter’s netball team. Or volunteering for the P&F association at your school.

 

Because that’s the way to build bridges with people who don’t know Jesus.

 

WHATEVER it might be. It’s about giving up your rights. So the gospel might be furthered. And it often means doing what DOESN’T come NATURALLY because it’s what gives you the opportunity to share Jesus.

 

And remember your motive’s to SHARE THE GOSPEL. The temptation for me is to DO those things so people will think I’m a good guy. “Oh, isn’t Dave good. He gives up his time to coach this, or do that!”

 

But it’s got to be FOR THE GOSPEL. Look at v23.

23 I do all this FOR THE SAKE OF THE GOSPEL, that I may share in its blessings.

 

Check your motives. How is the truth of the gospel impacting on those relationships you’re building? How is it redeeming the time you’re putting into them?

 

Are you sharing IN WORD as well as ACTION?

 

Being all things to all men would be an EASY life if we were just yes-men. Chameleons changing to suit whatever environment we were in. Following the path of least resistance. Never wanting to disappoint anyone. But that’s not what Paul means by being all things to all men. That’s not Paul’s motivation. His lifestyle is much more difficult.

 

He does it so that people might hear and understand and accept the good news about Jesus.

 

So get training! – 1 Cor 9:24-27

It’s NOT an easy life. Keeping the gospel as number one priority is hard-work. It’s easy to SAY. But much harder to DO. When it comes to the cold, hard facts of how you use the hours in your day. How you fill up your evenings. Or your holidays. Or what you direction you steer conversations in.

 

Every choice you make. The hard decisions about putting yourself SECOND. And someone else FIRST.

 

Next week is the evangelistic breakfast. You’ve got the choice to invite someone along. Or you could just sleep in. What will you CHOOSE?

 

On the 29th of this month is the Woodcroft Festival. You’ve got the choice to come and help. To talk to people. To hand out leaflets. To ask them what they think about God. About the world. Or you could choose to stay at home and read the paper.

 

Janice has organised a whole stack of brochures and maps for letter-boxing. You could choose to take a few bundles. And then rearrange a few things in your week to DELIVER them. Or you could choose to let SOMEONE ELSE do it.

 

Keeping the gospel NUMBER ONE is hard work. Takes tough decisions. Sometimes it will have tough CONSEQUENCES.

 

So Paul says GET TRAINING. V24. Just like a runner who runs until he drops. All just to win a medal or a trophy. Paul says we should strive just as hard. V24

Run IN SUCH A WAY as to get the prize.

 

The athlete’s totally focussed. His eyes are always on the goal. His diet, and sleep patterns, and training, and social life, and work commitments, are all designed around that final goal. Of winning the contest.

 

And Paul’s point is that THEY’RE devoted to a prize that DOESN’T LAST. How much more should Christians strive for the ETERNAL prize. The inheritance that God’s got for us in heaven. Verse 25.

(1 Cor 9:25 NIV) They do it to get a crown that WILL NOT LAST; but we do it to get a crown that will last FOREVER.

 

And with a crown like that in view, a Christian’s training should be just as single-minded. Verse 26.

(1 Cor 9:26-27 NIV)  Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. {27} No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

 

He trains. And punishes his body. He works on his weaknesses. He crucifies the old nature. He does without physical comforts. He endures prison and beatings.

 

Because his eyes are on the prize. Not the gold medal from some politician. But the reward of seeing people in eternity because he introduced them to Jesus. The reward of a “Well done, good and faithful servant” from his Lord and Saviour. The Master who’d given his servant the task. “Proclaim my gospel”.

 

A huge and scary mission. But you’ll never find one that’s more important. Or more satisfying.

 

You’re not alone

And one final point. Remember you’re not alone. God doesn’t give us our mission AS INDIVIDUALS. But AS A CHURCH. It’s a mission we work at TOGETHER. Supporting each other. Training each other. Standing SIDE BY SIDE as we present Jesus to a world that’s perishing. 1 Peter 2:9 says

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

 

We’re not a thousands of individuals. We’re a PEOPLE. A NATION.

 

I know it’s not a word, but the Jeff Fenech “youze” actually translates this BETTER. It’s plural “you” here.

But youze are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that youze may declare the praises of him who called youze out of darkness into his wonderful light.

 

It’s what God made you for. For MISSION.

 

Let’s work at it TOGETHER. Standing side by side. As a holy and royal people. People who know the light. Declaring his praises to a dark world. There’s nothing God wants MORE.

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