Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sermon-- Vision for Evangelism-- 2-17-08

Here is the audio for this message.

Vision for Evangelism

In our discussion about Vision—we’ve looked at the negatives of not having vision, but also the blessing of having vision. Having vision helps you see clearly what is needed; vision blesses you by helping you rally around a great cause and future, and when there are obstacles and difficulty—Vision helps you overcome them. to achieve great things you only could be dreamed.
In that closer look at vision—we now need to add another one a vision that once again ties into one of the main reasons every church exists. A Vision for Sharing the Love of God with a Lost and Dying World.

The late Sam Shoemaker, an Episcopalian bishop, summed up the situation this way: "In the Great Commission the Lord has called us to be--like Peter--fishers of men. We've turned the commission around so that we have become merely keepers of the aquarium. Occasionally I take some fish out of your fishbowl and put them into mine, and you do the same with my bowl. But we're all tending the same fish."
Em Griffin, The Mindchangers, Tyndale House, 1976, p. 151.

To be a dynamic spiritual church empowered by the Holy Spirit to share Christ with as many people as possible in our church, community, and throughout the world.
Acts 1:8—“ 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.”

The Acts 1:8 Challenge

1. A Vision for an Awakened Heart for Evangelism
o When you have been in church for so long, maybe growing up in church—it’s easy to forget what it was like to be lost—to forget, the “heights from which we have fallen”—forget what it’s like to be apart from God—and the lostness, the darkness. Even if you were always a good person, even if you came to believe as a child—you may not remember, the tension eased, the frustrations and darkness diminished. It’s hard to hold to the clarity of memory for that long.

o And so the heart of some can grow cold. Cold to the dying around them.
o Too Often the Heart of God is Forgotten & Neglected—we seem to downplay the significance that God orchestrated time and space in order to breach the chasm that separated deity and humanity in order to mount the greatest rescue mission the universe has ever seen.

o LK 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."

o Luke 15:7-10-- 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

LK 15:8 "Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, `Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.' 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

Who is the one who is rejoicing in the presence of the angels? Who would they be paying enraptured attention to?
Who is in the presence of the Angels? Usually we think of them being in God’s presence, but aren’t they in His presence—God is rejoicing before them! he lets that joy and celebration show before them.

o This is the Heart of God—if even just one sinner repents—there is joy in heaven. When we lose our desire for evangelism and replace it with fear or hesitancy, we are distancing ourselves from the heart of God.

o Our hearts need to be awakened—to the fact that somewhere we have forgotten how terrible it is to be lost—lost and not even knowing it--to be trapped in the kingdom of darkness—

o Our hearts must be awakened to the fact that there are those trapped in darkness all around us—prisoners of war—our fellow soldiers who are hurting, who are confused—so confused, they don’t even know their condition.

o Our hearts need to be awakened—to the Heart of God—

o Our hearts need to be awakened to The Mission—to Evangelism—to the Great Rescue Mission that God initiated and asked us to be a part of.
o Imagine someone hanging on cliff desperate for a rescue—you’re holding the only rope—will you send it to him? Or imagine your driving a boat and you come across someone treading water—barely staying afloat—desperate for a life jacket and a ride to shore—you’ve got both—do you stop and help them? Will you only throw the life-jacket but not give him a ride?

o Did you know that a doctor at the scene of an accident is not under any legal obligation to render aid? That in fact, by helping a doctor is opening themselves up to a greater liability? A doctor who is at the scene of an accident, who sees that someone is dying and in need of a simple treatment may not be legally bound to render aid in that moment, but if they prove to be unwilling to save someone’s life when they can may very well never practice medicine again once all their patients found out.

o And a church without a heart for introducing people to Jesus is a church that may never practice their medicine again—a church that is dying.

2. A Vision for an Emboldened Heart for Evangelism
o Too Often Afraid or Hesitant to share the Good News—that God loves you—so much that He died in order to set you free from sin, suffering & death—and proved He could do it by coming back to life.

o What is stopping you? Are you afraid? Are you afraid of what they may think of you? Are you afraid that you don’t know what to say?

o Matthew 10:19-- 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

o Mark 13:11-- do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit

o In many cases it’s as simple as Open Your Mouth—Say Anything—as long as your mouth is closed then there is no opportunity for the Holy Spirit to speak through you—

o if you believe that the Holy Spirit can intercede and pray for you before the Father when you don’t know how or what to say with words you cannot express—then you’d better believe that the same Holy Spirit can speak through you to other people

o The world is telling the church—“Just keep your mouth shut.”

o While God is desperately saying—“Just keep you mouth open and I will give you what you need.”

o When Moses was before the burning bush—even after he had seen the miracles of the staff and the snake, his own hand turning leprous and healing—he said this to the call of God—“ "O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue."

EX 4:11 The LORD said to him, "Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say."

o In the midst of a generation screaming for answers, Christians are stuttering. Howard Hendricks

o Why do you have the Holy Spirit in your life? 2 Reasons—

o First—personal confirmation and sealing—assurance of salvation, conviction of sin—the Holy Spirit is there for your personal faith and growth.

o Second—so you may be an empowered and emboldened witness for Jesus Christ

o Acts 1:8—“ 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.”

o If God did not intend for you to be His witness, He would not send the Holy Spirit—which also means—if you have the Holy Spirit then you have all the power you need to be His witness. If you don’t want to be a witness—then you’re effectively saying you don’t want the Holy Spirit or His work in your life.

o The Holy Spirit is present in this world and in our hearts to Empower and Embolden us to be His witnesses—the Holy Spirit is not meant for the few elite—He is meant for all—but He will work through you—and witness through you in a way that is different from me.

o That boldness did not come naturally—the early church, the apostles—they prayed for it.

o Acts 4:29-- enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.

o Ephesians 6:19-- Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

o Are you actively praying for Boldness from God that you might be given the opportunity to witness for Him?

3. A Vision for an Opportunistic Heart for Evangelism
o Too Often Unaware & Unwilling
o Along with praying for boldness—are you praying for the opportunity.

o I’ve been the kid playing baseball in the outfield praying—“please don’t hit the ball this way, please don’t hit the ball this way.” Is that how you feel about sharing your faith?

o Colossians 4:2-6—“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

o Evangelism happens wherever you are—you must be opportunistic and deliberate—you must look for those doors of opportunity that God opens for you and have the courage of faith to step through them.

o “Make the most of every opportunity”… every conversation, every question needs some grace and some salt.

4. A Vision for an Expanded Idea of Evangelism
o Part of our problem is that we don’t really know what evangelism is any more. Too many of us think that if we’re not presenting the 4 Spiritual Laws or some kind of outline, then we’re not witnessing.

o Getting to know someone is a form of evangelism—being kind, being generous is a form of evangelism—so long as you are aware that at any moment a door of opportunity might open for you to ask, to share, to testify.

o Praying is a form of evangelism. So many people believe in it—so many need it—ask them if you can pray for them.

o Will your house be a house of prayer? If you are willing, commit to 5 or more of your neighbors—that you will visit or speak with them at least twice a month for nothing more than asking if there’s anything they would like you to pray for. If another opportunity opens, then fine—follow the Holy Spirit’s leading—but get out of your house go to a neighbor, go to a friend and ask to pray for them.

o You can do the same thing at work—you can do the same thing at school—you can do the same thing wherever we go.

o Christ met unbelievers where they were. He realized what many Christians today still don't seem to understand. Cultivators have to get out in the field. According to one count, the gospels record 132 contacts that Jesus had with people. Six were in the Temple, four in the synagogues and 122 were out with the people in the mainstream of life. J.K. Johnston, Why Christians Sin, Discovery House, 1992, p. 142.

o Be deliberate, be bold, be creative in how you evangelize and share the Good News

5. A Vision to Go On Mission
o College going to Beach Reach
o South Korea—August 4-18 – churches to Wisconsin, another Des Moines
o The Times-Reporter of New Philadelphia, Ohio, reported in September, 1985 a celebration of a New Orleans municipal pool. The party around the pool was held to celebrate the first summer in memory without a drowning at the New Orleans city pool. In honor of the occasion, 200 people gathered, including 100 certified lifeguards. As the party was breaking up and the four lifeguards on duty began to clear the pool, they found a fully dressed body in the deep end. They tried to revive Jerome Moody, 31, but it was too late. He had drowned surrounded by lifeguards celebrating their successful season. Times-Reporter, September 1985.

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