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Evangelizing the World

This morning we are wrapping up our summer sermon series! For the past many weeks we have been talking all about the Ekklesia – the church – the gathering of God’s people. And if you’ve been with us throughout this series, hopefully you’ve gained a greater understanding of what the church is, what it’s purpose is, and why your involvement in it is so important.

We began, first of all, by defining the church. And we were reminded that the church is not a building…  church is not an event we attend each Sunday morning, but the church is the gathering of God’s people.  The Bible describes us as the body of Christ or as the family of God.

And as such, we all have an important role to play in the church. Just like a physical body needs all the body different parts to function together (we need the hands to hold stuff, the feet to walk, the ears to listen, the mouth to speak, and all that stuff)… In the same way, every believer has an important role to play in the body of Christ – in the church. We all have a role in this family so that the church can do what God created it to do.

And of course, that leads us to the question, “Well, what then did God create the church to do? What is the purpose of the church and what’s my role in it?”

Well, we identified three main purposes or tasks of the church.

  1. To bring glory to God through worshipping Him together.
  2. To bring glory to God by edifying His people.
  3. To bring glory to God by evangelizing the world.

And so far, we talked about bringing glory to God through worshipping God together – honouring Him by being obedient to all the things that God has commanded us.

We talked about bringing glory to God by edifying God’s people – or building each other up – helping one another become more like Christ.

And now today we want to talk about bringing glory to God by evangelizing the world.

And you may be glad to hear that we don’t have any more greek words to learn today! It seems we’ve had a new foreign word to learn every Sunday in this series – ekklesia, weorthscipe, oikodomeo – but I don’t plan on teaching you any weird and wonderful words today.

I think most of us already have a pretty good understanding of what it means to evangelize the world – the hard part isn’t defining it – the hard part is actually doing it!

But just so that we have all the bases covered, to evangelize the world really just means to tell everyone the good news of Jesus Christ.

That is one of the key purposes of the church – we are God’s means of letting everyone know the good news about Jesus.

There are several places in the Scriptures where we are told this, but perhaps one of the clearest examples in found in the books of Acts.

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, he met with his disciples on several occasions, and in Acts chapter 1 we read about their final interaction before Jesus ascended into heaven. It says in Acts 1:6…

6 So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”

7 He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:6-8

Jesus explained that the main task for the apostles (and for the church that would follow) was to be witnesses of Jesus – telling people everywhere about who Jesus is and what He had done. In fact, they would be empowered by the Holy Spirit for this very purpose!

Which I think is pretty awesome! Have you ever thought about that? If you are a believer – if you are someone who has put their trust in Jesus for Salvation – one of the main reasons why God has sent His Holy Spirit to dwell within you is so that you can be empowered to be a witness for Him!

Isn’t that cool? As you read through the book of Acts we see that the disciples, empowered by the Holy Spirit, were totally transformed. They became unusually bold and they shared about Jesus without fear everywhere they went! 

I mean, Peter, the guy who denied even knowing Jesus back when Jesus was on trial, was now preaching to huge crowds and standing before the authorities – giving witness to Jesus. The Holy Spirit even gave them the right words to say as they spoke.

And God has given us that same Holy Spirit to dwell within us – with the same power that He provided for the Apostles so that we can accomplish the same task that God has given us – to be witnesses of Jesus Christ in Penhold, throughout Red Deer County, in Alberta, and to the ends of the earth!

That is one of the key purposes of the church. That is one of the key purposes of our church. If we are failing be effective witnesses of Jesus – then we are failing as a church.

We exist to bring glory to God by evangelizing the world. We exist to tell the people around us who Jesus is and what He has done for them and to illustrate for them what it looks like to live life in the Kingdom of God.

And it’s at this point in the sermon where many of us probably start feeling a little guilty. I think most of us feel like we don’t a very good job of evangelizing our own neighbourhoods. We know we should and we want to, but we often feel like a failure when it comes to sharing about Jesus with our friends and neighbors and co-workers.

I was reading a sermon on evangelism by John Piper this week and he said:

“Virtually every earnest Christian is grieved by his weakness in this area. Did you know that? There is not a zealous Christian in this room who feels content with his effectiveness in personal evangelism. We feel guilt for our timidity and regret for missed opportunities, phony because of our lack of compassion for the lost…” ~ John Piper

And I think most of us would agree with him. We want to see our friends and neighbors come to Christ. We want to see their lives changed by Jesus. We want God to use us to help rescue people from a Christ-less eternity and to grow His church!

But very few of us would feel that we’re doing that effectively! Maybe we don’t know how or maybe we don’t feel we know enough about the Bible or maybe we’ve tried before and it didn’t go so good and so we’ve just kinda stepped back from doing that sort of thing.

And I’m right there with ya! It’s one thing for me to talk about Jesus from behind the pulpit – it’s another thing to talk about Jesus with my neighbor. So this morning, I don’t want to come at you with a big stick – hitting you over the head to guilt you into evangelism.

Instead, my hope is that I can encourage you and help equip you and give you the tools you need so that you can effectively share Christ with your friends and neighbors – as I know you already want to and as Jesus has commanded us to.

So where do we begin?

Well, perhaps a good place to start is to make sure we understand and can articulate the Gospel ourselves! I would assume that probably most of us can do that already – but it certainly doesn’t hurt to review.

So what exactly is the Gospel – what is the good news?

Well I think Paul gives us a pretty good summary of the facts in 1 Corinthians 15. He writes:

Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. 2 It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place.

3 I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. 

And now here’s Paul’s summary of the Gospel message.

Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. 5 He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. 6 After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him.

1 Corinthians 15:1-8

These are the facts of Gospel. Jesus Christ died for our sin, was buried and was raised from the dead – and He is alive and well today. This is the good news.

However, in thinking about how we might present this good news to the people around us – they probably won’t see the significance of this good news until they understand the bad news – specifically the reality and the consequences of sin.

I think that’s probably needs to be one of the key factors in our evangelism particularly today. I think there are a lot of people who won’t even consider Jesus to be the solution because they fail to understand that there is even a problem.

People need to understand the seriousness and the severity of their sin. It’s a problem that we all have and we all need rescuing from.

Romans 3:23 tells us:

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Romans 3:23

And of course, this becomes a big problem when we realize, as Romans 6:23 says…

“For the wages of sin is death…” Romans 6:23a

This death is separation from God and all that is good for eternity. Not only do we suffer the consequences of sin today – but if not for the grace of God, those consequence would never end! There is nothing that we can do to free ourselves from the consequences of sin! There is no number of good deeds we can accomplish that will undue the damage of sin.

Like Isaiah says:

We are constant sinners;

    how can people like us be saved?

6 We are all infected and impure with sin.

    When we display our righteous deeds,

    they are nothing but filthy rags.

Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall,

    and our sins sweep us away like the wind.

Isaiah 64:5b-6

Our sinfulness destroys our relationship with God and constantly damages the relationships we have with each other. And there is nothing we can do to fix that problem. But this is where the good news comes in. Romans 5:8 tells us.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 

God, the creator of the universe, loved us so much that He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die in our place so that we might live. And history has recorded those very events for us! That’s what we read in 1 Corinthians – that Jesus died, was buried, and was raised to life again – and we seen by hundreds of people afterwards. He is alive today – and because of that we can trust that what He has said is true:

That He truly is the Son of God – that God does offer forgiveness for our sin – that faith in Christ will restore our relationship with God and with others – and that God does promise eternal life, joy, peace, and hope to anyone who believes in Him.

As Jesus Himself said in 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.  John 3:16 NIV

God has done everything necessary for our salvation – all we have to do is to believe it and trust in Him! 

And that’s a basic summary of the Gospel. If you’re a note-taker, here are the 4 key points that you’d want to communicate in a basic presentation of the Gospel. 

    1. The problem of sin.
    2. The need for salvation.
    3. The facts of Jesus life, death, and resurrection.
    4. The necessary choice to trust in Jesus.

And of course, you may not have opportunity to share every single one of those points in one sitting with someone, but tou can certainly share the Gospel in pieces… It could be that you have opportunity to share a little bit here – and a little bit there… different snippets over many days or even years. But these would be the key things they would need to know before they can make an informed decision about following Christ.

So now that we’ve reviewed the basics of the Gospel, the next big question is “How do we get opportunity to share this with people?”

Do we take to the street and preach on the street corners? Do we go door-to-door and hand out Gospel tracks? Do we invite them to church and leave the preaching to the preacher?

Well, you know, honestly, God has used all of those methods in the past to bring people to Him. People have heard and responded to the Gospel from street corner preachers, from Gospel tracks left in their mailbox, and from hearing the message in their local church. In fact, we could probably list hundreds of ways that people have heard the message – radio broadcasts, kids clubs, Bible camps, neighbours talking over the hedge, Bible study groups, billboards, a conversation in the grocery store, and the list could go on! 

God is not limited in any way – and He is incredibly creative! So when it comes to how we share the Gospel with people, I think it really comes down to how God has wired us and the opportunities that we have in front of us. 

What can we do, to use our natural abilities and talents, what circles of friends and connections do we already have, what opportunities are sitting right in front of us where we can share with people the good news of Jesus Christ?

And prayer has got to be the key part of all of this. Perhaps one of the most overlooked elements of evangelism is prayer! We need today for people. We need to pray for opportunities. And then when God provides those opportunities, we need to pray that we would actually noticed them and take advantage of those opportunities.

Look what Paul writes in Colossians 4…

2 Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. 3 Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. 4 Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.

5 Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.

Colossians 4:2-6

Paul says to pray for opportunities to share the Gospel. And then pray that when those opportunities come, we make the most of them and proclaim the message as clearly as we should!

You know, God is always at work. He’s doing things in people’s lives that we often have no idea about! That’s the amazing part about this whole process – we don’t have to change people lives. That’s not our job. God does that part. We just need to watch for those opportunities that God brings us – and then faithfully share the Gospel message – empowered by the Holy Spirit to be a witness for Jesus in word and in deed. God takes care of the rest.

And that’s not to say that we should just sit around and wait for God to send us someone. I think part of ‘watching for opportunities’ is creating an environment for opportunities. If we hide away in our houses and never interact with anyone, our opportunities to share the Gospel are going to few and far between!

But if we put ourselves in places where we can interact with others – especially in environments where spiritual conversations can easily happen – we may find all kinds of opportunities!

That’s why our church often hosts a variety of programs. We have kids clubs and youth groups and Bible studies – and we do those things to create environments where we have opportunity to share about Christ! VBS, Bible camps, the alpha program, masquerade ministries, short term missions teams – all of those things exist to create opportunities to share the good news of Jesus Christ. 

I would encourage you to get involved in some of those programs and events and organizations! But at the same time, while those things are awesome and I whole-heartily endorse them, it’s important to note that you don’t have to run a program to create opportunities. You might create opportunities when you strike up a conversation with your neighbor. You might create opportunities in the lunch room at work. You might create opportunities by having coffee with a friend. 

The last two verses of that Colossians passage says…

5 Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.

Colossians 4:5-6

Paul’s assumption here is that we are living among those who are not believers – we are having conversations with them. We’re drinking coffee with them, working beside them, playing hockey with them…. And as we do that, we are going to have opportunities to share about Christ.

We can’t just hunker down in our homes – we need to live wisely among those who not believers so that we will have opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ with them.

And this is a sermon to myself. I know I sure have that tendency to keep to myself – hanging out with my good Christian friends. And as a pastor, that’s super easy to do! But it’s important that I put myself in those environments where I’ll have opportunity to be a witness for Christ.

As I mentioned earlier today, I think we all want to see our friends and neighbors come to know Christ. We want to see the community of Penhold changed by Jesus. We want God to use us to help rescue people from a Christ-less eternity and to grow His church!

And God wants that too! God loves the people of Penhold so much that He’s already sent his Son Jesus to die for each one of them so that they can live! And He’s sent the Holy Spirit to live within us so that we can be empowered to be His witnesses – sharing with them about who Jesus is and what He has done for them.

Our job – our purpose as the Penhold Church of Hope – is to watch for opportunities – to create opportunities – to be witnesses of Jesus Christ in Penhold, throughout Red Deer County, in Alberta, and to the ends of the earth!

So let’s do it! Let us faithfully bring glory to God by evangelizing our world. Let us be the Penhold Church of Hope – and bring the hope of Jesus Christ to a lost and hurting world.

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