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Wednesday, September 15th 2010

9:35 PM

Words That Bring Dead People to Life:

A Remnant Call For Evangelism

By Pastor Bruce Sikes

What is Evangelism? Evangelism simply means to share the Gospel with other people. The word "Gospel" is translated as the "Good News". So whether we call it the "way to be saved" or "the plan of salvation", it simply means to share Bible verses about the Good News of Jesus to those who do not believe.

Why do we do that? Because the Gospel message is the heart of the entire Bible. It is the beginning and the end of what we believe. It's what it means to be a Christian. It's what it means to be the Church. It's what it means to believe in God. Without the Gospel, we cannot expect to go to heaven.

Before we go on to talk about what exactly the Gospel is-- and isn't, let's look at a paragraph from the Bible written by the Apostle Paul to the church in the ancient city of Colosse.

Colossians Chapter 1, beginning at verse 3, Paul writes:

"We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints—the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf..."

How did the people in Colosse learn of the Gospel?

It says Epaphras told them. Someone told them. Someone practiced evangelism, and those that "heard it" as it says in verse 6, "and understood God's grace in all its truth" were saved. We don't have the account of Epaphras telling them about Jesus, but more than likely, then like now, I'm sure there were those who listened, but did not hear, and even those who didn't care to understand.

This is the first reality of what evangelism is not --- it is not our job to "convert" someone for the Lord.

I had a young lady tell me a week or so ago, she said, "You almost have me converted to becoming a Christian."  I told her, "I can't convert anyone, but God can."

You see, we have no power to convert anyone; only God, through His Holy Spirit, has the power to bring conviction, conversion and salvation to a person through the Gospel of His Son Jesus. It happens as someone reads and hears the Gospel Message in the Bible, and the convicting power of the Holy Spirit and God's grace brings that conversion. Salvation, or being saved, comes through the Word of God and not through our own convincing words. 

Once we really embrace this fact about evangelism, it becomes very freeing; the undue pressure we have placed on ourselves for feeling inadequate and not up to the task is gone.

Successful evangelism for the believer is merely sharing the Gospel with someone, and does not depend upon that person’s acceptance or rejection of the message. 

We are just discharging our regular duties as believers by telling others about Jesus. We are delivering the message. This is really all that God is asking us to do when we share the Gospel, to be His messengers.

I once heard someone say it takes 7.1 times for the average person to hear the Gospel before he or she accepts it...7.1 times. I don't know where they came up with the percentage or how scientific the study was, but I agree with the idea. It says that if you tell someone about Jesus and they do not accept what you have said, it's perhaps that you were only number 6 or 7, and the next time could be the point 1.

Let me illustrate that for you. A few short years ago, I prayed with a young Indian man who had come forward for prayer after a church worship service. The sermon was not evangelistic at all, (I wasn't the one preaching!), and I'm not sure the preacher had even mentioned Jesus that day. Sad, but true, and becoming a lot more common in 21st century churches than we would like to think. By the way, I am no longer at that church and I would suggest that if you are at a church where Jesus is rarely, if ever, mentioned, "Shake the dust off" and find a Remnant Church now!

Well, that was the place where this young man came forward for prayer.  During the worship time, as he sat in back of the church, he came to understand and accept the Gospel as God's Holy Spirit brought conviction to his heart. When he came forward to pray with me, he was in tears. He could barely talk. He was weeping so much. I actually felt stupid asking him if he had accepted Christ as his Savior. It was so obvious, even without words being spoken.  I found out later that he had been a life-long Hindu, and a that fellow co-worker of his outside of church was sharing the Gospel with him. So when he arrived at church for the first time, he was at that point 1 mark I spoke of before. It just so happened that I was blessed to witness the harvest, but I had nothing to do with it.  His co-worker was the number 7 in delivering the message. She was like Epaphras, in Colosse, a "faithful minister" on Christ's behalf.

She was practicing a daily lifestyle of evangelism. A lifestyle motivated by love, "Faith and Love" as it says in verses 3 & 4, “faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up" (in us and for us in heaven). She wanted her co-worker to have that same hope and love she had. Sharing the Gospel was a priority for her.

In a letter to another church, the Apostle Paul describes this natural desire we have as Christians to share our hope with people who have no hope, or false hopes. He writes in 2 Corinthians

“For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that One died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live, should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and was raised again."

"For Christ's love compels us," Paul writes. As believers we cannot help but tell others about Christ. We just can't help ourselves. We're driven. We are compelled in our hearts to share the love of Christ with others. We want them to know the same joy and hope we have. It is a part of who we are.

Still, we sometimes struggle to witness, to do evangelism. It becomes a scary word to us. There are a lot of reasons why. I think the biggest is fear.

We're worried about what people may think of us. Will they get angry? Will they make fun of me? Will they ask us questions we don't have the specific answers for? Will they accuse us of judging them? Will they point out our faults and call us a hypocrite?

Well, the answer to all of this is... yes...maybe, probably.

 As far as faults, there are no perfect Christians. We are not perfect, so when we are made aware of any sins we might be doing, even the smallest ones, we need to ask for forgiveness and stop doing them. If, unfortunately, someone has let their commitment to Christ slip towards the gutter let's say, they are cussing at work, passing around dirty jokes, whatever it may be, whether anyone knows about it or not, they just need to stop that! Admit they have been doing wrong, ask God to help them (and He will) and then make a commitment not to do it again.

People are watching and listening to us. What are they seeing and hearing? We are a witness, not just with our words, but with our lives as well. We need to be as clean of vessels as possible for communicating the Gospel. Time is short. Even the secular job you are doing right now is only temporary. We have been called to a higher work, an Eternal work.

As far as those other reasons we're afraid to witness, if you have presented the Gospel as clearly, sincerely and as lovingly as possible, then when any of those reactions do occur, it is not you they are reacting to, but the truth about Jesus they have just heard and are struggling to understand. 

As believers, we can certainly understand and relate to the reality of the inner spiritual struggle they are experiencing. This is where we support them as we can, doing and saying only those things as God leads, and where we claim and exercise the power of prayer God has given us. This is where the Holy Spirit intervenes.

We don't have to worry about making a fool of ourselves. In fact, do you know what's worse than making a fool of yourself by sharing the Gospel? It's by not making a fool of yourself by sharing the Gospel.

Just before we read that verse in 2nd Corinthians about "Christ's love compels us", the Apostle Paul mentions this, quote:

"If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for your sake..."

Thinking, or having someone else think, you are out of your mind for sharing the Gospel is not a new thought.

Still, although we may be willing to speak to someone about Jesus, we're often waiting for the "perfect moment" to share the Gospel. Ironically, so are those who are trying to decide if they want to accept the whole "Jesus is the only way thing".  Everyone is waiting for that perfect moment to consider Jesus. The problem is that so-called perfect moment may never come, or it may come and go. You know, it's when we're waiting for no one else to be around, just you and the other person. And it's when we know we don't have to be anywhere, and, when we are "feeling up to the task", or when we're having a "good day", which is one of our biggest excuses. The reality is, that as you read through the four Gospels and the book of Acts, you'll see that Jesus and the disciples did most of their preaching, healing, casting out of demons, and evangelizing in the midst of the surrounding confusion, chaos and crowds of daily life. 

For them, every moment, every situation, was an opportunity to share the Gospel. They adapted to the situation and used it for God's glory. They woke up each morning, on good days and bad days, expecting and looking for opportunities to share the Gospel. And we must do the same thing.  But it's not just looking; it's also listening, listening for God's voice speaking to us, guiding us to those who need to hear the Good News about Jesus. And there are legions of people around us everyday who do not know Christ.

Twenty years ago or so, my wife and I were living in the city. It was an older neighborhood, where all the houses were bunched up together with fences in between.  It was one of those neighborhoods where you could lean over the back fence and talk to your neighbor. One day, I was out in my backyard late in the afternoon barbequing.  I looked over and saw one of my next door neighbors walking around in his back yard.  His name was Gary. Gary lived with Steve, and yes, that was their chosen "lifestyle".  As I stood there grilling, the Lord said to me, very clearly, "I want you to invite Gary over and share the Gospel with him."  As I considered this, I thought, "Well, I hadn't checked with my wife. It's not what we planned. I better not. I'll wait for a better time".  Now I was wrong in assuming how my wife would react, but I decided to ignore God's "suggestion". So I waved at my neighbor instead.

Later on, my wife got home; we ate and then went to a movie. A couple hours later we returned home to find Gary's friend, Steve, very upset and pacing back and forth on the sidewalk. So I went up to him and asked him "What's wrong?"

He said that Gary had just died....

That perfect moment had come and gone for both of us.

Honestly, I don't know where Gary is. I have prayed that he gave his life to Christ before he died. But, I just don't know.

The fact is, none of us knows when we will die. As believers, it is not up to us decide when it is an appropriate time to talk about Jesus, when WE think it is convenient, or when WE are "ready" to share.  If we have an inner feeling or sense that we need to speak to someone about Jesus, we cannot afford to dismiss it. We cannot afford to put it off. It's better to be safe, than eternally sorry.  All the Lord wants is for us to be willing and obedient.   God is not asking us to be a Bible scholar, or an ordained pastor or skilled evangelist.  We don't even have to know why God want us to tell him or her, or why then and now?

Let me repeat, "Successful evangelism for the believer is merely sharing the Gospel with someone and it does not depend upon that person’s acceptance or rejection of the message." 

Once we know for certain that a person has heard the Gospel of Jesus, it is between them and God. At that time, our primary duty is to pray for them. God through His Holy Spirit does the work. He has the power to convict, convert and bring that person to salvation through His Son Jesus.

Success is sharing. So we can all be successful today and tomorrow, at work, at school, at home, at a sporting event, or at the market with complete strangers. We can all be successful if we just open our mouths and dare to mention the name of Jesus. We have the message that brings life.

And here is that message, not in my words, not in your words, but in God's words. Straight from the Bible, 100% pure, nothing added. These words bring dead people to life.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe, stands condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." (John 3:16-18)

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly." (Romans 5:6)

"What we earned from our sin (is) death, "...but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:23)"...that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:10-12)

"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12) "Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

"Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26) and finally,

"... if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." (Romans 10: 9, 10 & 13)

"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

In closing, I want to ask you to pray right now for those you personally know who are undecided about Jesus. People that God has placed on your hearts and minds, ones that you are being compelled to share the message of Christ's love and forgiveness with, friends, and especially enemies. 

Pray that the love of Jesus touches the hearts and minds of those you are praying for right now. Pray in the name of Jesus that the cloud of doubt and confusion has been removed at this very moment. Pray and ask God to give them understanding, to not only know the story of Jesus dying on the cross for their sins, but to accept and believe it with all their heart. Pray that they will trust and follow Jesus from this moment on.   

And ask the Lord to help you be a witness to them, and to others that you may not even know. Ask the Lord to give you increased awareness of those around you who need to hear the Gospel message. Ask Him for opportunities to share Jesus with them. Then expect them, and look and listen for them. Lord, please give us wisdom and increase our boldness. Use us Lord. Surprise us.

As it says in the book of Romans, we are "...not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes..."

We your Remnant believe O Lord, and we will say so!

For Christ and His Remnant,

Pastor Bruce

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