Personal Evangelism Sermon from 7.15.2012
- Introduction of Evangelism
- Examples of Evangelism
- a. John pointing his disciples to Jesus
- b. Those Disciples then telling others about Jesus
- c. Jesus’ Encounter with Nicodemus
- d. Jesus’ Encounter with Samaritan Woman
Songs of Praise:
Good evening and welcome to Special Sunday night service. I know the past couple of pastors that have preached the evening service have spoiled you by coming out there to you all. Although I agree that is probably the best way of approaching this kind of setting, I am choosing to stay behind the pulpit, because honestly I need the experience, if I plan on being a pastor one day I need to get used to it, and me coming out there would just be like any other teaching setting that I do any other day of week. So I hope you understand that.
This past week has been difficult in my preparation for this sermon. Usually when I am asked to preach, it is easy for me to prepare a sermon because I usually just take whatever text I have been wrestling with and then turn it into a sermon.
Well the problem tonight is not that I have not been wrestling with a text, but that I have been wrestling with the entire Gospel of John. As I kept reading this Gospel and studying it for the preparation of our Sunday School lessons, I could resonate with the words of Martin Luther. Luther said, “God’s Word is alive it speaks to me, it has feet it runs after me, it has hands it lays hold on me.” I have been pursued and over taken by the first four chapters of the Gospel of John.
So the difficulty tonight is what do I feel like God would have me say to you all out of the Gospel of John tonight. There is so much here, and as some of you might now there are some verses that I could spend my entire time on tonight like John 1:1 or John 3:16. So what I am going to do tonight is lead you in a study of personal evangelism based on the first four chapters of the Gospel of John.
My goal tonight is to set you free from misconceptions of what evangelism is, and to inspire boldness in your personal witness with others that come from a right understanding of the Gospel. We will first start with an introduction of personal evangelism. We will answer the questions, what is evangelism and what it is not? So that we will all have a solid foundation on what we are discussing. Then we will look at four examples of personal evangelism that we find in the first four chapters of John.
So lets us start first with misconceptions so that we at least know what personal evangelism is not. So in the video we saw a guy that thought he was sharing the Gospel because he wore Christian shirts and bracelets. Although in the video it is humorous, many people really believe this works. They believe that if they just do good things for people, come to God’s Pantry, and wear a certain shirt, that people will assume the Gospel. However, this is impossible because people cannot assume what they do not know. So the first misconception is that of mere presence. We do not preach a silent gospel.
The Gospel is not brought near without words. It is multi-faceted, but most essentially it is verbal. The supposed comment of St. Francis(preach the gospel at all times, use words if necessary) sounds like we can bring the gospel near by being there, by being kind, being righteous, and being loving. These are signs of the gospel, but the gospel requires articulation. Whatever you are doing when you are not using words, you are not preaching the gospel. You may be giving evidence of and witness to the gospel, but it still has to be taught and explained. The New Testament is full with verbs showing the verbal nature of the gospel.
Our second misconception is evangelism by spiritual mugging. As we saw in the video with the first guy that wrote the book on evangelism, we cannot argue or drag someone into the right relationship with Jesus Christ. That does not mean we do not engage in discussions with people. I am a firm believer in apologetics. We did an apologetics study at Cougars for Christ in the middle school and on Good Friday I gave an Apologetic sermon. However, we do not study apologetics to argue someone into heaven, but to be a link in a chain that takes Christianity in someone’s mind from total nonsense to a divine revelation. Forcing your belief on someone is most often ineffective and counter-productive. We need to witness out of boldness, but also out of compassion.
Our third and final misconception is that evangelism is only for pastors or Christians that order their portion of Jesus Supersized. This is a dangerous trap to fall into. Because you defiantly do not want to hire a pastor that does not evangelize, but you also do not want to hire a pastor that only evangelizes. The main job of a pastor is to preach God’s Word, which will include the Gospel, so that you all will be able to be equipped to go share the Gospel to your friends, co-workers, and family. There are people in your life that only you can reach for Christ. If I was to go to them out of the blue, they would dismiss me as some kind of religious wacko. However, sense they know you, have seen how you lived, seen how you treat them and that you love them then they are going to be more receptive of what you have to say.
Personal evangelism is not just for super-Christians. It is for all Christians. Jesus commands us to go and make disciples of all the nations. So what assurance can we have in our own salvation if we are not moved by the Holy Spirit to share with others the change that occurred in your life, the source of our joy, the source of our hope?
I would argue that we can have no assurance, because 1 John tells us that Jesus said that if you love me you will keep my commandments. So if we are ignoring his command to go and make disciples, what hope do we have if you are not keeping this commandment? A true Christian will be producing fruit and it is not always just fruits of the spirit. What do fruits do? They carry seeds to be sown, so that something new grows. So when you are producing fruit you should be reproducing your faith.
You cannot place all your hope in a prayer you prayed, nor can you put your hope in being dunked under water at church. If change did not come in your life that drove you to want to tell others about what Christ did for you then, I have no choice, but to question your salvation.
It is like if I was to come in here late to church and I said sorry for being so late, but I was headed to church and decided to check my mailbox before I left and was not paying attention and got hit by a huge southern states truck. I got up and had to go change clothes because I had gotten them dirty from the concrete.
Now if I was to tell you all that, you know that I would be lying, right? It would be impossible for me to be hit by a truck that big and not be physically changed.
Now how are some of you tonight going to tell me that you have accepted the Lord of all creation, the God that created the Grand Canyon, the God that created the mountains, and the seas, that you have accepted Him into your heart, but that you have remained unchanged? That to me is more unbelievable than if I was to get hit by a truck and walked in here unchanged.
So now that we have addressed on what evangelism is not, let us now answer the question, what is evangelism? My all-time favorite quote is simple, but gloriously true. It comes from D.T. Niles and he said, “Evangelism is one Beggar telling another beggar where to get bread.” Let this soak in for a second………. “Evangelism is one Beggar telling another beggar where to get bread.” This catches the essences of evangelism. We did not deserve Jesus Christ. We were sinners that deserved Hell. And while we were yet enemies of God, Jesus Christ died for us. We did not earn our salvation through works, we are not Christians because we are smarter than unbelievers, it is because God graciously and mercifully revealed himself to us.
Grace is the giving of something that we do not deserve. Example, we do not deserve heaven, but through the gift that Jesus Christ provided, heaven is now available for us. Mercy is not being given what we do deserve. Example, we deserve Hell because of our sins, but because of God’s mercy, he provided his Son as the escape goat for all those that repent and believe.
Now the definition, “Evangelism is one Beggar telling another beggar where to get bread.” is simple so I will give you a more detailed and more workable definition for you to workout when you get home tonight. Evangelism is “The compassionate sharing of the Good News of Jesus Christ with all people, in the power of the Holy Spirit, for the purpose of bringing them to Christ as Savior, Lord, and Treasure so that they in turn might share Him with others. ”
Now we have discussed what it is and what it is not, let us look at scripture to make sure everything that I have said tonight is true and not me just giving you my opinion on the subject.
First, let us look at the first followers of Jesus in John chapter 1 verses 35 through 39. Up to this point in this Gospel, it has been clear that although John the Baptist is the greatest prophet to ever live, that there is one coming after him that he is not worthy enough to untie his sandals. John the Baptist’s whole role is to point others to the coming messiah. He preached a message of repent for the Kingdom of heaven is near. So now, look at the passage with me, starting in verse 35:
The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.
Here we see that because of the testimony of John the Baptist, Jesus’ gets his first followers. They did not stop following John and start following Jesus because he gave them a better religion, but because Jesus fulfilled their religion. This is the whole point of John the Baptist’s ministry was to point others to Christ.
We also see that the most effective way to win people to Jesus is to point them to Jesus and to tell them who He is. Jesus did not gain followers because He gave a really good altar call after an emotion driven sermon. Jesus did not gain followers by going door to door asking people if they wanted to go to Hell or not. Jesus did not gain followers by asking people to say prayers or fill out commitment cards. He gained followers first by the testimony of John the Baptist.
So let us look at what one of these first disciples had to do after he started following Jesus. Let us pick up the story in verse 40:
One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).
We see here that once Andrew starts following the Messiah, he has to go tell his brother Simon. Peter becomes the first in a long line of successors who have discovered that the most common and effective Christian testimony is the private witness of friend-to-friend, brother to brother.
I am not knocking the other forms of evangelism because they sometimes have their place in ministry, (it is possible for God to still use these tactics) but our failure is that we glorify the least effective means of evangelism and miss out on the most effective way of ministering to people, the ones we actually have a relationship with us, that actually trust what we are saying to them because we have already showed to them that we care for them and that we are not some religious wacko that is walking into their home.
We often glorify the Paul-like conversions, when scripture sets the pattern of Timothy-like discipleship. However, Paul-like conversions are not only the exceptions in scripture, but they are most often meant to be descriptive of what is going on and usually involve a miracle, not prescriptive in what we should be trying to duplicate. Paul-like conversions are also dangerous because we run the risk of making false converts instead of disciples of Christ. We dangerously reassure people that they are OK with God because they said a prayer or got dunked in water at church. We sometimes mistake the purpose of the church. We forget that the church is not here to merely win the lost, but to congregate the converted.
So what does this mean? Do we stop doing evangelism because we fear that we might make false converts? Absolutely not! However, we need to know what Gospel we are preaching to this world, not only by our words, but also by our actions. Are we living lives that are saying that Jesus will make you healthy and wealthy or are we living lives of humble servants that are saying we were sinners deserving Hell, but Jesus graciously came and forgave us of our sins and adopted us into His heavenly family.
We do need to be conscious of what we are winning people too. Because what we are winning people too is what they will worship. And a decision based purely on emotions will be a decision that falls away when those emotions fade. We need to be pointing people to the Jesus that is the Messiah, the one that will forgive them of their sins. Not the one that is useful for them in not going to Hell. Or, useful for them in fulfilling their already fleshly desires. Jesus came to give us new desires, not to fulfill our old ones.
Therefore, I encourage us to seek out ways to share Jesus with people we already know and have a relationship with. Just like the examples we have in the Bible, tell others who Jesus is, so that they too may share in the joy that comes with living with Christ. And tell everyone the Gospel, not just people outside the church. There are people in this church that need the Gospel. So be like John the Baptist and Andrew, do not just ask if they know of Jesus, tell them who He is and what He has done for you. Tell everyone the Gospel and allow God to call His sheep to Himself.
Now look with me at our next section of scripture starting in verse 43:
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
Now I do not know this for sure, but I can almost guarantee that Jesus was not the one that brought up going to go and meet Philip. Since Philip is from the city of Andrew and Peter, I have a feeling that they said to Jesus, we have to go back home, we have to tell someone about you.
Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
Here we see an example of how to share the Gospel with someone that is skeptical of Jesus being our Lord, Savior, and Treasure. We see that Philip sought out Nathanael to share the Good News of Jesus with him. Nathanael is skeptical at first mainly because he knew his scriptures well and knew that the messiah was not to come from Nazareth, but from Bethlehem.
But also, because of his bias of people from Nazareth, “could anything good come from Nazareth?” What does Philip do? Does he try to argue with him or force him into believing? No, he simply says, “come and see”. He leaves the conversion up to Jesus. He is certain that Jesus is the Messiah because he knows that Jesus is the one that Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote about. Therefore, knowing that Jesus is the Messiah he lets him do all of the talking.
How can we do this today in our lives when someone is skeptical of our faith? First of all, we have God’s Word and if we want to show people Jesus we only need to turn to the first four books of the New Testament. So we need to know God’s Word well enough to be able to share it with others.
Second, when Jesus left He assured us that He would send one that is better. That was the Holy Spirit. Therefore, if we are true Christians then we will have the Holy Spirit in our lives. Therefore, our lives should be a testimony to Christ and will guide us in our conversations about Christ to those that are skeptical of Christ. However, this is where apologetics comes in because we study apologetics not to argue people into heaven, but to be able to give a good defense of the faith to be a link in the chain that leads someone from thinking that Jesus is non-sense, to accepting Him as their Lord, Savior, and Treasure.
However, we will never know everything, so we cannot be afraid to witness to someone just because we are afraid that we will screw-up. We just make ourselves available to be used by God and allow the Holy Spirit to work through us because we realize that it is not our job to save people it is Jesus Christ’s. All we do is say come and see.
Now those were our first two examples. The examples of John the Baptist and the example of Jesus’ first followers. Now our third example is Jesus’ Encounter with Nicodemus. We see this story in John chapter 2 verse 23 through chapter 3 verse 15:
In verse 23, we see that many trusted in his name. But in verse 24 Jesus, however, would not entrust himself to them.
Many trusted. Many people in John 2 believed in Jesus, but Jesus did not believe them. Many people in John 2 accepted Jesus, but Jesus did not accept them. Clearly, from the beginning of the gospel of John, this gospel that revolves around the necessity and centrality of belief in Christ, John makes clear to us that there is a kind of belief, a kind of faith, that does not save. Which makes sense because Satan and his demons believe and obey him, but are destined for the lake of fire.
This sets the stage for John’s introduction of Nicodemus in verse 1 of chapter 3. Nicodemus is a man that comes to Jesus and says in chapter 3 verse 2: We know that you have come from God as a teacher, we have seen the signs.
So Jesus looks back at Nicodemus and says, Your belief, your trust in insufficient for your salvation. You must be born again. (John 3:7)
This is shocking! Here is a devout, passionate, respected, law-following, God-fearing man. He had devoted his entire life to entering the kingdom of heaven. He prays to God. He studies God’s Word, he teaches it, and he lives it. And he does all of this in an effort to honor God.
This is a man that if he was to come to Flemingsburg Baptist Church, not only would we accept him with open arms, but we would make him be a deacon, serve on our committees, and teacher our Sunday School classes. Yet Jesus says he has no spiritual life in him whatsoever.
This man of faith who believed in Jesus was dead in sin, and at that moment he was destined for Hell.
Is this possible? Is it possible for people to say they believe in Jesus, to say they have accepted Jesus, to say that they have received Jesus, but they are not saved and will not enter the kingdom of heaven? Is that possible? Absolutely, it’s possible. It’s not just possible; it is probable.
This is not just in John 2. This is Jesus’ words in Matthew 7 as He concludes His most famous sermon, and He says: “Many will say to me on that day…many!…will say, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and drive out demons and do mighty works in your name, and I will tell them, I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers.” (Matthew 7:22-23)
Jesus is not talking, in Matthew 7 or in John 3 about especially corrupt sinners, atheists, or agnostics. He is talking about deeply, devoutly religious people who are deluded into thinking that they are saved when they are not. He is talking about men and women who will be shocked one day to find that though they thought they were on the narrow road that leads to heaven, they were actually on the broad road that leads to Hell. People who believed, but were not born again.
Does this apply to us today? Consider a recent study which found that 4 out of 5 Americans identify themselves as Christians. In this group of self-proclaimed Christians, less than half of them are involved in church on a regular basis. Less than half of them believe that the Bible is accurate. The overwhelming majority of them do not have a biblical view of the world around them.
But this study went deeper to identify certain men and women as “born-again Christians.” This group includes people who say they have made a personal commitment to Jesus, and who believe they will go to heaven because they have accepted Jesus as their Savior. According to that definition, almost half of all Americans are classified as “born-again Christians.”
But what is interesting is that out of this group of “born-again Christians,” researchers found that the beliefs and lifestyles of “born again Christians” are virtually the same as the rest of the world around them. Many of these “born-again Christians” believe that their works can earn them a place in heaven. Other “born again Christians” think that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Some “born again Christians” believe that Jesus sinned while he was on earth. And an ever-increasing number of “born-again Christians” describe themselves as nominally committed to Jesus—a trend that, by the way, is not just common in our country, but in many parts of the world where “Christian” is oftentimes more of a political or even ethnic label than it is a spiritual reality.
Now people have used research like this to conclude that Christians are really not that different from the rest of the world, but I am convinced that conclusion is inaccurate. The one thing that is absolutely clear from all of these stats is that there are a whole lot of people in the world who think that they are Christians, but they are not. There are millions upon millions of people who believe in Jesus and think that they are saved, but they are dangerously deceived. And some, maybe many, of them have been deceived in the church.
Which leads to the question, “What is the difference, then, between false faith that marked the crowds in John 2, and saving faith according to Christ in John 3?” What is the difference between false, superficial faith, and true, saving faith?
So back to our passage with Nicodemus. Jesus begins by telling him that despite all of his work, despite all of his effort, and despite all of his motives, Nicodemus was dead in his sin. This is a fundamental starting point of the Gospel; a right understanding of man’s condition before a holy God. If we do not get this right, if this is not clear, then we will deceive people.
Francis Schaeffer was once asked the question, “What would you do if you met a modern man on a train and had just one hour to talk to him about the gospel?” Schaeffer replied,
“I would spend 45-50 minutes on the negative, to really show him his dilemma—that he is morally dead—then I’d take 10-15 minutes to preach the gospel. I believe that much of our evangelistic and personal work today is not clear, simply because we are too anxious to get to the answer without having a man realize the real cause of his sickness, which is true moral guilt (and not just psychological guilt feelings) in the presence of God.”
This is huge. Jesus did not start by saying; you do not want to go to Hell do you? Jesus starts with the reason why he needs to be saved and what he was being saved from, his sinful nature. This is where Jesus started with Nicodemus, and it is where we must start in the gospel.
This is man’s problem, and we must make it clear. Our problem is not that we have messed up a few times. Our problem is not that that we have made some bad decisions. Our problem is that we are dead in sin.
So what can save us from this state – raise your hand, say these words, sign this card, walk this aisle? We all know that none of these things alone can save us. What we do not need is superficial religion; we need supernatural regeneration. We are dead in sin, and we need to be born again.
So how can a man be born again? Scripture resounds with a clear answer to that question. Two primary words: repent and believe.
Repent and believe. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” – Acts 16:31. And that is the word that is used all over John 3 and this entire Gospel. Seven times from verses 11-21: “believe, believe, believe, believe, believe, believe, believe.” Repent and believe.
Jesus calls us to repent, to turn from sin and self, and to believe, to trust in Jesus as the Savior who died for us, the Lord who rules over us, and the treasure that we seek that brings us the most joy in this life and the next. This is how we are saved.
Oh, what a grand and glorious moment, when a dead sinner comes to life through a divine Savior! In a day of rampant easy-believism, we need to tell everyone that Jesus will cost you everything you have, he might say to you like he did the rich young ruler to sell all you have and follow Him, or he might ask you to give your life like he did with his disciples and millions have followed suit since then… But we declare that He is Worth it and that he is more valuable than anything this earth can offer and that for us to live is Christ and for us to die is gain.
Now for our fourth and last example of evangelism let us look at the example of Jesus’ and the Samaritan Woman. This example is in a distinct contrast to Nicodemus, so we are going to look at it tonight so that you do not think that the only people that can come to Christ are those that have it all together and well respected. Let us pick up this story in chapter 4 verse 1 through 42.
Where Nicodemus would have sadly fit right in at our church, the Samaritan woman would stand out like a sore thumb. And in Jewish culture, the Samaritans were viewed as evil, corrupt, and scary people. To get an idea of what would be going through the minds of the people reading this in the first century, I want you to imagine the person that you are the most afraid of. . Whether it be a terrorist, a gang member all inked up, a big biker dude, or a teacher, or your grandmother. Whoever it is imagine yourself sharing the gospel with them. Are you still afraid, are they beyond reach?, no the Gospel of Jesus Christ is powerful enough to save even the most fearful of people and in fact often that is who God calls us to share the Gospel with is those that are outside of our comfort zones.
Do we underestimate the gospel’s ability to change what we think are the worst of sinners, the hardest of hearts?
I am afraid that we fall failure to this all the time. Is there a reason that most of look alike, come from a similar background? We have to assume two things when we become a church that is very similar in age, race, and in social class. We can either assume that God is not powerful enough to reach people that are different from us, that we are his favorite kind of people.
Or, we should rightly assume that we are doing something wrong in our evangelism, because God is a God that calls all people, not just white middle class people. He calls poor people, rich people, white people, black people, Hispanics, Asians, rednecks, Yankees, geeks, freaks, nerds, athletes, tall people, short people, intelligent people, dumb people, and even people with mental health disabilities. God has the power to save Samaritans, prostitutes, homosexuals, drug addicts, alcoholics, people that have committed adultery, murders, rapists, farmers, lawyers, doctors, teachers, government officials, firemen, and policemen. God has the power to save anyone and there is no one that we should not witness to because the gospel is powerful enough to reach them all.
Again just, like with Nicodemus Jesus starts with the problem with everyone, their sinful nature. He does this by pointing out that she has had five husbands and the one she is currently staying with is not her husband. Jesus exposes her sin, but Jesus is not shocked by this woman’s sin, Jesus is not disgusted with this woman, Jesus is not ashamed of this woman.
Jesus neither condemns her in her sin, nor does he justify her sins. Jesus does not rage against her, because he does not see her as the enemy. He sees her as someone that is held captive by sin. Someone that needs rescued not disciplined. He sees her as someone that needs to be liberated and needs to be free from the bondage of sin. That is why Paul says that he does not judge those on the outside, but judges those on the inside. We typically want to do the reverse. We want to rail against whatever is going on outside the church, but we want to excuse whatever is going on in our own lives and in our own hearts.
That is the typical temptation that we all have. We are ok with our sin, we can justify it. But if someone that comes along and struggles with a different sin from us, we want to condemn them. That is not what Jesus does. He sees this woman trapped in sin and seeks to untie her, not flee from her because her sin scares Him or is risky. It might make him have a bad reputation if he is seen talking to such a woman.
And that is why so many of us only have friends that look like us, act like us, and believe the same things as us, because it is safe. Although I will agree that you should have a core group of strong Christians to encourage you in your faith. Jesus had his 12 disciples, but you should also have friends that are unbelievers, this is who we constantly see Jesus hanging out with. Showing someone that you love them despite their sins and you want to help them be set free will go a lot further than just giving them food once a month, or throwing leftover change into a missions fund.
Now look what happens once the Samaritan Woman is convinced that Jesus is the Messiah. She goes back to her town and tells others about him. This is what we should expect that once one person is set free from their captivity that they will want to go tell others how to be free as well. We see that in verse 39 that Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.
I believe this is counter to what a lot of us believe in our hearts. I believe many of us get caught up in the hype that every time someone famous comes out to be a Christian that it will lead to some great revival. Most recently, it was Tebow mania. So many people thought that sense Tebow was a Christian that people were going to look at his life and say, I want my life to be like that. If Jesus is good enough for Tebow then it is good enough for me.
However, that is not what Jesus does. Jesus had the opportunities to go meet with the rich rulers, the great philosophers, the powerful roman officials, the highly educated Pharisees. But Jesus calls tax collectors, fishermen, and tent makers, people that the world would over-look. He uses the outcast to change the world. And he uses a Samaritan woman to change the eternal destiny of many in her hometown. So what can God do through you in Flemingsburg, you are not too small to be used in a mighty way by God.