Yes, Practice What You Preach, But What About Preaching What You Practice?
What if I said to you that there is something that you could do that would:
· Glorify God
· Lift up the name of Jesus
· Show your gratitude and thankfulness to Him
· Show your obedience to Him
· Be an act of worship
· Be loving to your neighbor
· Be transformative to society
· And allow us to participate in the means by which God draws people to Himself…
Wouldn’t you want to do whatever that is? Now what if I told you that's evangelism?
Wait! Don’t leave! Before you click away from this blog, give me a chance. I know this topic isn’t a popular one, and for many people not only is it unpopular, it can be downright scary.
Nevertheless, God has given us the command so clearly – “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:15 This is a direct command from Jesus Himself. How are you doing with that command?
Now I could drag out all the statistics that show how deficient Christians have been in obeying this command, but those are old and tired. Besides, you’ve probably already heard that somewhere around 2% of Christians in America share their faith on a regular basis.
However, there is a growing trend among young people that makes this entire situation even more discouraging. According to the Barna Group, almost half of Millennials (47%) agree at least somewhat that it is wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith. That stat can be found in the following article: Almost Half of Practicing Christian Millennials Say Evangelism Is Wrong
Jesus spoke accurately when he said – "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;" Matthew 9:37 And it seems the laborers are becoming fewer and fewer.
So we could spend our time trying to understand why this is the case, however that’s not my goal here. If you have stumbled upon this website and are reading this post, I would like to think that you do want to share your faith, that you do agree that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17) So while I have you, please allow me to share with you three encouraging thoughts.
How can we step out in faith, speak up with words,
and faithfully share the good news about Jesus?
Let’s start here:
Notice how the verse I cited above from Matthew 9 – "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;", doesn’t end with a period but rather a semicolon. Why? Because Jesus goes on to give us the solution to the lack of laborers.
That is, we should pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. It all begins there – with prayer.
Nothing happens without God moving. I am committing myself to ask God to raise up evangelists. I pray that God would raise up people who wouldn’t necessarily call themselves evangelists, but people who are willing to do the work of an evangelist as the Apostle Paul instructs in 2 Timothy chapter 4.
Paul also said – “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”
We need to pray for laborers, yes,
and continue to pray once God sends us out as laborers.
2. FEAR GOD – NOT PEOPLE
In evangelism you hear a lot about the fear of man. I believe the fear of man is real and we must confront it. The Bible does.
The Book of Proverbs says - "The fear of man brings a snare (or a trap); But whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe." Proverbs 29:25
Jesus said – “Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:26-28
Once again, the Scriptures give us the answer. The answer to the fear of man is right there embedded in that quote from Jesus – Don’t fear people who even if they take your physical life (then can do no more), rather you should fear the Lord who can kill and then sentence to hell.
Fear God, rather than fearing people. Seek His approval, not someone else's. Love God more than the praises of men.
This admonition – to love God more than anything else – goes far beyond evangelism. Take it outside the concept of sharing our faith. That's the answer to most of my issues in life – LOVE JESUS MORE. If I could just do that in all areas of my own life, things would become much simpler, and I would see with so much more clarity. I’d avoid a lot of pain, and a lot of self-inflicted problems. It's really that simple. It doesn’t necessarily mean that life will get easier (as Jesus teaches elsewhere), but I think my life would get better if I loved Jesus more than my own comfort, my own sinful pleasures, my own selfish desires, etc.
Here’s a rather dated example of someone who gets it. We shouldn’t forget people like Rachel Scott. If that name sounds familiar to you, it’s because she was killed (the word martyred seems appropriate) in the school shooting at Columbine High School a number of years ago. Prior to that day, she wrote in her diary these words: "I have no more personal friends at school. But you know what? I am not going to apologize for speaking the name of Jesus. I am not going to justify my faith to them, and I am not going to hide the light God has put into me. If I have to sacrifice everything, I will. I will take it. If my friends have to become my enemies, for me to be with my best friend, Jesus, then that's fine with me."
She was killed at the age of 17. If you followed that horrific story at Columbine, she was targeted specifically for her faith in Christ. I can't wait to meet this girl. She understood what it meant – To live is Christ, and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21
Not only do we have the fear of man to contend with, but closely associated with that is the fear that I am not qualified, or equipped, to carry out this job of sharing the gospel. People say, I just don’t possess the ability. I'm not very smart. I'm not eloquent. I’m not this… I’m not that… YEAH, JOIN THE CLUB!
Join with me. Join with Moses. Join with the Apostle Paul. You’re in good company!
Then Moses said to the LORD, "Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue." Exodus 4:10
And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Paul had weakness. He had fear. He had trembling. If you have those things too, then you qualify! Paul didn't use lofty speech or wisdom, he preached Christ crucified. We don't need to be Bible scholars or be able to refute Darwinian evolution to be used by God. Where does our power come from? The answer is the Holy Spirit.
"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth." Acts 1:8
Our boldness comes from His strength, not ours. Listen to the type of people God delights in using:
For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29
This is who God has called, you and me. Therefore, these are the type of people God uses to proclaim His message to the world. God is going to get all the glory, just as it should be.
Here’s a rather unexpected illustration. There was a guy in Syracuse, NY who got shot multiple times, over and over again. He made it to the hospital and survived the shooting. The doctors said he survived because he weighed over 400 lbs. The bullets didn't reach any of his vital organs. I tell you that because what appears to be a liability can actually be an asset. When it comes to preaching the gospel, your weakness can become your strength. It's your inability on your own that makes you rely on God's strength and ability, which (quite frankly) will prevent us from becoming triumphalant jerks. That means even the most shy and introverted among us can make a difference for the Kingdom of God. That includes you!
My encouragement is simple: Love people, don’t fear them.
3. YOU CAN’T LOSE!
I'm sure you have heard of a win-win situation. When we witness to others it is actually a win-win-win situation. I read this in Mark Cahill's book One Thing You Can't Do in Heaven.
The author gives three scenarios:
1) You share the gospel and the person receives Christ. That is definitely a win.
2) You share the gospel and the person says, "Thanks, you've definitely given me something to think about, I just need to give this some thought and count the cost." In this scenario, you have planted the seed of the gospel, someone else may come along and water it, but God is the one that gives the growth. I think you would agree, that is also a win situation.
3) Lastly, you share the gospel and the person says, “I don't want to hear it. Keep that Jesus stuff to yourself! You're a fool for believing all that! Leave me alone you Bible-thumping wingnut!” And he or she tells you in very graphic language what you can do with your Bible. Believe it or not, that is also a win.
Listen to the words Jesus spoke, “Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets. Luke 6:22,23
Do you believe those words? If you say yes, then your actions should reflect that. Because the fact is, the only time we lose is when we keep quiet.
The famous atheist Penn Gillette (of Penn and Teller), spoke about a guy who approached him with a Bible to share the good news about Jesus. Penn Gillette, a very antagonistic atheist, was impacted deeply by this encounter. As he recounted the interaction, Penn, in his own words said the following: "I don't respect people who don't evangelize. I don't respect that at all. If you believe that there is a heaven and a hell and people could be going to hell and you think it's not really worth talking about this because it would make things socially awkward, how much do you have to hate somebody to believe eternal life is possible and not tell people that? If I believe there is a truck bearing down on you about to run you over, and you didn't believe that, there is a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that."
Amen. I couldn’t agree more. I’m not suggesting we become evangelizing linebackers, but this atheist gets it.
Let’s not assume the people around us know the gospel. Many don’t. They talk about doing good works to go to heaven. They talk about religious activity. They talk about all roads leading to God. They talk about being good, and right moral living and that will somehow make everything work out.
Many people don't get it. We're not good, but God is good! He is a good God who saves bad people! He stands ready to save any and all who come to Him through humble repentance and faith. Explain those concepts to people. Talk about Jesus. Tell them what God has done for sinful people like you and me, and let gratitude towards God and compassion for others kill that paralyzing fear. We're talking about people's eternal souls!
If I asked you the question, "Do you care?" You'd probably say, "Yeah, of course." However, I don't think that's the question we should be asking. The real question is, "Do you care enough to do something about it?" Because if we're not willing to do something about it, do we really care?
Those statistics at the beginning don't exactly scream to the world that we care. Our inactivity in this area speaks volumes, and the silence is deafening. The message that we're actually sending is, "We're happy we're going to heaven, as for those that aren't…well, that's their problem."
It's like this: the ship is going down, we're in our Christian lifeboat glad to be there, and there's more room in the boat, but we’re not too concerned about rescuing others, meanwhile people around us are perishing left and right. Jesus said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."
Now I'm no fisherman, but fish don't typically jump into the boat. We have to go get them. Get in the boat, push off into the deep, cast that line into the water, and let God do what only He can do – save people for His glory alone.
This is no small task, and it isn’t easy. If I can help you in any way, please let me know. Thanks for reading this; I hope it helped!