Over the last two weeks, we have looked at the amazing, extravagant love of God. We even sang about God’s love this morning. Last week, I mentioned that we want to begin this week looking at our response to God’s love. How do we respond to such a love? John 3:16-17 says, “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but the save the world through him.” God sent Jesus into the world to save us from ourselves and we took a look at that over the past few weeks. So, what are we to do?
Before Jesus left this world, he gave us this commandment; “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to then end of the earth.” You’ve heard me say this before. Not only is this The Great Commission, it is the Ultimate Commission. It is the work that Christ has given us to do. We are to build the Kingdom of God. Is it risky business to build the Kingdom of God? Absolutely. I remember a song years ago that talked about living dangerously in the hands of God. I’m beginning to understand what that means. Sometimes, it is scary. But even in those times we have a promise. Christ promises that he will be with us, all the way to the end of time. Kingdom building involves making disciples. Christ didn’t say to make Christians but disciples. It involves loving people that are hard to love. Love is risky, but over the next few weeks we want to discover that Love is always worth the risk.
Before Jesus was taken up to heaven, he was talking and commanding his disciples. He told them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Just a few statements later Christ tells his disciples, “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.”
Christ promised us the power that we need to be witnesses for him. He came to us. He risked his life for our sake. In Christ’s example we see that love is always worth the risk. This series will take four weeks, and we want to break down what love is always worth the risk. Let’s take Jesus’ statement of where we are to be witnesses. He said we would be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Love is always worth the risk to develop potentially life-changing relationships with those outside a relationship with God.
Jesus heart was constantly bent toward those outside a relationship with the Father. In fact, Jesus had so much love for those with broken relationships with God; he was called a friend of sinners. Let’s look at Matthew 11:18 and 19. “For John didn’t spend his time eating and drinking, and you say, ‘He’s possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man on the other hand feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” Jesus took a risk in loving. So much so that the religious thought that he was a sinner because he spent so much time around them. Jesus told us in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” This is Jesus’ one line mission statement. As we have already looked before Jesus returned to heaven, he challenged us to keep our focus toward those outside a relationship with God.
I know that when I say the phrase personal evangelism some of you will get nervous. The thought of evangelism sometimes terrifies us. Our culture has taught us that it is wrong to force our beliefs on someone else. When it comes to evangelism, it is not forcing our beliefs on someone else it is simply one sinner telling another sinner how to restore their broken relationship with God. I typically don’t use step-by-step lists. I’ve gotten frustrated by them in the past myself, but if we are going to make a difference in our Jerusalem, what do we need to do.
INVEST in relationships with those outside a relationship with God.
Let’s take a look at Matthew 9:9-13.
“As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him. Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Wow! I think that left its mark on the Pharisees. It should leave a mark on us as well. Jesus was investing in people’s lives. Tax collectors were not the most spiritual bunch. Jesus hung around weddings and hung around other places that the so called religious wouldn’t. Many of the people that Jesus invested in were not particularly spiritual at all when He walked into their life.
This is probably one of the most important steps in personal evangelism. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. I know for me I have to struggle staying connected with those who are outside a relationship with Christ. At times it’s even uncomfortable. At times, we will get accused as Jesus was and even accused by the religious. This is one of those places where it is risky to love. There is a risk of rejection. There is a risk that people will question your motives, but that’s ok, the Pharisees questioned Jesus’ motives. I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone. It is easy to hang around Christians. I’m taking this challenge personally. As a pastor it is tough to keep those doors open. Up in New York, you had to prove yourself to be trustworthy. Here, simply say that you’re a pastor and people change the way they act. I challenge you and I accept my own challenge to invest in the lives of people who do not have a relationship with Christ.
INVITE your friend to a place where they can here the Gospel presented.
1st Peter 3:15 says, “…you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. Luke writes in Acts 8:26-27; 26 “As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he did, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship.”
When we have developed an invested in that relationship and we have developed a trust factor with that person, we need to share the gospel with them. You don’t even have to do that. You can even invite them to our church. That’s why we have specific events throughout the year focused on sharing the gospel. Look for these opportunities.
Also look for those divine appointments – we are not ultimately responsible for another person’s salvation, what we are responsible for is following the promptings from the Holy Spirit to share what God has done in our lives and in the lives of other Christians we know.
INSTRUCT your friend on the basics of Christianity
Acts 11:25 Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to find Saul. 26 When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching great numbers of people. (It was there at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.)
Once a person has begun a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, don’t leave them stranded. Help them in their first steps of faith. Help them pick out a Bible and know where to read. Begin helping them incorporate their faith with their everyday life.
INCLUDE your friend in small group relationships
Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make people in our image, to be like ourselves. They will be masters over all life—the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the livestock, wild animals, and small animals.”
Genesis 2:18 And the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion who will help him.”
There’s nothing that can be more encouraging to a new Christian than to be surrounded by other Christians who can cheer them on in their faith. Often you are the “doorkeeper” – open the door for them for these kinds of relationships. Our Sunday School classes are great opportunities for this, or perhaps our Sunday evening discipleship.
INVOLVE them in meaningful ministry.
1 Corinthians 12:7 A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church.
Help them get involved in a ministry that matches who they are, what they enjoy and what they have been gifted to do.
My challenge for you today, is to INVEST in relationships with those outside a relationship with God. Here’s how we are going to do this.
I am handing out 3 x 5 cards. We’ll call it a top ten list. Who are those that you know of right now outside a relationship with God? As we sing this final song, I encourage you to write those names down and then bring them to the altar. In addition, I want us as a church to begin praying for them and to ask God to give us the opportunities to share the gospel with them.