Love Is Always Worth the Risk – The World

Cross-Cultural Evangelism

Today we finish our series, “Love Is Always Worth the Risk.” This series is based on Jesus’ command to His disciples found in Acts 1:8, “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.” This morning we want to look at how this witness spread. This first Christian community is found in the 2nd chapter of Acts. There was little or no structure and yet this community became a powerful force to spread the gospel throughout the world despite geographic, racial, linguistic, religious, cultural and social barriers. Let’s take a look at Acts 2 and discover what God requires of leaders and believers in relation to those of other cultures.

Acts 2:1-4 (NLT)
1 On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. 2 Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. 3 Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. 4 And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.

One of the first things that we discover in these verses is that this community was empowered by the Holy Spirit. I inclined to believe that one of the reasons the Holy Spirit came is because they had one purpose. They were in one accord. How many churches today can say that? The Holy Spirit made his presence known to those gathered. This presence could be heard, seen, and felt by all the believers that were gathered there.
We see that once the Holy Spirit fell on them they were filled with power. Was it simply for them so that it was a neat experience? No! It was so that they could be witnesses to the transforming power and they could be part of transforming lives.
We also see that the gift of languages was given. The believers gathered there began to speak in other languages. Again this was not some kind of random display, simply to show how spiritual they were. No, it was so that this small band of believers could quickly begin witnessing to the power of God and spreading the gospel. Accept that God care for all people everywhere and that He wants to express that through you.

Acts 2:5-13

5 At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. 6 When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers.
7 They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee, 8 and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages! 9 Here we are—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, 10 Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs. And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!” 12 They stood there amazed and perplexed. “What can this mean?” they asked each other.
13 But others in the crowd ridiculed them, saying, “They’re just drunk, that’s all!”

While all this was happening, people who had heard the sound started gathering. Now there was a crowd. What were they to do? What do we often forget as a church about those outside our walls? We forget that they are loved by God. (By the way, more on this next week.) Those who had gathered heard the things the disciples were saying and understood they were loved by God. Second, believe it or not, they are looking for a church. They are looking for something to believe. They are looking at us. Those gathered there asked, “What can this mean?” As we will find out in just a moment, they are looking for answers just as this crowd did, because Peter was about to explain everything. Acknowledge the need to reach your neighborhood through personal and/or cross-cultural evangelism.

Acts 2:14-41
14 Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles and shouted to the crowd, “Listen carefully, all of you, fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem! Make no mistake about this. 15 These people are not drunk, as some of you are assuming. Nine o’clock in the morning is much too early for that. 16 No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel:
17 ‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. 18 In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike—and they will prophesy. 19 And I will cause wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below—blood and fire and clouds of smoke. 20 The sun will become dark, and the moon will turn blood red before that great and glorious day of the Lord arrives. 21 But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
22 “People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know. 23 But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him. 24 But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip. 25 King David said this about him:
‘I see that the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. 26 No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts his praises! My body rests in hope. 27 For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave. 28 You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence.’
29 “Dear brothers, think about this! You can be sure that the patriarch David wasn’t referring to himself, for he died and was buried, and his tomb is still here among us. 30 But he was a prophet, and he knew God had promised with an oath that one of David’s own descendants would sit on his throne. 31 David was looking into the future and speaking of the Messiah’s resurrection. He was saying that God would not leave him among the dead or allow his body to rot in the grave.
32 “God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this. 33 Now he is exalted to the place of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand. And the Father, as he had promised, gave him the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us, just as you see and hear today. 34 For David himself never ascended into heaven, yet he said,
‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit in the place of honor at my right hand 35 until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet.”’
36 “So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!”
37 Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is to you, and to your children, and even to the Gentiles—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” 40 Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!”
41 Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.

Is this the same Peter who denied Christ three times in the courtyard? Yes, it is. See what happens when we are transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit and called of Christ. Each believer in this room this morning is called of Christ to be a witness, both individually and corporately (as a church.) We are called by Christ to communicate the message of the Good News. This is Peter preached in these verses. The other thing we want to make note of is that Peter preached this sermon in context. He was preaching to Jews. When we deliver the timeless message of the gospel we must deliver it in the most meaningful context for the listener. As I prepare sermons each week, I endeavor to do this. The message of the gospel has not changed, but our methods do. Our missionaries cannot present the gospel the same way we do. How I preach here is different in some ways than the way I preached in other churches. We are called to communicate the gospel and to cultivate the ministry. Allow God to burden you for others and start a relationship with a person of another culture.

Acts 2:42-47

42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.
43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.

We looked at this section last week in our evening Bible study. Look at the life of the church. They demonstrated what missional faith is about:

  • Connection – They worshiped together and connected to God and each other.
  • Community – We spent a long time on this last week – How do we relate to each other? What are we all about?
  • Communication – What we say and how we say it matters.
  • Compassion – We need to meet people at their points of need, inside AND outside the church, because…
  • Commission – We are to be God’s witnesses to the ends of the earth.

Act in missional ways to those inside and outside of your culture and church in loving and charitable ways. Love is worth the risk to be His witnesses in the world.

Love Is Worth the Risk – Samaria

Church Multiplication

In our series this morning we move away from Jerusalem and Judea and move onto Samaria. Now, usually when we quote this scripture, we talk about how we even need to take the gospel to those we don’t like. I want us to go on a different slant this morning. Another new phrase that I’ve heard recently is church multiplication. In reality, church multiplication has always existed. Every church on the face of this earth was or is a church plant. Church planting is nothing new. Church multiplication is nothing new. Every church I’ve ever attended; every church you’ve every attended is a church plant. Pocono Lake Wesleyan Church, where I spent the early years of my church life was a church plant. Orefield Wesleyan Church was a church plant. Trinity Wesleyan Church in Allentown was a church plant. It has a great beginning too. College Wesleyan and Lakeview Wesleyan Churches were church plants. First Wesleyan Church in Flint, MI was a church plant. Fort Miller Wesleyan Church was a church plant and Preston Wesleyan Church was a church plant. Someone had the vision to plant a church in each of these locations. Have most of these churches been around a while? Yes, but at sometime they were a new church. Church planting or church multiplication is nothing new; it has always been around.

However, there is a new emphasis on church multiplication because the statistics show one of the best forms of evangelism is in planting churches. In the ten years between 1993 and 2003, 312 new Wesleyan churches were planted accounting for 2,729 salvations in 2003, 12,000 people in attendance, 6,394 members in these new churches and over $10 million in contributions. Why all this talk of planting churches. In the scripture we read this morning, Paul is making an appeal to the Corinthians to give generously to the new churches that are part of his “circuit.”

We want to take a look at how generosity and church planting go together. Let’s take a look at one more scripture from 2 Corinthians 9:10-11:

10 For God is the one who gives seed to the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will give you many opportunities to do good, and he will produce a great harvest of generosity in you.
11 Yes, you will be enriched so that you can give even more generously. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will break out in thanksgiving to God.
[i]

Generosity is the willingness to invest available resources beyond ourselves in order to increase ministry effectiveness. Generosity is foundational for any church desiring to multiply. We are going to take a look at why this is true.

First of all we want to discover that generosity flows out of our perspective of God. Let’s take a look at a familiar verse, John 3:16:

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. [ii]

This is generosity in action. God is a giver. God gave his Son to that we might have life and not death. That is the ultimate sacrifice. If God gave to us so generously, shouldn’t we at least try to respond accordingly? Warren Wiersbe writes, “Generosity means that we really believe God is the great giver, and we use our material and spiritual resources accordingly.” Let’s see what else the scriptures tell us about generosity.

The psalmist writes in Psalm 37:21, “The wicked borrow and never repay, but the godly are generous givers.” So, generosity is a mark of distinction. Those who are godly should be generous.

A similar thought is shared in Psalm 112:5, “Good comes to those who lend money generously and conduct their business fairly.” Generosity is an investment. One of the reasons that got the children of Israel in trouble was not only their idolatry, but also their stinginess. God had blessed Israel, but they were not willing to pass their blessings along.

Generosity is a sharing of resources. Let’s look again at 2 Corinthians 8:10-12: “10 I suggest that you finish what you started a year ago, for you were the first to propose this idea, and you were the first to begin doing something about it. 11 Now you should carry this project through to completion just as enthusiastically as you began it. Give whatever you can according to what you have. 12 If you are really eager to give, it isn’t important how much you are able to give. God wants you to give what you have, not what you don’t have.” [iii]

The church at Corinth was encouraged to give out of what they had. It appears that at the time they were a wealthy church compared to some of the other churches. Paul encourages them to give out of that wealth. Generosity can come in many different forms as it relates to church multiplication. It can be a participation in an unexpected planting opportunity. My friend Mark Wilson had one of these unexpected opportunities. This past Christmas a church in Minong, WI celebrated its one year anniversary. Hayward Wesleyan Church was not looking for the opportunity to plant a church, but the opportunity came and the acted on it. There is now a thriving church in Minong, WI with its own pastor.

Generosity can be allowing a church planter to come into your church and challenge people to consider joining them or generosity can be finding monies to give to church planting.

The Bible has given us this perspective on generosity, but what is God centered generosity. Let’s take a look at our key verses 2 Corinthians 9:10-11. 10 For God is the one who gives seed to the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will give you many opportunities to do good, and he will produce a great harvest of generosity in you.11 Yes, you will be enriched so that you can give even more generously. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will break out in thanksgiving to God.[iv]

What are the marks of God-centered generosity

  1. God supplies the resources. “…God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat.”
  2. God increases and enlarges the resources. “In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.”
  3. God promises abundance. “…You will be enriched in every way.” Now I know that your thinking that overnight I have caught the health, wealth and prosperity bug, but I assure you that I have not. The next point is where those who are of the prosperity camp stop.
  4. God supplies so we can generously share. “…so that you can always be generous.” John Wesley lived his life with this philosophy, “Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can.”
  5. God receives the credit when we live generously. “And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God.” We can’t take the credit for what God has done. We can’t even take the credit for what God has given us.

So, what are some things that we can learn about generosity? First it is an attitude not an amount. God does not ask us to think about what we might have, but He is concerned with what we do with what we already have.

Second, generosity can be cultivated…we are not naturally inclined to help start new churches. New churches take additional funds and new churches can take personnel away from our church. My friend Mark didn’t see the importance of multiplication at first. He stated, our church had a lot going for it, what could a church plant offer that we couldn’t. But a year later his heart has been changed and they are looking at daughtering at least two more churches. Part of my job is to help create that giving spirit. One of the areas I would like you to pray toward is a short-term missions trip to Wisconsin and its purpose would be to assist Hayward Wesleyan Church with one of these two new plants.

Third, generosity begins where we are and with what we have. The best place to start is here and now. Generosity also involves going beyond the four walls of our church. My prayer among others is that we can be a great, giving missions (both local, national, and global) minded church. I want to be careful here, but I also want to express a concern I see in our church. My concern as your pastor is that we seem to be generous when it comes to our own church body but not as generous when we go beyond.

So how can we, Preston Wesleyan Church be involved in church planting?

  1. Public Affirmation – the leadership of our church embracing the vision to multiply our church.
  2. Prayer Emphasis – praying for church multiplication
  3. Promotion – What we are doing today, actively and intentionally promoting church planting.
  4. Permission – Visible and vocal about giving permission for church members to give and go…
  5. Provision – Investment through financial giving or “gifts in kind.” – When we give to God and his mission, we need to give our best, not our leftovers.

[i]Holy Bible, New Living Translation, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) 1996.
[ii]Holy Bible, New Living Translation, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) 1996.
[iii]Holy Bible, New Living Translation, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) 1996.
[iv]Holy Bible, New Living Translation, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) 1996.

Love is Always Worth the Risk – Judea

Compassionate Evangelism in Our Community

Today, we consider Christ’s call for us to reach out to people in our own community. You may ask, “What does being a disciple of Christ have to do with loving our community?” One of the “new” phrases coined in recent years is compassionate ministries. Compassionate ministry is nothing new. A sister organization to our denomination is The Salvation Army. They were founded on compassionate evangelism. In addition to The Salvation Army in our community, we have several organizations right here in Martinsville/Henry County that are based on this principle. One of the newest is Grace Network. These organizations are serious about compassionate ministry and evangelism. Christ’s call to reach our communities and further is interwoven in every aspect of the commissioning that He gives us to be His disciples. Let’s consider these words again found in the first chapter of Acts:

8 But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

If you were here last week, we briefly looked at this passage as it underlines our entire series that love is always worth the risk. What does loving our communities look like as it relates to the Kingdom of God? One phrase that you’ve heard me mention several times is the building the Kingdom. That is why God put us on this earth. Christ used that phrase close to ninety times. What does it mean to follow Christ’s call to build the Kingdom and how is that related to loving our community?

First, Christ’s call to service in His Kingdom is a call to live life with an eternal purpose. Why did Christ call us into his Kingdom? What purpose do we have as His disciples? Christ gave us the “Great Commission” which is:

“19…Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 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 the end of the age.”

This commission was born out of His teachings about the eternal Kingdom of God. Acts 1:3 says, “3 During the forty days after his crucifixion, he appeared to the apostles from time to time and proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. On these occasions he talked to them about the Kingdom of God.” As I just mentioned, this phrase, “Kingdom of God” or Heaven is used over 90 times in the New Testament and Jesus was the primary teacher of things of the Kingdom. Before Jesus ascended back to heaven the disciples were concerned about when the “Kingdom” was going to be restored to Jerusalem. Jesus told them it was none of their business. He told them what was really important and that was to be His witnesses through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is in this that Jesus is our example. Christ was involved in compassionate evangelism in his community and He calls us to follow His example:

• Connecting to people and giving them dignity
• Feeding the hungry
• Clothing the naked
• Healing the sick

In the parable of the sheep and goats, Jesus teaches us that one of the main things that separates the sheep from the goats is not their religiosity, but in their compassion for helping others. For when you’ve done it to the least, you’ve done it to Jesus, whether you were compassionate and helped or you just ignored them.Reaching out and ministering in our communities connects us with Christ’s passions and agenda.

In what ways are you connecting…In what ways is our church connecting with the reality of Christ’s coming Kingdom? Christ did not call us to watch how the current events fulfill prophecy, but for us to actively get involved in building the Kingdom. That is how it will be ushered in.

Christ’s call to service in His Kingdom is a call to live life with His chosen people. Jesus told His disciples “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you what he promised… When the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power..” Jesus told his disciples to wait together in Jerusalem. His power is promised to all of them as a body…not as individuals. We often forget that in our highly Americanized individualistic, western mindset. Church was to be done together. We are going to be looking at that topic on Sunday evenings for about 10 weeks beginning tonight. The “you” here is plural, not singular.

Christ invites us to be a part of a growing community of believers. On another occasion, Jesus told them: 16 I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice; and there will be one flock with one shepherd. (John 10:16) Loving our community in Christ’s name brings us into relationship with all of God’s children. One of my prayers is that somehow Preston Wesleyan Church can be an example of what it means to love our community, including other flocks of believers and their shepherds. I think for far too long there has been a spirit of competition for sheep rather than a working together for the greater Kingdom of God. There are many different families in the world. There are many different families in the Kingdom. If we can’t get along on planet earth, what are we going to do in heaven? Not only are we called to love other believers in other folds, but we are called to love those not even in the fold yet. By reaching out together in our communities (That’s one of the reasons I love Salvation Army and Grace Network)

Christ is able to transform us to reflect His image.

• As we look at the 2nd chapter of Acts in the 42nd verse we see that…”42 They joined with the other believers and devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, sharing in the Lord’s Supper and in prayer.” There is a commonality…there is true fellowship when we get together in the name of Jesus.

• In Revelation 7:1-10 we are given a great picture of what worship in heaven will be like:

Then I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds from blowing upon the earth. Not a leaf rustled in the trees, and the sea became as smooth as glass. And I saw another angel coming from the east, carrying the seal of the living God. And he shouted out to those four angels who had been given power to injure land and sea, “Wait! Don’t hurt the land or the sea or the trees until we have placed the seal of God on the foreheads of his servants.”

And I heard how many were marked with the seal of God. There were 144,000 who were sealed from all the tribes of Israel: from Judah, 12,000; from Reuben, 12,000; from Gad, 12,000; from Asher, 12,000; from Naphtali, 12,000; from Manasseh, 12,000; from Simeon, 12,000; from Levi, 12,000; from Issachar, 12,000; from Zebulun, 12,000; from Joseph, 12,000; from Benjamin, 12,000.

9 After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white and held palm branches in their hands. 10 And they were shouting with a mighty shout, “Salvation comes from our God on the throne and from the Lamb!”

The body of Christ needs to start celebrating the unity that comes from our diversity instead of letting it divide us. Then many who are outside the fold might take us more seriously when they see our love for them and each other.

In what ways are you allowing Christ to transform your Body Life, that is, your interpersonal attitudes, preferences, and patterns, through the power of His Holy Spirit?

Christ’s call to service is a call to live life with divine power.

8 But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

When we reach out to love our community, we demonstrate

• Our willingness to be identified with Christ purposes in the world.
• Our desire to allow Him to work through us, and
• Our confidence in His presence and power.

In what ways does your involvement in your community allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through you to accomplish great things for Christ?

Christ’s call to service in His Kingdom is a call to live life with a heavenly profession.

Christ told us we would be his witnesses. What did Jesus have in mind when He commissioned us to be His witnesses? It’s about both being and doing at the same time—a complete way of life: Giving verbal testimony that He is the Christ AND living out the Good News He proclaimed.

• Hope for the poor
• Freedom for the prisoners
• Recovery of sight for the blind
• Release for the oppressed

By loving our community in tangible ways, we become a powerful witness of God’s Good News. Paul says that, as Christ’s ambassadors, we have the ministry and mess of reconciliation.

In what ways are you serving as Christ’s ambassador, as His hands and feet in a hurting world?

Christ’s call to service in His Kingdom is a call to live life with a comprehensive plan. We will be His witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Reaching into our communities engages us with the historic pattern for establishing Christ’s Kingdom through the Church. We are called to reach across all boundaries, geographic, cultural, linguistic and ethnic—beginning across the street, then across town, and then into other communities

In what ways are you engaging in God’s plan of salvation through the church?

What does loving our community have to do with being a disciple of Jesus Christ? How we respond to this question will determine the difference between life and death—as individuals, as families, as local congregations, and as a denomination! The question raised by the expert in the law to test Jesus still calls for a response today: “Who is my neighbor?” By reaching out in compassionate evangelism, we fulfill our calling—our lifetime profession—to be Christ’s hands and feet in a lost and hurting world, because loving our community is always worth the risk.

Love Is Always Worth the Risk – Jerusalem

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.