Jesus commanded his followers to go into some who assumed that to do evangelism effectively, you need extensive training and planning. But today on Truth for Life, we'll learn from Jesus' pattern of sharing the gospel in the rough and tumble of everyday life.
Alistair Begg is continuing a study he's titled Crossing the Barriers. Take our leave this evening in launching into this study. Lord Jesus, you're the one who said to your disciples, Go into all the world and preach the gospel, and you haven't ever rescinded your clarion call. And so tonight we are on the receiving end of your Word, a word of command so that we might know what to do, and a word of promise that you'll be with us always so that we need not be fearful of doing what you command. We pray tonight as we spend these moments thinking concerning the nature and necessity and task of evangelism that you will guide our thinking, teach us what we need to learn, and give us grace to do what we learn. For we ask it in Jesus' name.
Amen. The Word of Jesus in John 17 18, As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. And we've combined that with the twentieth chapter, and halfway or partway through that, in verse 21, Jesus says to his disciples, Peace be with you, as the Father has sent me, I am sending you. Or if you have the King James Version, As the Father has sent me, so send I you. And that, of course, has given rise to that great missionary hymn, So Send I You, with those tremendously challenging words. Now, I have also provided a quote here from Archbishop William Temple that I want to read, and I've given it to you because I think it's so good. As he explains in a church commission of the day, the evangelism of England is a work that cannot be done by the clergy alone.
It can only be done to a very small extent by the clergy at all. There can be no widespread evangelization of England unless the work is undertaken by the laypeople of the church. The ministry of evangelism is a charge laid upon the whole church by its Lord. It is the very essence of the Christian calling. Now, we lay this down as foundational. Evangelism is the normal life of the church and can never be an optional extra.
And we'll just fill in a second one while we're at it to keep us moving along. In John 17, 18, which we've just read, and 20, 21, Jesus is not simply stating a fact, but he is establishing a pattern. Now, let's just examine this for a moment or two this evening. If evangelism is the normal life of the church and can never be regarded as an optional extra, then that is true for us both personally and also congregationally. And yet, even allowing that to sit before us and for our eyes to fasten on it and our minds to think about it for a moment or two, we have to be honest enough, I believe, to recognize that in many times and in many cases and in churches of which we have been a part and perhaps also this church too, evangelism has largely been thought of as the task of a selected few, that in all the various opportunities that are presented to the disciples of Jesus Christ and are urged upon them by those in leadership in the church, evangelism has been seen on the kind of smorgasbord of possibilities, along with prayer, regarded as an option, and worship—not so much so, but perhaps in some instances, and evangelism and so on. And so the people of God have come along and said, Well, I think I should choose maybe one or two out of the various hors d'oeuvres that are on the table, and evangelism has been chosen by some, and it has been neglected by others. But in actuality, what we discover when we read our Bibles carefully is that the task of evangelism, simply of telling others the good news, of introducing others to Jesus Christ, is to be as natural for us in Christ as it was for Andrew, as John records it in John chapter 1, where in the calling of the first disciples you'll notice in verse 40 that Andrew, who was Simon Peter's brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and had followed Jesus.
So John the Baptist points to Jesus Christ, Andrew is one of two who begins to follow Jesus Christ, and verse 41 reads, The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, We have found the Messiah, that is, the Christ. In other words, the first activity in which Andrew engaged once he had become a follower of Jesus Christ was the activity of evangelism. And the task of evangelism, which falls upon us as individuals and then as a group, is to tell others about Jesus and to bring others to Jesus. And despite the fact that that seems so straightforward, and we've heard it said so many times, our effectiveness in evangelism is diminished so long as we continue to regard it as a special activity in which we engage at certain times rather than that it is a spontaneous and constant outflow of our Christian experience. Now, having said that—and I'm going to overstate it on one side tonight, I want to make you aware of that in coming into this—having said that, we recognize that there is a place for special seasons of evangelism and for unique opportunities in evangelism, especially at a congregational level.
But that's not the drift of where we're going this evening. I want us to think largely in terms of it as the overflow of our lives, rather than thinking, It's Wednesday night, it's evangelism. Growing up in the UK, there was a program that came on on Friday evenings on TV. It was called Cracker Jack, and it always began the same way. It's Friday, it's five to five, and it's Cracker Jack. And then the applause signs went up, and all the children clapped wildly as Cracker Jack began. And they gave away Cracker Jack pencils and all kinds of wonderful equipment, if you were fortunate enough to go on. And so, as I thought about Fridays, sometimes as I look at my watch, I swear as I'm driving in my car, I look at my watch, it's about five to five, and spontaneously I say, it's Friday, it's five to five, and it's Cracker Jack.
Okay? Now, some churches, that's the way they're put together. It's Sunday, it's five to six, and it's evangelism. We will go fish around for a while, and old brother so-and-so will evangelize. We don't evangelize, he evangelizes. We don't evangelize.
We have a team for that. We don't evangelize. That's a special orientation for just a few. Now, part of the problem in relation to that is that we see our sentness into the world in two dimensions, when in point of fact Jesus sees it in one dimension. Having quoted already an archbishop this evening, I'm now going to quote a bishop. I'm feeling kind of Anglican this weekend. Bishop Michael Bond—for those of you who always go to Britain and say the church is dead and that, no, there couldn't be believers there, just hold your fire a little.
There are some godly men in some of the strangest places. And Michael Bond, writing on this subject, actually on the very verse that we're referring to here, says of Jesus, statement, As you sent me, so I have sent you. He says Jesus became incarnate, bodily present with us. He was involved with us, sharing our life and its experiences, meeting with agnostics, atheists, hypocrites, and enemies, as well as with inquirers, believers, and disciples. He was a good mixer, taking time with people even one to one.
He could share poverty, or he could sit at a rich man's table with equal ease. He was not confined to any one form or method of evangelism. He adapted his approach to his circumstances.
He was strategic in action and timing, and in all this he was constantly aware of his sentness. Then he says this, sentness for us is thus not confined to missions or evangelistic efforts, although it includes those, but widens out to embrace the whole purpose of our lives. We are sent into the world, in the insurance office, the sports club, the assembly line, the street. All we do is as God's people, and wherever we go and whatever we do, it is as those who are sent by the Lord. There should be no separation between our business life and our Christian life, no place for living a double life. Our membership in the body of Christ is to pervade our whole life. Let us thank God for Christians who are unashamed to be known as Christians, and pray for those who keep it hidden. Let us pray that Christian lives may influence by their caring, their integrity, and their joy, showing the reality of Christian living in the rough and tumble of everyday life.
Evangelism in the rough and tumble of everyday life. That's what we're thinking about this evening, and acknowledging the fact that Jesus provides not simply a fact but a pattern. And here we notice that, for example, in John 1 and in verse 14, Jesus came into the world, we're told. The Word became flesh and dwelled among us. John 14 tells us that the Word became incarnate, that Jesus Christ came. He did not shout from heaven. He did not send the message by some other means, but he came himself. And he came as one who was full of grace and truth. And he came in order that the invisible God might become visible, and in order that that invisible God might become apparent to the world.
It's fairly straightforward stuff. God decides he's going to reach his world. He sends his Son, who doesn't remain at a distance to shout, but he comes, he touches, he stays, and he lives.
And in doing so, he is reviled by the religious establishment of his day. He touched the life of the woman at the well in John chapter 4 by the simple beginning, Could I have a drink of water, please? He touched the life of Zacchaeus, who climbed up a tree hoping for a glimpse of Jesus and ended up having his life changed by Jesus. He touched the leper whom others wouldn't touch. He touched children when the disciples thought it would be a good idea to get rid of them. He came, he stayed, he touched.
And then he said, As I was sent, so I'm sending you. The implication being that evangelism takes place when we come to where people are, when we stay where people are, when we touch where people hurt. And that is simply the other side of the process, that Christ has given the church, made us part of it.
That church, he said, is to be holy and blameless. By means of his church, the invisible God becomes visible, and the world encounters Jesus. Now, let's cut through this, and let's think in terms of your private world and my private world. Let's put office there instead of world. Or let's put a sports team instead of world. Let's put senior high instead of world.
Let's put junior high instead of world. How is God planning to reach that world? Through you?
Through you. That's evangelism. Ultimately, not a program. Ultimately, not a special deal.
Ultimately, the spontaneous overflow of a life that's in touch with Jesus. Now, on the one hand, this is extremely exciting because it makes it accessible to everybody. On the other hand, it's extremely unnerving because as long as we leave it a program into which some people sign, then we, of course, don't need to join the program, and we don't need to sign. And Jesus says, I'm sorry, but you don't have that option.
That brings us then to note quite straightforwardly this truth, that there can be no significant impact without meaningful contact. It's a while since they made the film, The Gospel Blimp. Some of you are too young to have ever seen it. But it was a great story where some church decided in the South that they were going to evangelize their neighborhood. And a couple were really encouraged, as I remember the story, because they were having such difficulty witnessing to their friends. And the church decided that it would take a blimp up, actually, a dirigible up above the community and would drop leaflets about Jesus down on the community. And you have the ultimate irony of the man putting his money in so that the blimp can go up and the material can fall.
And on the Saturday afternoon, his next-door neighbor's out cutting his grass, and he leans over the hedge, and he says to the man, he says, what in the world is all this stuff that's landing in my garden? And the guy still can't find it in himself to explain the nature of the gospel. So we would rather, many times, send up one of these blimps and drop little gizmos from the heavens and sign a check for it and ease our responsibilities rather than crawl across the hedge or walk up the driveway and make impact as a result of contact.
It's very straightforward stuff, is it not? But there needs to be infiltration of our communities, identification with our communities, rather than isolation from our communities. And sadly, the church as a whole, as a whole, and individual Christians in particular, have experienced great failure in this regard, made pretty dreadful impact because we've made so little contact, adopting the posture of Austria at the time of the outbreak of war, where it decided that it would neither link with Germany nor with Britain or anybody else, and would maintain the notion of splendid isolation. And so, by and large, the church embracing a kind of warped notion of what it means not to be of the world has isolated, has withdrawn, and has become a withdrawn community. And Christians have grown aloof from their friends rather than have got alongside their friends.
And consequently, we have lost, if we ever had it, the ability to relate to our non-Christian friends and our neighbors. So here is the great challenge, and here is the issue in John 17. Jesus says to his father, I'm not going to pray that you take them out of the world.
That would be easy. I'm going to ask that you put them in the world, that you leave them in the world, contacts to make impact. But Father, I don't want them to be contaminated by the world, so I ask that you protect them from the evil one. And herein lies, for most of us, the great challenge.
How do we identify with our worlds without becoming totally absorbed by our worlds? Here is the balance that we're called upon to attempt. That is, that we are to be not of the world in the sense that we're like Jesus, not that we're like the Pharisees. We're to be not of the world in that we were like Jesus holy, not like the Pharisees stuffy. That we were like Jesus in the discovery of freedom, not like the Pharisees in the introduction of legalism. That we were like Jesus in the expression of reality, not like the Pharisees in the expression of dull routine. So there is a radically different dimension to our lives, insofar as we are not of that world—we're different from it—but we are in that world insofar as we are involved in it. I want to ask you tonight, do you really have non-Christian friends since you've been saved? Or are we involved in a kind of rabbit-hole approach to Christianity, where we run out of the rabbit hole of our Christian homes, into the rabbit hole of offices that we've tried to make largely Christian, into the rabbit hole of our Christian recreation, into the rabbit hole of our Christian education, into the rabbit hole of our Christian fellowship, and back into the rabbit hole of our houses?
No contact, no impact. And it becomes very obvious, just to establish these principles, that the tremendous opportunity for you folks is far greater than it ever can be for me. I wonder if you understand that, or for any of us that in the world's eyes have got clergy somewhere in our CV. Because they expect us to do religious kind of things.
They expect us to try and cajole them into some kind of Christian understanding. But you can sneak up on them unawares. You can infiltrate the mechanism, because you're just like them, in the sense that you sit at one of those computer terminals, and so do they. You sit at that laboratory thing, and so do they.
You have a Bunsen burner, and so do they. And they don't expect you to be radically involved with Jesus Christ. The great impact is not on a Sunday.
It's Monday through Saturday, living where you are—radically different, radically involved. You're listening to Truth for Life. That is Alistair Begg explaining that the task of evangelism falls on us as individuals and as a group. And we'd like to encourage you to act individually and together with others. First, individually, we've got resources that we think will be a great help to you as you look to share the gospel one-on-one with friends or colleagues. Resources like the Crossing the Barriers study guide on evangelism, the Basics of the Christian Faith Discipleship course we put together, and the current book we're recommending called Before You Share Your Faith. Visit our website at truthforlife.org slash evangelism to find out more about each of these resources. We're also called to share our faith as a group. While the teaching you hear on Truth for Life is from Alistair, there is a vital group of people who are essential in bringing this message to you each day. We call them Truth Partners, a committed and passionate group of listeners like you who pray for the ministry and give a set amount each month to support the mission of Truth for Life, which includes covering the cost of this daily program. We recently heard from a listener in McKinney, Texas, who wrote to say, What a lifeline Truth for Life has been for me.
We lost our house in a tornado three years ago. Truth for Life helped me commit time to the Lord each day in the midst of all of it. Thank you.
Now, how do you put a price tag on that? Well, if you're currently one of our Truth Partners, this expression of gratitude belongs to you. If you've not yet come alongside us in this gospel outreach, we're praying that today God might stir your heart to join this team of ministry partners. You can do that by calling 888-588-7884, or you can sign up easily online at truthforlife.org slash truthpartner. When you become a Truth Partner, we'll make available to you the helpful book I mentioned earlier called Before You Share Your Faith.
It's a quick book to read. You want to keep it on hand as you prepare to have gospel conversations with others. Ask for your copy of the book when you become a Truth Partner or when you give a one-time gift today. Again, you can go online to truthforlife.org slash truthpartner or call 888-588-7884. I'm Bob Lapeen. We hope you have a great weekend and are able to worship with your local church. Monday, we'll learn how to practice the delicate balance of holy worldliness. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-09 05:19:11 / 2023-06-09 05:27:30 / 8