Sunday, September 27, 2015

Enjoying Evangelism

Let us say that for my anniversary I decide I am going to get flowers for my wife.  So I go to the florist and get 12 roses.  Then I get all duded up in my best bow-tie.  Taking my well-dressed self, I walk up to her holding the flowers.  When my wife sees me coming she will get excited.  However, if in the moment of truth I, with no love or ceremony, thrust the flowers at her and say, "I got you these because I had to, it is our anniversary."  What would that say?  I got you these because I had to.   I can tell you I would be wearing those roses on my head. 

Too often this seems to be the way we approach sharing our faith with others.  We can look good on the outside, but what our actions really say is that I don’t love you or the message.  What we really say is I am doing this because I have to. 

This is often the way evangelism is approached by American Christianity, “Jesus told us to do it, so I guess I have to.”  My experiences with sharing my faith in Jesus (aka. evangelism) wasn’t always the most positive.  What I learned was that I had to screw up my courage to tell people about Jesus. The result?  The message became awkward at best. I imagine people thought, “This awkward/creepy guy is telling me to buy into something I am not sure he likes or believes in.” 

What is the cure for the evangelical “should” of sharing your faith?  The cure is to give your wife the flowers because you love her.  You give her flowers because you want her to know that you love her. When we praise our spouse our enjoyment in her is put on displays.  This testimony of our enjoyment confirms and completes that enjoyment.

This is true with sharing our faith as well. The enjoyment of salvation is made complete in evangelism.  In other words we experience a full measure of joy, in salvation, when we tell others about that Joy.  This means that you can enjoy evangelism.  You can enjoy telling others about your faith in the saving work of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Paul is arguing that the message is so close to us we do not need to look for it.  Paul is expanding on Moses statement (In Deuteronomy 30) by explaining the nearness of the proclamation of Jesus. Jesus is written on your heart.  He is closer to you than the air that you are breathing right now, and this creates a new life in you. 

This is a deep part of who we are.  We love God. With you heart you believe, and with your mouth you confess, and call upon God.  The love that you have for God is expressed in external confession and praise.  Paul then quickly transitions from heart to mouth to the sending of people to proclaim the message of Christ Jesus.  In verses 14-17 Paul expresses that someone who shares the good news of Jesus is beautiful.

We want to proclaim the good news not because it is a requirement, but because it is at the core of who we are.  Proclaiming the good news about Jesus is not a burden because salvation is a work of Christ. 

In Deut. 30:6 Moses teaches that God is the one who circumcises the heart.  Circumcision was an external mark, to the males, that expressed membership in the people of Israel and the people of God.  Moses tells Israel that God circumcises the heart.  The mark at the core of who we are, that says we belong to Him, is done by God.  We can change our outsides but only Jesus can change our hearts. 

In this we begin to understand that salvation belongs to God.  When we tell the people about Jesus we become instrument of God's salvation.  But, we do not save people only Jesus does.  We tell the wonderful truth of Jesus, and He does the rest.  We want to be obedient to this truth because it is written on our heart. 

I believe this is why Paul begins his letter to the Romans with this statement, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek."  Let us examine this statement in relationship to what we have been discussing here today.  Paul is not ashamed of the Good news of Jesus Christ because it is not just another message.  It is who he is.  Paul is not ashamed to be a Christian. Paul is a Christian because of the work Jesus did in his life. 

We are new people in Jesus Christ.  This is not something I am trying to get others to believe about me.  This isn't something that other people have to accept about me be in order for it to be real.  I am a new creation in Christ.  I am a new person in Christ.  Christ is working out that salvation in me so that one day I will look like him.  So I don’t care who knows it. 

What happens now?  I love God because he made me his.  He said to me, “I love you, and you will be my child, and I will be your Father.”  My heart is warmed with this truth that I belong to the family of God.  God is my eternal Father who gave up his heavenly Son so that I could become a child of God. 

I love it.  I am excited about this.  I am going to let people know, "Hey, I am loved by God like a child."  "Hey, that crappy stuff I did, before I came to Jesus, was forgiven, and I can live a new and reset life."  You are going to get very excited about that. 

This is the secret to telling others about Jesus Christ.  When you know who you are in Jesus, the way that you are marked as one of the members of an eternal family, you are going to get excited.  Telling others becomes the enjoyment of our heart, and it becomes a natural outflowing of who we are.

It was this truth that brought C.S. Lewis to Jesus Christ.   When C.S. Lewis became a Christian he was surprised by the joy he discovered in Christianity.  And Lewis reflecting on the Psalms said this, "I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.

I believe that in the same way we tell others about Jesus Christ because it completes our enjoyment in him.  Once again we belong to a new family and we enjoy and delight in that fact. We externally praise and tell others because it is a fulfillment, a culmination, of the internal enjoyment we have of Jesus Christ. 

From Breville USA - Aussie Burger 7of7Breville USA - Aussie Burger 7of7One perfect example: the first time I went to the restaurant "Five Guys Burger and Fries" I eat there like 3 times in 1 week.  Just about every conversation I had, that week, I found a way to talk about this high quality fast food joint.  Man their burgers where good, fresh (never frozen), and made on the spot.  I loved Five Guys (not a sponsor) and I wanted everyone to know it.  My praise of that burger establishment was a way of me expressing my delight in their good food. 

Now I tell you this right now, my love for Jesus had a larger impact on my life than a burger joint did.  Jesus, through the scriptures, has taught me more about who I am than a well-made burger could.  So shouldn't it be easier to express my new life in Christ by telling others about my delight in Christ.  I am praising Jesus to others when I tell them about the great salvation I have experienced in him. 

One last illustration from the bible itself (Cf. Luke 7:36ff).  Jesus, sitting at the table of a Pharisee, has a woman come and wash his feet with her hair.  The Pharisees are appalled and Jesus tells this parable to Peter.

Someone has a 10 dollar debt and another a 10000 dollar debt.  The money lender forgives both debts. "Now which of them will love him more?"  Peter answers, “The one with the larger debt.”  And Jesus explains to the Pharisee that is why the woman is washing his feet, she is forgiven an infinite debt. 

When we look at the debt of sin and the payment we are required because of that sin we would rather pay off a trillion dollar debt.  We are forgiven of an infinite debt by the Sacrifice of God's Son on the Cross.  So why shouldn’t we be excited when we tell others about Jesus. 

From Julie Rybarczyk - score card | the both and | shorts and longsWe tell others because we complete our enjoyment, our gratitude culminates in our proclamation. When we tell others about Jesus we are not doing so to get a tally mark or a score card, we are telling them because Jesus is the greatest thing that has happened to us.  We want them to know, we want them to come and see, and we want them to experience Jesus, just like we did. 

This is why I don’t have to muster up my courage to walk up to someone.  I don’t know and share a formula.  A formula it is not a natural out flowing of who I am.  It is a change relationship that excites me. 

Now I look forward to a simple conversation at a Burlington coat factory with a stranger can naturally be an opportunity to talk about Jesus. Breakfast with a family member becomes a chance to share my Joy.  Dinner with a friend becomes a time for praising the name of God. 

To close the loop on the first story, if I hand the bouquet of flowers to my wife because I love her the flowers then proclaim, and are a culminating expression, of that love.  I tell others about Jesus because my love for him. This is not a formula, but a genuine relationship with the savior of the world.  The enjoyment of salvation is made complete in evangelism.

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