given on Sunday, March 25, 2012–the final in the series on evangelism
Agreed, enough of the Big Evangelism. Time has come to just dive in and get started. As long as we all understand what evangelism really is and we have removed all the reasons to be nervous about it. It is time to simply dive in and do it. Of course, now that we understand what it is, maybe we can honestly say we are doing it.
When Paul was closing out his first letter to the Thessalonians, he added in those words we read earlier. He knew what they could do, yet it was important to remind them one more time of how they were to evangelize or how to simply maintain the Christian lifestyle which is the very root of solid evangelism (I Thessalonians 5:13-15):
13-15Get along among yourselves, each of you doing your part. Our counsel is that you warn the freeloaders to get a move on. Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out.
The instructions are for a lifestyle. They are not identified as the ones for evangelism specifically, but at this point in our study we know that evangelism is living as a Christian and sharing how our faith makes a difference in our lives.
Three different versions of these verses present the very same ideas. They each have their study help, but it is in the Life Application NIV that a sidebar article added an evangelistic twist to today’s scripture:
|5:11||Build each other up.||Point out to someone a quality you appreciate in him or her.|
|5:12||Respect leaders.||Look for ways to cooperate.|
|5:13||Hold leaders in highest regard.||Hold back your next critical comment about those in positions of responsibility. Say “thank you to your leaders for their efforts.|
|5:13||Live in peace||Search for ways to get along with others.|
|5:14||Warn the idle.||Challenge someone to join you in a project.|
|5:14||Encourage the timid.||Encourage those who are timid by reminding them of God’s promises.|
|5:14||Help the weak.||Support those who are weak by loving them and praying for them.|
|5:14||Be patient||Think of a situation that tries your patience and plan ahead of time how you can stay calm.|
|5:15||Resist revenge.||Instead of planning to get even with those who mistreat you, do good to them.|
|5:16||Be joyful.||Remember that even in the midst of turmoil, God is in control.|
|5:17||Pray continually.||God is always with you—talk to him.|
|5:18||Give thanks.||Make a list of all the gifts God has given you, giving thanks to God for each one.|
|5:19||Do not put out the Spirit’s fire.||Cooperate with the Spirit the next time he prompts you to participate in a Christian meeting.|
|5:20||Do not treat prophecies with contempt.||Receive God’s word from those who speak for him.|
|5:22||Avoid every kind of evil.||Avoid situations where you will be drawn into temptation.|
|5:23||Count on God’s constant help.||Realize that the Christian life is to be lived not in our own strength but through God’s Power.|
The chart provides us insight into the realistic application of Christian behaviors that serve as evangelism. I found it interesting that the list sounds so familiar—remember our discussion of the Beatitudes? We reviewed them a few weeks ago and the list served as another reminder of the Christian lifestyle and how it blesses us:
Blessed are those who are
(5:3) poor in spirit,
(5:4) in mourning,
(5:6) the righteous,
(5:7) the merciful,
(5:8) pure in heart,
(5:9) peacemakers, and
(5:10) the persecuted.
Yet with each one of those descriptors, one needs to see how Christianity applies. Consider what it takes to fulfill those qualities in real life. I can see it well:
- . . . the poor in spirit are those who live within their means, but give as though money was of little consequence. These are the Christians who quietly and meekly provide donations to those whose circumstances place them in dire conditions whether next-door or across the ocean.
- . . . those in mourning are the ones who personally have loved with complete abandon. Also these are the ones who demonstrate heartfelt empathy for others in their losses, too.
- . . . the meek are those who do not seek honor and glory for their deeds. These Christians simply do their best in all their endeavors without any expectations for accolades. Even if many admire their work, it does not matter. The important thing is they did their best in whatever they do.
- . . . the righteous may be those who continue to seek for more knowledge of God, but also are those who never give up trying to help others find the truth in God’s grace. They live by God’s one great commandment while encouraging others to do so too.
- . . . the pure in hear, the honest ones. Christians do not need lies and deception; they live openly and honestly. They live that way, raise their kids that way, and they work to see that others are held to the same standards.
- . . . the peacemaker are those who desire harmonious living whether in the house, in the community, on the job or even with nature. They work to make sure that the relationships do not crumble or negatively interfere with the good of the community.
- . . . the persecuted are caught in circumstances which have pitted their Christian values against the secular world. Still they remain loyal to their values and despite the outward evil forces, they demonstrate Christian lifestyle.
Christian evangelism is Christian living. As long as we live in Christian community, continue to study together, worship together, and work together, we can evangelize together. True, we have to work to see the needs of others. We have to put our efforts together to meet the needs of others. We have to give up a little of our comfort in an effort to provide comfort for others.
John Wesley gave everything he had to meet the needs of others. He wanted everybody to have his or her basic needs met. He wanted them to personally know God. He felt compelled to carry the message throughout England and into the American colonies. He preached. He gave. He made mistakes. And he struggled with his personal lifestyle. Yet, he knew that the good news that Christ came and died so that we may have eternal life was the most important thing he could share.
Do we feel the same? Are we willing to dive in and work to share our faith with others? Are we willing to look for ways to help those who need help to meet the basic needs of living as well as the spiritual needs. What can we do? How much can we do? How well can we sustain the efforts?
Diving in to the deep waters of Christian faith should be a thrill, an adrenalin rush, not a fearful plunge. We need to be able to put words to our faith so we can explain what a difference it makes in our lives. We need to find the ways to demonstrate God’s love for others in ways that today’s society can understand. We need to get going! Time is not necessarily running out, but we have limits on our humanly time and we need to dive in now.
The time is right. The place is right here. The needs are here. The people are here around us. The water is fine, so come on in—dive in and lets help others know the value of God in our life.
Dear Loving Father,
We are closing out Lent knowing what we should do.
Guide us as we look around our community.
Open our eyes to the needs of those closest to us.
Give us the strength and the energy to share your love.
Let us open ourselves to others to share the good news.
Thank you for all the grace, the love, and the joy in our lives.
May we serve as witnesses to others in your name’s sake.