I was going through a file the other day when I came across these words titled “Ten Little Christians”. And it goes like this.
10 little Christians standing in line, 1 disliked the preacher, then there were 9.
9 little Christians stayed up very late, 1 over slept Sunday, now there were 8.
8 little Christians on their way to Heaven, 1 took the low road and then there were 7.
7 little Christians chirping like chicks, 1 disliked the music, then there were 6.
6 little Christians seemed very much alive, but one lost his interest then there was 5.
5 little Christians pulling for Heaven’s shore, but one stopped to rest, then there were 4.
4 little Christians each busy as a bee, 1 got his feelings hurt, then there were 3.
3 little Christians knew not what to do, 1 joined the sporty crowd, now they’re down to 2.
2 little Christians, our rhyme is nearly done, differed with each other, then there was 1.
1 little Christian can’t do much ‘tis true, brought his friend to bible study then there was 2.
2 earnest Christians, each won one more. That doubled the number then there were 4.
4 sincere Christians worked early and late. Each won another then there were 8.
8 splendid Christians if they doubled as before, in just so many Sundays, we’d have 1,024!
In this little jingle, there is a lesson true, you either belong to the building, or the wrecking crew. - Author is anonymous.
What does this have to do with today’s scripture reading? Listen and you’ll find out.
[S] “So when they met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1.6-8, NIV). [S]
The word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.
Jesus said, “You will be my witnesses.” That means Jesus wants his disciples to be part of the “building crews” and not the “wrecking crews.” Note that Jesus didn’t say, “You could be my witnesses” or “You might become my witnesses”. Jesus didn’t ask them, “Would you be my witness?” Jesus said, “You will be my witnesses”. A witness is a Disciple who shares the gift of what Jesus has done for him or her with others. So when Jesus says, “you will be my witness” he is saying, “share the gift.”
I know that as soon as I mentioned the words witness or implied sharing the gospel invisible force fields went up all over this room. Force fields typically go up like this because we don’t feel good about the topic. And that’s good, because it means that we know we could or should be doing better. And that means it’s important to you. A few sermons ago I mentioned that I believe the majority of believers have a secret desire to become a tither. I also believe that the majority of disciples want to be able to share the gift of Jesus with another human being.
Unfortunately, there are some obstacles that get in the way. Obstacles like false assumptions, fear and anxiety, not knowing when the right time share the gift is, who to share the gift with, or not knowing what to say when it comes to sharing the gift. Am I right?
Therefore, I’m going to preach a series called “Share the Gift” for the next three weeks. A series designed to encourage and equip each of us to be ready to share the gift with others.
The first step I’ve taken is to secure the services of the Evangelism Linebacker. Watch this, and then watch out. [VIDEO – The Evangelism Linebacker]
[S] Now, that’s one way to motivate disciples to share their gift. But I’m not sure that’s the best way to do it. What I hope to do over the next few weeks is help you and I alleviate some of the stress and anxiety associated with sharing the gift so that we can increase our chances for being obedient to Jesus as well as to make life better for others this holiday season.
The first obstacle to address is the assumption that the majority of people aren’t interested in hearing the good news about Jesus. And that’s just not true. They are!
In John 4 Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at a well. He doesn’t impose himself upon her, he doesn’t debate her, he doesn’t embarrass her. He simply starts a conversation with her about water. And before you know it, they’re talking about the spiritual life. And she’s engaged by it. She’s contributing to it. She’s feeding the conversation. She liked what she was hearing. She was amazed at the news. So much so that the one little Samaritan left and brought a score of others back to hear more. God wants you to know that there are people who want you to share your gift with them.
In Acts chapter 2 Peter who has been touched by the Holy Spirit of God stands up in a public place and begins to verbally share the gift of Jesus. He tells them who Jesus is and what Jesus’ death meant for them. And what we learn in this scripture is that thousands of people pulled up a lawn chair to listen to what he had to say. That means that there were thousands of people who were interested in hearing about this gift Peter was sharing. When it was all done and over, more than 3,000 people received the gift of Jesus that Peter shared that day. The gift of abundant life in the present and eternal life to come. Three thousand people went home and most likely shared what they had heard that day with their families and friends. And so the little Christians began to grow. Were there some folks who didn’t want to hear it? Sure. But more importantly than those who didn’t want to hear it, are those who were open to hearing it!
And there’s the account of an Ethiopian Eunuch on his way back to Ethiopia after a royal visit in Acts chapter 8. You need to know that the Eunuch was not a follower of Christ. He was a spiritual person, a religious person, but not of the Christ.
While he was riding back to Ethiopia he was reading scripture, a scroll of Isaiah. Now, I know there are a lot of people who get car sick while reading a book. Can you imagine reading a scroll in a chariot? He was reading from Isaiah 53, the chapter about the suffering servant. He wasn’t sure about the content. He had some questions about who the writer was talking about, whether it was Isaiah himself, or if he was talking of someone else who would suffer for the people.
Fortunately for him, a disciple by the name of Philip was around. The Eunuch asked Philip if he knew anything about this chapter and suffering servant. Too which Philip replied, “I do.” The Eunuch probably replied saying something like, “Can you tell me about this?” And then he proceeded to tell him that Isaiah was speaking of Jesus. When the Eunuch understood this he committed himself to Jesus and was baptized.
This story reminds us that there are seekers, pre-Christians, unchurched believers, and institutional Christians who have questions about God and Jesus, but are too intimidated to ask for help, or they really don’t know where to turn to for help. Deep down inside they’re really hoping that they’ll bump into someone who can help them. They have an itch and they want some help scratching it. They really do!
I think the reason God is bringing this to light is because we’re fast approaching a season in the life of this country when its citizens will never be more receptive to the gift we have to share – Christmas.
The Barna Group took a sample of 1005 adults from across our nation asking them if they thought the following stories in the bible were factually accurate or stories not concerned about facts but mostly used to teach some basic principles. The stories included the Virgin Birth, Jesus turning water into wine, Jesus feeding the crowds of thousands with a few loaves of bread, Noah and the Ark, Eve and the serpent, and the strength of Samson. Any idea as to which story the majority of the respondents believed to be factual? Seventy-five percent of the respondents believed that the Virgin birth of Jesus was true.
What’s that tell us? It tells us that less Americans are offended by Christmas than we ever imagined. It means that there are a lot of people out there who are more receptive to the gift we have to share than we think there is. Barna stated in his article, "Christmas is one of the few components of the Christian faith that even nominal Christians - who exceed 40 million adults - appreciate. Although that group, in particular, is not spiritually inclined, the joy and deeper meaning introduced by celebrating the birth of Christ resonates with them at the same time that the season strikes a more profound spiritual chord with committed Christians." (Americans Express Their Views of the Virgin Birth of Christ, December 17, 2007, barna.org)
[S] That means people really are interested I your gift! And if you’ve ever wanted to be obedient in sharing your gift with others, that there is no better time to share your gift than during the Christmas season. If there was ever a window of opportunity for sharing the gift of Jesus in a receptive atmosphere it’s the Christmas window, November 30 – December 30. During this time period the people of our country are thinking about what Christmas means. They have those conversations with their friends. They talk about Jesus and the virgin birth, the angels, the cradle, and the shepherds. They even sing the songs.
The assumption that people don’t want to hear about your gift is simply not true, particularly at this time of year. [S] Jesus said, “you will be my witnesses.” Someone will be ready for you to share your gift this Christmas. The question is will you be ready? Tell the person next to you, “I hope you’ll share your gift next month.”
Next Sunday we’ll continue this series by removing more of the obstacles that keep us from sharing our gift.