Summary: Evangelism will have little effect if we don’t love the lost.
Connecting People to Jesus
Rev. Brian Bill
Our family went up to Chicago on Labor Day to spend time with Emily. We ate a picnic lunch, went down to Lake Michigan and then just strolled around downtown. While we were walking on Michigan Avenue I glanced up and saw a well-dressed man in a tie handing out gospel tracts to people. As we got closer I noticed that he was talking to one of his friends while he tried to get people to take a booklet. While he was joking around with his buddy, he didn’t even appear to be looking at the people passing by. Several thoughts went through my mind. While I admired his courage for doing this, his heart didn’t seem to be in it. I wondered if his seeming lack of interest in individuals was gutting the good news he was attempting to get out. And then it hit me that people could say the same thing about me, and maybe about you.
Please don’t get me wrong. I admire this guy for getting out there with people and trying to put the good news into hands and hearts. In fact, when we walked back near where he was standing I saw a woman reading the booklet she was given. Let’s do a little survey using the whiteboard. Just shout out how you came to Christ. Obviously, it was God who drew you but what tool or method or person did He use in your life?
I’d like to suggest that our evangelism will only be as effective as the love and respect we have for people. Let me say it a bit stronger than that: Evangelism will have little effect if we don’t love the lost. As we begin a new series today called “The Promises Behind God’s Plan,” it’s my aim to help each of us grow in our passion for compassion. Incidentally, compassion and evangelism were low scores on the Reveal Spiritual Survey that we took several months ago. We’re picking up our study in the Book of Romans after about a year break as we tackle chapters 9-11 this fall. For a refresher course on the first eight chapters, see www.pontiacbible.org.
Some pastors, when preaching through the Book of Romans skip these three chapters, while others go through them quickly treating them as a parenthesis to the rest of the Romans. While we’re not going to get bogged down in this section, we are going to dig in with some depth. These chapters will help us answer two questions:
* If the gospel is to the “Jew first” as stated in Romans 1:16, why are there so few Jews who have put their faith in Jesus?
* Will the promise given to Abraham and his seed really be fulfilled?
You would think that after concluding with the closing crescendo of Romans 8:38-39 that Paul would begin chapter nine on a note of joy, but he doesn’t do that. Look with me at the final verses of chapter 8: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
And now notice how abruptly the mood changes in 9:1-3 as I read a paraphrase of this passage: “At the same time, you need to know that I carry with me at all times a huge sorrow. It’s an enormous pain deep within me, and I’m never free of it. I’m not exaggerating - Christ and the Holy Spirit are my witnesses. It’s the Israelites…If there were any way I could be cursed by the Messiah so they could be blessed by him, I’d do it in a minute. They’re my family.” (The Message) Paul goes from the peak of joy to the valley of sorrow. The lack of a conjunction and a smooth sentence transition shows how broken up he is.
The first part of our mission at PBC is to “connect people to Jesus.” This passage gives us some incredible insight into how best to do this. Ray Pritchard suggests two indispensable qualities that we need to have if we hope to reach people for Jesus. I’m going to borrow the first part of his outline.
Quality #1: Great Love (9:1-3)
Have you heard this phrase before? No one cares how much you know till they know how much you care. If people don’t believe that we care about them, they are not going to care much about what we believe. Or to say it another way, we will never lead people to Jesus until we learn to love people like Jesus does. We see three different aspects of Paul’s love in these first three verses.