Summary: Evangelism Is All About Love 1) A love which we have seen 2) A love to which we testify (Sermon adapted from WELS 2007 Evangelism Sunday Materials)
Today is “Evangelism Sunday.” We’ll consider the place evangelism should have in our personal lives and in the life of our congregation. “Here we go again. Time for Pastor to make us feel guilty for not having knocked on doors, or shared Jesus with that co-worker yet.” Did thoughts like that flash through your mind when I announced that our focus would be evangelism? Well evangelism isn’t just about knocking on doors or telling your neighbour about Jesus. Evangelism, says our text, is all about love. A love which we have seen, and, yes, a love to which we testify.
It’s unfortunate that when many people hear the word “evangelize” they think of some quasi-militaristic zeal for Jesus that means forcing others to hear our testimony about him and demanding a personal commitment to the Lord. That’s not biblical evangelism. “Evangelize” is a Greek word that means “share good news.” Evangelism is all about letting people see God’s love for themselves. The Apostle John put it this way in the first part of our text: “7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (1 John 4:7-12).
Did you hear how often the word “love” popped up in that section? John used it thirteen times in six verses! It’s great that John describes God as love but how can that be true? Did John’s newspapers not carry the same headlines as ours about kidnappings and terrorists? Did John never visit a hospital room and see a loved one curled up in pain? If God is so loving, why doesn’t he do something about this mess we call Earth?
First of all let’s get one thing straight. While God created the Earth, we made the mess. It’s our own sin and selfishness; it’s our own greed and callousness that is the cause of heartache and hardships. And even though we made the mess, God did something to clean it up, or at least rescue us from it. John said: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
Do you want to know how big God’s love is for you? Then look at the size of the sacrifice he made to save us. He sent his own son – not to tell us that everything was all right between God and us. Jesus wasn’t a lawyer that came to get us off on a technicality. Jesus came as the sacrificial lamb to make things right. When Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” came out a few years ago, there was some concern about how graphically Jesus’ suffering was portrayed. “Too much blood! Too much gore!” some complained. It’s a good thing these people didn’t live in Old Testament times. When you brought a lamb to be sacrificed for your sins, you placed your hands on the head of that animal to signify the transfer of guilt, and then you, not the priest, took the knife in your hands and slit the animal’s throat! You couldn’t complete a sacrifice without getting blood on your hands. That was the point. Sin has left us with blood on our hands. While it should be our own blood from God’s righteous anger coming down on us like a sledgehammer, the blood that covers us is Jesus’ blood because he stepped in and took the blow for us.
Jesus is the only person big enough to step in and absorb the blow for a world of sinners. That’s why John went on to write: “…we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14). John could not remain quiet about what Jesus had come to do. For Jesus had not just come to save John from his sins, he had come to save the whole world. But how will the world know about Jesus unless we tell them about this love which we have seen? But John makes it clear that testifying about Jesus means more than talking about him. He wrote: “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (1 John 4:11, 12).