Summary: partnering with God in evangelism
God’s Part and Ours
Becoming a Hospital – pt. 3
October 5/6, 2002
How long does it take to “convert”? And whose job is it to do the “converting”? I want to take a look at those questions this morning as we continue to take a look at what it means for us to become a hospital, meaning a place of help and healing for people who do not know Christ. I remind you that when we talk about the vision of our church as a hospital, we are talking about meeting the needs of people who do not know Jesus, not caring for hurting Christians (which is part of the vision of the church as a greenhouse).
I want to begin the conversation on those questions with a look at Acts 1, reading verses 1-11. As you are looking that up in your Bibles, let me remind you that the book of Acts picks up where the Gospels conclude, with the story of the disciples spreading the news about the resurrection of our Lord. Let’s read it together:
Here is a really great, 3-part blueprint for sharing faith in Christ with others that I want to draw your attention to. First, don’t go without the Holy Spirit. Second, don’t get sidetracked. And third, don’t stand around looking at the sky when you should be getting down to the job.
1. Don’t go without the Holy Spirit.
In verse 4, Jesus commands His disciples to wait. “Do not leave Jerusalem…” He says, for you need to go with the Holy Spirit. He instructs them to wait until they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Think about this for a moment – the disciples already had all the facts. They had lived and walked and worked with Jesus, they had seen His death, and they were already witnesses to His resurrection. They knew all they needed to know. But Jesus told them not to leave Jerusalem until they had received the gift of the Holy Spirit – and He gave them the reason in verse 8 – that is where the power comes from. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses…” Trying to witness for Christ without the power of the Holy Spirit is like trying to start a car with no spark plugs. Sure you can push it along a bit, but you are never going to get moving, and you’ll never get very far.
I make few absolutes, but here is one: without the power of the Holy Spirit, no word or deed or example on our part will have any eternal significance for God’s Kingdom. Conversely, with the power of the Holy Spirit, any word or deed or example (no matter how much we might feel we have blown it) WILL make an difference for eternity.
You see, changing people is God’s business. It is only God that can change a person and bring them to faith in Christ, that can convict them of sin and bring them a renewed nature. But there is a really fine line here – on the one hand we can take a realization like that and assume we have no role to play at all – “it’s God’s business, let Him do it.” We need to relax and realize that the results are up to God, but we also need to recognize that He has entrusted unto us the responsibility to be His witnesses. Jesus said that in vs 8 – “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” It is our job to witness, it is God’s job to infuse those opportunities to witness with spiritual power so that there are eternally significant consequences in the lives of others.
This is why prayer is so foundational. That is what the disciples were doing when the Holy Spirit came in Acts 2, and that is the critical component as far as looking for eternal change in people’s lives. So the very first, and very best, thing that you can do for non-Christians that you know (or even that you don’t…) is to pray for them.
This is the answer to one of the questions I began with: whose job is it to do the converting? It is God’s, and His alone. Our job is to witness effectively and in His power, His job is to bring the results.
Before looking at the second “don’t” in Acts 1, I want to talk for a moment about some really practical ways we can attempt to be good witnesses.
A. Live a life of integrity. People are watching. Especially once they know we claim to be Christians. They are watching to see if what we say we believe matches the way we live, and if it doesn’t match, it is an instant turn-off. But let me say this also here: I believe that the most effective witness is not us pretending that everything is squeaky-clean when it isn’t – not putting on a thin veneer of invincibility and “perfection” that attempts to hide the fact that we are real people. I believe the most effective witness is in how we handle our brokenness. It is how we apologize, how we go to great lengths to right a wrong we might have done, how we let others see our struggles and the difference that God makes as we confront the struggles of life.