Summary: Outreach is a partnership of trust, where God trusts us and we trust God. Knowing which part we are responsible is essential for effective outreach.
Note: This sermon was introduced with a drama called "Conversion"
In many ways, sharing our faith in Jesus Christ can feel like coming out of the closet with a dark secret. In our culture today, talking about your faith seems too personal for public discourse. People prefer that we keep issues of faith private, rather than talking about our beliefs in public. So because of that, it can seem like we’re breaking the social rules when we talk about our faith.
When I was a new Christian and a student at Chaffey College, I was struggling with how to best tell people about Jesus Christ. There were two different campus Christian groups that took entirely different approaches to outreach. There was one group of Christians at Chaffey who were very aggressive in talking about Jesus. In fact, other students nicknamed this group of Christians "the God squad" because they were so pushy and obnoxious. This group of Christians acted as if people coming to Christ depended completely on them.
But there was another group on campus that took an entirely different approach to outreach. This group of Christians believed that outreach was completely God’s work, so it wasn’t really necessary for us as Christians to tell people about Jesus. In fact, this group followed the "God squad" around campus, telling them that they shouldn’t be telling other people about Jesus. They said, "When God wants a student to come to faith in Jesus, he’ll do it without your help." According to this second group, when God brings a person to faith in Jesus he does it entirely through his power and without any human effort or involvement.
Well as a new Christian I was confused by the entirely different approaches of these two campus groups. The debate between those two groups raises a very important question about sharing our faith in Jesus Christ with other people. How much depends on us and how much depends on God? The God squad group acted as if it all depended on them, while the second group acted as if it all depended on God.
I’ve learned since then that neither group was entirely right. Certain aspects of outreach do depend on us, but certain aspects also depend entirely on God. Finding the right balance is absolutely essential if we want to share the good news of Jesus effectively and compassionately with those around us.
We’ve been in a series through the New Testament books of 1 and 2 Timothy called Deepening Your Life With God. An absolutely essential element of deepening our life with God is sharing the truth of God with those around us. In fact, the New Testament teaches that its impossible to deepen our lives with God unless we’re sharing the message of God with those around us.
Today we’re going to discover that sharing the truth of God with people is a partnership between us and God. Reaching out to unchurched people with the good news of Christ is a partnership of trust between us and God.
Now to some people, the very idea of being in a partnership with God sounds outrageous and disrespectful. I mean God is God, and obviously we’re not. Why would the Creator of the galaxies enter into a partnership of trust with humans? It does sound outrageous. Yet I think you’ll see today that God has done exactly this and entered into a partnership of trust with us when it comes to outreach. Today we’re going to find three ways God trusts us in outreach, and three ways we need to trust God in outreach. If we get our part and God’s part confused, we’ll find our attempts to share Jesus with those around us frustrating and ineffective.
1. How God Trusts Us
Let’s begin by looking at vv. 11-18 together. There are two key words that tie this section together. The first is the word "guard," which we find in v. 12 and then twice in v. 14. The second key word is the word "entrust," which we find in v. 12 and then again in v. 14. God trusts us to guard certain things, and we trust God to guard certain things. This is why outreach is a partnership of trust, because God entrusts certain aspects of outreach to us, and we entrust certain aspects of outreach to God. So, as outrageous as it sounds, sharing the good news of Christ with others really is a partnership of trust between us and God.
Now let’s start with how God trusts us. In v. 11 Paul describes God’s calling in his own life as threefold: God had called Paul to be a herald, an apostle, and a teacher. A "herald" is a person who makes an announcement. Last month we sang "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," which was a way of describing the angels who announced Jesus’ birth. A herald was the equivalent of a town crier, or perhaps more up to date in our culture today, a press secretary.