Summary: Since we are God’s method, we need to be aware of God’s process. Sometimes He uses us to cultivate the soil of people’s lives. Other times, we have the opportunity to sow by sharing the gospel message. And, on occasion, we have the privilege of partici
Participating in the Process
Rev. Brian Bill
I want to begin with a test this morning.
Q: Before Mount Everest was discovered, what was the highest mountain on earth?
A: Mount Everest, it just hadn’t been discovered.
Q: A child is born in Boston to parents who were both born in Boston. The child is not a United States citizen. How is that possible?
A: The child was born before 1776.
Q: How many times can you subtract the number 5 from 25?
A: Only once, and then you are subtracting it from 20.
Q: How many animals of each sex did Moses take on the Ark?
A: He didn’t take any but Noah did.
Q: What is both a process and a one-time decision?
While conversion is a one-time event, evangelism is a process that we’re invited to participate in. For the great majority of people, the road to Christ is long. Although Jesus is near to everyone, most people are far from Him. This vast distance is not going to be closed by confrontation and debate but by the beauty of a Christ-centered life that both demonstrates and proclaims that Jesus is the only way.
Last week we learned through two biblical metaphors that we are salt and light. As salt, we’re to give taste to a bland world, we’re to work as a moral disinfectant, and perhaps most importantly, we’re to make people thirsty for Jesus. As light, God chooses to use us to dispel darkness, to give guidance, and to reveal Jesus to others.
The fact that evangelism is both a process and a one-time decision is supported and developed by several other significant metaphors. These witnessing word pictures help us sharpen our vision of how God communicates through people like you and me.
Witnessing Word Pictures
1. A Living Letter. Speaking of believers, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:2, “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody.” This image declares that evangelism is allowing your searching friends to turn the pages of your life so that they can read the fine print. It presupposes regular, close contact with people who are lost without Christ. Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately in some cases, the response to Christ is often determined by the material found in the book of our lives.
2. A Shining Star. Philippians 2:15 declares, “…you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life…” Our goal is not to beat people into submission but to reflect the beauty of Christ to others. A star-studded sky, like a community salted with Christians, is very appealing to those in darkness. Just as the heavens declare the glory of God, so do His living stars.
3. A Fragrant Aroma. I love it when Beth wears perfume! It has a way of short-circuiting everything else and capturing my heart. You and I are to influence lost people like a sweet smelling scent. We see this in 2 Corinthians 2:15: “For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” Drawing his imagery from the parade of the victorious Roman army, Paul makes us analogous to the incense that preceded the procession.
That leads to some obvious questions. Do I emit an attractive fragrance to those around me? Do I give off the bouquet of Jesus when I mix it up with lost people? If not, maybe we could start praying something like this, “Jesus, help me to smell like you today. May there be something in my smile or my attitude that permeates people with the cologne of Christ.”
4. A Beautiful Bride. This potent image from Ephesians 5:32 highlights the powerful testimony of the church. As we focus on our six purposes of Instruction, Ministry, Prayer, Adoration, Caring, and Telling, people will be attracted to the church, just as they are to a beautiful bride. There is nothing more appealing than the body of Christ when the church acts like it is supposed to act! When PBC operates as a biblically functioning community, we will experience what the early church did in Acts 2:47: “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
5. A Patient Farmer. Agricultural imagery is the major metaphor that Jesus employed to communicate His evangelistic strategy. Farming was, and still is, one of the most honorable occupations. From the very beginning of the human race in Genesis 2:15, God told man to “work the garden and care for it.”
We’re to be like farmers who are involved in the progression of cultivation, planting, and reaping. I call it “Contagious Christianity CPR.”
We see this fleshed out in Matthew 13 where we read about the Parable of the Sower and in John 4 when Jesus invites His followers to participate in the process of evangelism. Here’s a summary of His teaching: