On the evening of April 15, 1912, a most horrible and tragic accident took the lives of over 1,500 people. What is more horrifying is the fact that there were 16 lifeboats and four rafts with enough space to accommodate over 1,700. There were almost a 1,000 more people on board the Titanic than there was space in the lifeboats. Many of the dead bodies recovered from this event are now resting in three Halifax Cemeteries. And this is the real tragedy, not the fact the Titanic sank but that there were so many who died, who possibly could’ve lived. In her book “Titanic a Night Remembered” Stephanie L. Barczewski recounts the testimony of the survivors of this fateful night. Several of the crew men who were assigned to the lifeboats testified that they wanted to go search for survivors in the water but the rich and influential passengers convinced them to row away from the scene. They were concerned that the lifeboats would be swamped with people trying to escape the frigid waters and the boat would be overturned. Only one lifeboat ultimately made it back to look for survivors, boat 14, but, it arrived too late and only saved 3 people out of the hundreds who died. Survivor Eva Hart remembered this night, she said, "I saw all the horror of its sinking, and I heard, even more dreadful, the cries of drowning people."
Only one lifeboat out of twenty decided to go back and save the drowning passengers. The other nineteen rowed aimlessly for hours and because of their fear kept a distance from the dying. "I came to seek and to save the lost," Jesus said. And he commissioned us to do the same. But we face a large obstacle: fear. While people drown in the treacherous waters around us, we are tempted to stay dry and make certain no one rocks our boat.
I believe we want to be more like lifeboat 14 than the other boats. Our mission statement says, “we exist to increase and mature God’s people.” So we need to discuss what it means to increase God’s people. What we’re talking about here is sharing our faith with others. There are two reasons why sharing your faith is vital. The first reason has everything to do with life; Eternal life.
Paul writes in Philippians 4:3, “And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life.”
Paul is commending some folks who worked hard telling others the Good News. The Book of Life is mentioned several times in the Bible and it’s always referencing the same truth. Jesus Christ defeated death and provided me with a way to defeat death too. But I can only conquer death through Jesus. At some point in my life, whether I’m still alive or dead, I’m going to face Jesus. My name is in the book of life. My life is registered in heaven. I’ve given my flawed and imperfect life to the authority of Jesus Christ. These co-workers of Paul were sold out for the truth of sharing their faith with others.
The dead are all around us. Many people around us and people we know and even love have simply refused to believe the truth of Jesus. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 says, “And God will provide rest for you who are being persecuted and also for us when the Lord Jesus appears from heaven. He will come with his mighty angels,in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with eternal destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from his glorious power.” This Scripture alone should chill us to our core. This verse alone should wake us up! And there isn’t any better motivator than this. We share our faith with people because people who do not give their lives to Jesus will be punished; Eternally punished.
This is why we’re a church. This is why we do everything we do; because we want to lift up the glorious Name of Jesus. We want to point everyone we know to Him. And, we want our names in the Book of Life. The second reason we share our faith is because Jesus wants us to. Jesus offered this command to His followers. “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
I share my faith because my name is in the Book of Life and I want others to appear on that registry and because if people don’t know the truth of Jesus then how can they be saved? And I share my faith with others because Jesus wants me to.
So now let’s talk for a moment about how we share our faith. The reality is that there is no one way to share faith with people. Everyone is different and every experience of sharing faith is different. Some people respond through a bible study; others are introduced to Jesus by being served somehow. Yet, others find Jesus at a low moment, like in prison for example, or in rehab. Sharing faith isn't just about speaking about it or teaching someone what the bible says, although that's a part of it. Sharing faith has more to do with living the mission of Jesus, touching lives in Jesus Name. This is how faith is shared most effectively.
In the Scripture we’re looking at this morning Paul provides a short outline on how to share faith most effectively. First he says it’s vital for genuine Jesus followers to live a consistent lifestyle. Philippians 4:8-9, “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.” Sharing faith most effectively begins with a life that is focused on God. We discussed this a few weeks ago when we talked about submission. Submission is the genuine process, and it is a daily thing, of placing my trust in Him to arrange my life. This does not mean that I’m going to wait around for God to do stuff, that’s just being lazy. But it does mean that I’m going to allow His Word to enter the deep parts of my heart and mind that I tend to hide from everyone else. The Bible uses words like transform, to become new, to eliminate or get rid of sinful habits, to only think about things that are true, pure and honorable. These are all factors in living a life in submission to God.
Submission makes all the difference in the life of someone who trusts in Jesus to arrange their values, priorities and faith. Submission is focus. Submission is the blinders we put on our faith so that Jesus is all we see. When you genuinely submit to God then His Son’s love, His Word, His values, these are the evidences of submission that flow from your life. You seek His desires and not your own. When you take a look at the things Jesus said with this understanding about submission you have a better understanding of what he is teaching.
For example, Jesus said, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:33 and Luke 9:23 “Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” The first part of sharing faith is living a life with Jesus. There is no substitute for genuine love for people. One of the things we don’t do often is show love first because love, genuine love for people is often inconvenient. Allowing what is best for others to happen instead of what we want is usually not our first impulse. This is why we complain, or argue, because our selfish nature wants to satisfy itself. Spiritually, we must fight our selfish impulses. We want our church stuff done our way, or the way we’re used to; but the reality is that the church as any healthy organism is growing younger or it’s dying. And when we’re discussing the mission of increasing the Kingdom of God, we have to understand this as a foundational truth. If we’re not growing younger, we’re dying. And dying isn’t an option. So I continually pray for the Holy Spirit to lead us in our endeavour to be loving, relevant and connected to youth, because if we’re not; then we’re not increasing.
Sharing faith effectively also involves prayer. Paul points out, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Phillipians 4:6-7 Prayer is about asking God to do the supernatural. A healthy life of prayer empowers us to stop living with our sinful nature and selfish desires and through praise and adoration tap into the eternal. We experience the supernatural presence of God through prayer. There isn’t anything more supernatural than God forgiving us our sins. Prayer helps us share this message with the world around us, even in parts of the world where it’s illegal or dangerous for us to do so. Many of you know Andy and Lynn Rayner and they are in one of the most dangerous places in the world right now. This is an update from facebook.
"Man of Peace workers, Andy Rayner and Lynn Rayner are still in Mali. They report that the town is secure. They remain alert and are continually evaluating the situation each day. Not traveling alone in the bush at this time, and other precautions being taken. However, tomorrow is an exciting day. In an undisclosed region, MOPD workers are overseeing ten women, who are already in the community development project, as they train ten other women to set up their own irrigated gardens."
Sometimes praying is all we can do for those in danger around the world who are sharing the Gospel of Jesus. Praying is what the church was doing in Acts 12 when Peter was miraculously released from prison by an angel. I like what the Puritan preacher Thomas Watson says, “The angel fetched Peter out of prison, but it was prayer fetched the angel.” Paul teaches in Colossians 4:2-5, “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should. Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” If you want opportunities to share your faith in Jesus with people, then genuinely pray for those opportunities. Everything I read in Scripture leads me to believe that God will bless this prayer.
The third thing about sharing faith effectively is simply being aware of the needs of people around you. Philippians 4:10 says, “How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me.” Sometimes we can be genuinely concerned about someone but don’t have an opportunity to help them. But genuine concern for others means that you are not only aware of their needs but when you do have an opportunity to help you’re available. Last Tuesday, January 22nd, was the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Courts Roe V Wade decision. The Supreme Court forever altered the moral landscape of the U.S. by making abortion legal for any reason in all 50 states. It’s not my intent to use this stage to score political points, but, I don’t believe abortion is a political issue. I believe that it’s a moral issue and one that we don’t discuss much as a church. Last Tuesday I took the opportunity to talk to my kids about the Roe V Wade decision and abortion. We concluded as a family that God is love and love should be our response. So when it comes to this issue of abortion, we decided as a family that we need to pray that God will open up opportunities for us to show love, support and help to women who are vulnerable to abortion. I can’t tell you right now what that is going to look like for us, or what we’re going to do tomorrow, but, I believe God does. We’re praying through this as a family. Right now we are asking God to make us aware of the women around us who need His love, who need help. I’m convinced that God will answer our prayer. Our journey begins with concern and awareness. But you should also know that our motive isn’t to stop an abortion, it’s to point the woman who is considering it to Jesus Christ. Jesus alone has the power to overcome our sin and to transform our lives for God.
And the last thing about sharing faith effectively is genuinely love people in the Name of Jesus enough to share the gospel with them. The gospel message isn’t very difficult to tell or to understand. You can go to weymouthchurchofchrist.com and click on the I’m New tab and the gospel is right there. Not everyone is going to receive the gospel the same way. Not everyone will agree with me, but, I don’t argue with people about the Bible. My belief is that if someone doesn’t want to believe the Bible is truth, then there is no way to share the Good News of Jesus with them. Very few people are argued into faith; personally I can’t think of one example where someone lost an argument and became a Christian. Every one that I have introduced Christ to, came to faith in Jesus because I consistently pointed them to Christ in the way I lived, and they came to know that I genuinely loved them and cared for them, because I love Jesus. And then when they were open to receiving the gospel I share with them the brief outline you have in your bulletin.
When I was 6 years old my parents moved to Cebu City Philippines as missionaries. We lived there for three years. I remember on Friday nights my parents would host a bunch of people from the neighbourhood for a Bible Study and mom always offered snacks and dessert of course. We moved back to the states when I was 10, but, my life was forever changed, I believe, because of the Kingdom work I witnessed as a kid, and was a part of, too. Two weeks ago I found a facebook friend. She was a teenager when we lived in the Philippines and she was one of those who with her family came to our house every Friday night. She has since moved to the US and she sent me a message that I wanted to read to you. I had to mildly edit it, because her English isn’t perfect, but, I didn’t change the meaning of anything. Because of what her husband does for a living, I don’t have permission to use her name or picture. This is what she says.
“I was thinking of you and your family in Colorado last Wednesday night. We were asked to share our "own story" in bible class; something we can share to our children and grandchildren; the negotiable and non negotiable stuff of our Christian journey. Before I could share mine, I was already in tears and no words to say. I stepped out of the classroom and my tears flowed! To this day, I am grateful and blessed by knowing your parents, and all they did for us. You guys were sent to us by God. Because your home was where we came to know Christ by your good example! I will always remember the chocolate cake every Friday evening after bible class at your house. We came for the chocolate cake and the friendship you guys shared, and in the end, Jesus Christ was shared into our lives as well. Those were three short years but sinners were brought to repentance and are walking Godly lives to this day. I praise God that I know you all.”
I’m not sharing this story with you because my parents were the best missionaries or evangelists in the world. Many of you have met my parents. They’re just normal people like you and me. Well, normal may not be the right word, but you get my drift. This story isn’t special because of my parents. This story is special because of lives that were transformed by the love of Jesus simply because my parents allowed God to share His love through them.
You can do this too. God is calling you to be lifeboat 14, but, if you wait like the lifeboats of the Titanic, more people living around you will also drown and die in their sin. This isn’t about how much God stuff you know, this about how much God’s love is flowing through your life into the lives of others around you.
I pray you allow God to live in you, to transform you, to raise you to a new life. This church exists to increase God’s people. I praise God for His faithfulness in using us for His glorious Kingdom purpose as we genuinely love the world around us and share the story of Jesus. The dead and drowning are all around us and like Eva Hart, I wonder if we hear them. Do you hear the cries of those who are lost and dying around you? I pray you will open your ears, and then, you will go to them and bring them Jesus.
I believe it’s fitting to conclude this morning with this Scripture. “Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News. God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus. I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ for this will bring much glory and praise to God.” Philippians 1:3-11