Discipleship Matters: Sharing the Gospel Boldly (Part 2)
2 Corinthians 5:11-21
Pastor Jefferson M. Williams
Chenoa Baptist Church
A Bible for Penn Jillette
Penn Jillette is one part of the magician duo Penn and Teller. He’s an author, thinker, inventor, and outspoken atheist.
A few years ago, after a show, a man walked up to him and handed him a Bible.
That night, Penn made a video talking about that experience. I want you to watch this.
[YouTube - “A Gift of a Bible 1:55-4:54]
Do you hear him? “How much do you have to hate someone to not share the Gospel with them?”
[Slide] This morning, we are going to see that a disciple of Jesus shares the Gospel boldly. This is part two of the message and if you remember from two weeks ago, BOLD stood for: [Slide]
Be in consistent prayer
Offer to tell your spiritual story
Let your light shine before all men
Don’t be weird, just be yourself.
This morning, I want to give you some practical tools to help you feel more comfortable with sharing your faith.
Stats don’t lie
In 1993, The Barna Group did a research project and one of the findings was that 89% of Christians who had shared their faith agreed it was a responsibility of every Christian. When they followed up on that question 25 years later, only 64% said so - a 25 point drop!
In a study by Lifeway, 80 percent of those who attend church one or more times a month believe they have a personal responsibility to share their faith. Yet despite this conviction, 61 percent have not told another person about how to become a Christian in the previous six months.
Why has evangelism waned in churches over the past 25 years?
Here are several reasons I found from my research:
Mainline liberal churches who do not believe in hell or that Jesus is the only way, have no reason to think that sharing their faith is important.
In one research project, 46% of Millennials (1981-1996) believe sharing one’s faith is wrong and can be damaging to others.
Factionalism, or in-fighting, in conservative churches has distracted our focus on sharing our faith.
A lack of urgency and intentionality is too common in conservative churches today.
[Slide] A sense of urgency is what led my friend Willard to share his faith. Willard was dying of cancer. He knew he didn’t have long so he asked that all his grandchildren be brought to the hospital. As they stood around his bed, he shared the Gospel clearly and then called each of them to commit their lives to Christ. He told them that he wanted to make sure that he would see them again.
Research tells us that cultural Christianity is all but dead. The United States had the lowest birthrate in 2020 in the history of our nation. Transfer growth from other churches is minimal. If our churches are going to survive, it will be because we take the call to go and make disciples serious and evangelism becomes part of our DNA.
The Jesus Film Project asked people what kept them from sharing the Gospel with others. Here are the most common answers:
Fear of rejection, fear of hostility
Lack of Opportunities
Didn’t feel equipped
This morning, I hope to help you feel more equipped to share your faith. When you feel more equipped you will be more confident and less fearful.
Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 5.
Corinth was a Mess
The church at Corinth was a mess. There were factions fighting each other, sexual immorality running rampant, a lack of care for others, misuse of the Lord’s Supper, and false teachers that were leading sheep astray.
Paul wrote two letters to this church in order to rebuke them, challenge them, encourage them, and help them become healthy again.
At the end of chapter 5, Paul takes on their lack of love for others, particularly their lack of evangelistic fervor for the lost.
What is “all this?” Paul is referring back to the previous verses.
[Slide] “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)
The word “compel” means to “press together, constrain, confine, or control.” It was not our love for Christ that compelled us but Christ’s love for us that was to be the controlling factor in our lives.
“We love because he first loved us.” (I John 4:19)
Notice this is in the present tense. It is an ongoing action. It is the knowledge that Christ loves us that compels us to love others.
God loves presses in all on sides. Paul was overwhelmed by the saving love of God. Are we?
What was Paul convinced of? That Christ died our death for us that we might live His life for Him.
“He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.” ( I Thes 5:10)
How did Paul’s understanding of God’s amazing grace change the way he viewed people? Look at verse 16:
[Slide] “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.” (2 Cor 5:16)
From the moment of salvation on the Damascus Road, Paul started seeing people with different eyes.
I love Matthew West’s song, “Give me Your Eyes.” The chorus goes like this:
Give me Your eyes for just one second
Give me Your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missin'
Give Your love for humanity
Give me Your arms for the broken-hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach
Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten
Give me Your eyes so I can see
Paul no longer viewed people from a worldly point of view. At one time, he had considered Jesus a fraud and a heretic that deserved to die. Now he understood how wrong he was about Jesus. ?
He wrote to the church in Ephesus:
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 6:12)
In 2016, research showed that Christians were more likely to share their opinions on politics than the Gospel.
I recently had a conversation with a leader from another church in another state. I private messaged him and said that his FB posts were very divisive and I gently encouraged him to take down his posts. I said, “We have Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, and Independents at our church. It’s not about how people vote, it’s about their heart and where they stand with Jesus. From your post, it sounds like there are multiple groups of people that aren’t welcome at your church. That’s not the message you want to send, is it?”
His answer? “Yes, that is the exact message I want to send!” And then he let me know exactly what he thought of me. This is a leader in a church and someone I counted as a friend.
You’ve never met a person that God doesn’t consider infinitely valuable. Nancy Pelosi, the guy that flies the White Power Flag down the street, Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner - they are not the enemy, they’re the mission field!
Here’s a challenge. You can complain about them, and people like them, as much as you pray for them.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Cor 5:17)
The Skit Guys posted this on FB:
“One day Paul was killing Christians, the next day he was a Christian. Peter was a fisherman and the next day he was a fisher of men. Don’t judge someone based on that one day. If God can create the whole world in six days, He can surely create a new heart in one.”
God doesn’t care about the outside appearances. He focuses on the heart.
Ray Pritchard writes:
We look at the outward. God looks at the inward.
We value popularity. God values character.
We look at intelligence. God looks at the heart.
We honor those with money. God honors those with integrity.
We talk about what we own. God talks about what we give away.
We list our accomplishments. God looks for a contrite heart.
We value education. God values wisdom.
We love size. God notices quality.
We live for fame. God searches for humility.
Our view is shallow. God’s view is deep.
Our view is temporary. God’s view is eternal.
God doesn’t want to make people better, He wants to make them new. Becoming a Christian isn’t like joining a club it’s like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly.
[Slide] By the way, in one of my favorite stories of the last few weeks, the Atheist In Kenya society released a statement announcing their secretary, Mr. Seth Mahinga had resigned….because…wait for it…he had committed his life to Christ!
That brings to verse 18:
[Slide] “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Cor 5:18-19)
Reconciliation means to exchange, as in coins. To change from enemy to friend. Out of all the religious systems of the world, only God is a reconciling God.
God did not need to be reconciled to us. We needed to be reconciled to Him. And we were powerless to do this on our own. We can’t be good enough or hop high enough for his holiness.
God is an eager forgiver. He didn’t count men’s sins against them. Paul is remembering David’s words in Psalm 32:
“Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.” (Psalm 32:1-2)
How did this happen? On the cross, Jesus took our sins and paid the price for our rebellion, even though He never sinned.
“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-6)
God proactively reached out to us to save us. He didn’t have to and we did nothing to earn it. It was done out of sheer, extravagant love.
And God has given us the opportunity, the honor of being his ambassadors of reconciliation.
* [Slide] Ambassadors
[Slide] “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor 5:20)
In the Roman Empire, there were two types of provinces - senatorial and imperial. Senatorial provinces were at peace with Rome and had surrendered or been subdued. Imperial provinces were not at peace with Rome so they would send ambassadors to make sure that rebellion didn’t break out.
Ray Stedman writes:
“Why do we send ambassadors? Well, because countries do not always relate to each other very well. Things need to be explained, need to be approached with diplomacy and caution and carefulness. That is what an ambassador is to do. He is to be a representative of a government, handling himself with such care and confidence that the message that his government seeks to convey is given in the most painless and least offensive way possible. Now that is dangerous. You can get yourself killed or taken captive as an ambassador in this world today.”
In this dark and dying world, we get to be Christ’s ambassadors. We get to represent the King of Kings. We are the channel through which God makes His appeal to the lost world.
Richard Cathers tells the story of a 1936 radio broadcast that was transmitted to America from England. Just before the voice of King Edward VIII was to be heard, someone stumbled over a wire in the control room of WJZ (now WABC, New York) and snapped the only line of communication between the two great countries. The engineers were frantic. Then, with only a few moments remaining before air time a quick-thinking apprentice grasped the two broken ends of the wire and bridged the gap. Seconds later the King addressed the nation. In a real sense, his words were being transmitted through the body of that man!
We are to implore others, which literally means to beg, others to be reconciled to Christ.
How do we do that? By our words and our lives.
You are writing a Gospel
A chapter each day
By the deeds that you do
And the words that you say
Men read what you and I write
Distorted or true
What is the Gospel according to you? ?
Five ways to share the Gospel
[slide] Anchor for the Soul book -
Two weeks ago, we made the little book, “Anchor for the Soul” available to you. Ray Pritchard wrote this book to help people understand the Gospel clearly.
I give this book out when I help people with mercy fund and when I share the Gospel with someone.
It’s easy. You give them the book, ask them to read it, and make a date to get back with them to discuss it.
That’s what happened with Ed. Ed was in his early twenties and, like so many other guys of that age, felt a little lost. He came in and we talked for a while. I shared the Gospel with him and gave him the book. I told him to take his time and when he was done reading it to contact me.
He called me the next morning and asked if he could stop by the church. He came in with a huge grin on his face. He had gone home and read the whole book in one sitting and wanted me to know that he had committed his life to Christ. He just needed to know what to do next!
2. [Slide] Coin
A couple of years ago, Rich Maier and I went to a conference in Kentucky. I love watching Rich share the Gospel with others. It comes so naturally.
[Slide] One of the ways that he shares is with these beautiful copper coins. One one side, it says, “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior and on the other side is John 3:16.
I remember being at a restaurant with Rich and he handed me a coin and told me to go give to our waitress.
Sometimes it’s easier when we have something to hand a person like a book or a coin.
3. [Slide]The Romans Road
[Slide] Les Stevens loves to use this tool to share Christ with people using five verses from the book of Romans:
We’ve all made a wrong turn
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23)
b. It’s the road to death.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
c. Jesus paid the toll.
"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
d. God allows U-turns.
This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. (Rom 3:22)
e. Make the right turn and surrender to Jesus as Lord.
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-10)
4. [Slide] The Three Circles
[Slide] Several ladies have started meeting to encourage each other in their faith and they have been reading “Turning Everyday Conversations into Gospel Conversations” by Jimmy Scroggins.
In that book, there is a very simple tool to share the Gospel called the “Three Circles.” I’m going to ask Kim to come up and we are going to show you how it works.
[Three Circle Drama]
[Slide] Communion (15 words)
In the Greek, this verse is fifteen words but is one of the most powerful verses in the Bible.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5:21)
Jesus is the only one who this verse could be talking about. I Peter 2:22 said that Jesus “did not sin” and I John 3:5 said that “in Him was no sin.”
Yet God treated Him as if He had sinned our sins! John wrote:
“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (I John 2:2)
The fancy theological term for this is substitutionary atonement.
Christ died our death, in our place, to pay the penalty for our sins. In exchange, we receive His righteousness! When God looks at us, He sees the righteousness of Christ covering us.
C.S. Lewis wrote:
“It cost God nothing, as far as we know, to create nice things, but to convert rebellious souls cost Him crucifixion.”
That’s what we celebrate at this table. At CBC, we practice open communion, which means that if you are a Christ-Follower you can partake. You don’t have to be a member of our church.
5. Angel’s Conversation at the Shop and Go
Sometimes an opportunity just presents itself.
Kate Forbes, who became finance minister of Scotland at age 30, was recently asked about her Christian faith, presenting her the opportunity to say:
“To be straight, I believe in the person of Jesus Christ. I believe that he died for me, he saved me and that my calling is to serve and to love him and to serve and love my neighbors with all my heart and soul and mind and strength. So that for me is essential to my being. Politics will pass. I am a person before I was a politician and that person will continue to believe that I am made in the image of God.”
A couple of Saturday mornings ago, Chenoa was, as my dad would say, a happening place. The shop and go had 70 vendors and there were 50 + classic cars. There were hundreds of people here from all over. It was a perfect time to wander around, meet people, and talk to atheists.
Benediction (from Pastor Gregg Allen)
May God help us to see people’s great value to Him - as people that Jesus loves infinitely, and for whom He died.
May God help us to see the depth of their need - that Jesus died for them; and that in His doing so, God was showing them to be dead in sins and in a terrible state of need apart from Him.
May God help us to see their potential as God sees it - looking at them as someone for whom Jesus died and rose again, so that they would no longer live for themselves but live instead for Him.
May God help us to see their true spiritual condition - no longer evaluating them merely on the basis of their outward appearance; but looking upon them as either "dead in sins" apart from Christ, or "brand new creations" in Christ.
And may God help us to see the great provision He has made for their salvation - and the great part He has called us to play in ministering the message of that salvation to them.