AM Sermon preached at Syria Christian Church January 23, 2005
"Your First Response: Make Andrew’s Yours" John 1:29-42
John MacArthur has written a short but pointed story called – The Life Saving Station that goes like this....
On a dangerous sea coast where shipwrecks often occur, there was once a crude little life-saving station. The building was just a hut and had only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea. With no thought for themselves, they went out every day and night, tirelessly searching for shipwreck victims. Many lives were saved by this wonderful little life-saving station, and so it became famous.
Some of those who were saved and various others in the surrounding area wanted to become associated with the station and give their time, money, and effort for the support of its work. New life boats were bought and new life-saving crews were trained. The little life—saving station grew. Some of the members of the life-saving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and poorly equipped. They felt a little more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those who were saved from drowning. So they replaced the emergency cots and the emergency beds and put in better furniture. Now the life-saving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they decorated it beautifully and furnished it exquisitely because they used it as a sort of social club.
Fewer members were now interested in going to sea on life-saving missions so they hired lifeboat crews to do the work. The life-saving motif still prevailed in the club’s decoration and there was a liturgical lifeboat in the room where the club met.
About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast and the hired crews brought in loads of cold, wet, half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick and some of them had black skin, and some had yellow skin. The beautiful new club was considerably messed up, so the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where the victims of the shipwrecks could be cleaned up before coming inside.
At the next meeting there was a split in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the life-saving activity because it was unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. Some members insisted on life—saving operations as the primary purpose and pointed out they were still called a life-saving station. But they were voted down and told if they wanted to save the lives of shipwreck victims in those waters, they could begin their own life-saving station down the coast, which they did.
And as the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that occurred in the old and it evolved into a club and yet another life-saving station was founded. History continued to repeat itself. And if you visit the coast today you find a number of exclusive clubs along the shore. Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, and most of the people drown.
Do you see the point of that story? The church’s greatest enemy isn’t the government, the culture, the A.C.L.U, Hollywood producers, or the liberal media. Scripture states and history confirms that churches are strengthened under persecution and adversity. And remember this, the Bible tells us that the gates of hell cannot overcome the church. So why is it that some churches fail? Why is it that some close their doors? If it’s not because of outside forces then it must be because of what happens from within. To put a popular twist on Oliver Perry’s famous words, “We have met the enemy, and the enemy is us!” Listen friends, churches that die, become ineffective or stagnant, do so at the hands of their own people as they lose sight of their foundation, their purpose, their reason for existing.
That’s why my hope and prayer for this body of believers is that you never lose sight of your purpose, that you never forget it’s not all about you, it’s all about God and His will. And God’s will is that while you remain devoted to one another in brotherly love, you don’t get so hung up on doing church that you forget to be the church, that you don’t become so inward focused that you lose sight of your mission which is to reach out to the lost people in this area with the good news of Jesus Christ. May we never forget that the church was not created to be a social club that caters to the whims of its members, it was created to be a life-saving station that rescues people drowning in sin.
I hope you will keep that purpose in mind as I share my challenge to you to make your first response like that of Andrew.
In John 1 we are introduced both to Andrew and the first response he had after coming to know Jesus. Here’s the situation.... John the Baptist has been preaching in the wilderness about the need for repentance and baptism and the coming of someone greater than himself. Like throngs of others, Andrew came out to hear this oddly dressed prophet. Andrew took John’s preaching to heart and became one of John’s disciples. Then one day John changed his tune, instead of saying, there’s someone greater than me coming---said "look there He is ---the one I’ve been telling you about---the one who’s greater than me--and as he pointed to Jesus he said, that’s Him---He’s the lamb of God. Now, let’s read in John 1 what happened with Andrew at that point.... picking up the story at verse 29 we read.... [SCRIPTURE SLIDES]
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
30 This is the one I meant when I said, ’A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’
31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel."
32 Then John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.
33 I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ’The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’
34 I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God."
35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples.
36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God!"
37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.
38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, "What do you want?" They said, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), "where are you staying?"
39 "Come," he replied, "and you will see." So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour.
40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus.
41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ).
42 And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas" (which, when translated, is Peter).
Throughout this sermon series I’ve been stressing the importance of giving our relationships proper priority. I’ve said that our relationship with God should come first. Our relationships at home should come second. Our relationships with other believers third. And our relationship with those outside of the church fourth. I hope you picked up on the fact that Andrew had his relationship priorities straight. His relationship with Jesus came first. Then came his relationship with his natural family----he goes and talks to Peter about finding the Messiah. Now remember Peter was not only family, he was also in a sense an outsider because He had not yet come to understand and believe that Jesus was the Messiah. And bear in mind that at this point, the church had not yet come into existence. So all things considered ---Andrew sets a great example for us on keeping our relationship priorities straight. But he does more than that. Andrew shows us how ordinary believers can effectively reach outsiders.
[SLIDE WITH 1ST SERMON POINT]
Effective outreach and evangelism begins in the heart. Andrew had been a disciple of John the Baptist but he became a Christ follower. It was only then, after Andrew had become an insider that he could effectively reach his brother Simon Peter who was an outsider. And again what I’ve been saying these past four weeks is that’s where it has to start with us. Lost people can’t give directions and that’s why before we can help others find their way to God, we need to get right with God ourselves. Once we’re right with God we find that His passion for the lost becomes our passion.
[SLIDE WITH 2ND SERMON POINT]
A second key to Andrew’s effectiveness was his sense of urgency. As I read through John’s account of Andrew’s sharing the good news with Peter three words kept running through my mind, "the first thing..." "the first thing..." "the first thing..." All too often it seems to me that in the church we misapply Jesus words about the first shall be last and the last shall be first----when Jesus spoke those words He was speaking about our approach to serving God, not our approach to sharing the good news. "The first thing" Andrew did is often one of the last things many Christians do. And I don’t think its so much because we’re afraid to approach family members as it is we’ve lost our sense of urgency. I shared with you last week the fact that we’re living in the last days and that Jesus could return at any moment. That truth has not changed. But has that truth changed us? Do our words and actions towards outsiders reveal a sense of urgency or a sense of complacency? Andrew had a sense of urgency.
[SLIDE WITH 3RD SERMON POINT]
I believe also that Andrew went first to someone he thought would take his words to heart.
Ever hear the story told about the preacher who decided to skip church one Sunday morning to play a round of golf? Every Sunday on his way to the church building he’d drive by a golf course----and during warm weather he’d often see church members playing golf. It wouldn’t have bothered him so much if they’d both play golf and come to church. But that not what happened. No, they’d go golfing and skip worship. One Saturday evening he decided he’d show those church skipping golfers....if they could do it, so could he. So he called in sick and said they’d have to find a fill in person for the morning service. Then the next morning before dawn he threw his golf clubs in his car and he headed for a remote golf course more than an hour away. He figured no one there would no him. By the time he arrived, the sun was up and it looked as if it was going to be a beautiful morning. He paid to play and alone he went to the first tee. Now an angel had been watching this preacher and was asking God what he was going to do with this man who had lied about being sick and was now preparing to hit his first shot. God said just watch. The angel was thinking "oh man this guy’s gonna get it. I can just picture God zapping him with a bolt of lightning at the peak of his backswing." But there was no bolt of lightning, no earthquake, no rain---just a perfect shot---a hole in one in fact! The angel couldn’t believe it---what? How? But, but God the angel blurted out----how could you let him hit a hole in one---I thought you were going to punish this man? God said I am---who’s he gonna tell?
When we experience something wonderful or when we learn of something exciting we can hardly contain ourselves---we feel like we just have to tell someone or we’re going to burst! When you’ve got good news to share, who do you first go and tell? Me? Usually the first person I tell is Lori. Regardless of how big or how insignificant the news is Lori’s usually the person I tell it to first. After her it’s the kids or my Dad and then friends. I would imagine that everyone of us here has a certain person or perhaps a few people that we rush to tell the good stuff. For Andrew it was Peter. I think Andrew knew in his heart and mind that Peter would not only hear him out but would also take his words seriously. It proved to be a wise strategy for Andrew and I believe it will do the same with us.
[SLIDE WITH 4TH SERMON POINT]
Another thing about Andrew’s actions is the fact that he brought Peter to Jesus. I envision a personal formal introduction taking place with Andrew saying "Peter I’d like for you to meet Jesus" and "Jesus this is my brother Peter." Whether or not it happened that way doesn’t really matter---what matters is that Andrew, the insider, introduced Peter, the outsider, to Jesus. Again we need to follow Andrew’s example. It may be to easy to talk to others about the weather....you may feel comfortable talking about the new building that’s going up...it may be fun to tell an outsider of some crazy thing that happened at a church gathering...go ahead and do those things if you wish----just don’t neglect to talk about Jesus. More than people need to know about the building project or that funny thing that happened on the way to the sanctuary---people need to know about Jesus.
The Apostle Paul writes in Colossians 4... [SCRIPTURE SLIDES]
5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.
6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. [NO SHOW]
In short Paul was saying among the many things you might talk about, there’s one thing you need to be certain not to forget---be sure to talk to others about Jesus. For you see friends news about the construction project won’t save anyone. Knowing about that funny thing that happened won’t get anyone in to heaven. But knowing about and believing in Jesus can.
In Romans 10 we find these similar thoughts... [SCRIPTURE SLIDES]
12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile--the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him,
13 for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to (or telling) them? [NO SHOW] The obvious answer is that they can’t. People need to hear about Jesus from us.
One final illustration and then we’ll be singing our invitation and decision hymn... Over the course of the month we’ve all been hearing a lot of depressing news about the loss of lives surrounding the recent Tsunami. But amidst all the bad news there are a few stories of good news. One such story is told about the Morgan seen gypsies. The Morgan sea gypsies are a small tribe of 181 fishermen who spend much of their year on their boats fishing in the Andaman Sea from Indian to Indonesia and back to Thailand. In December though they live in shelters on the beaches of Thailand. That’s where the tribe was located hours before the massive waves caused by the Tsunami struck. They were in harm’s way and most likely would have all died if they hadn’t taken to heart an old truth passed down to them through the years.
For you see, for generations, the elders of the tribe had passed along a piece of wisdom. The tribe’s 65 year old village chief Sarmao Kathalay says, "The elders told us that if the water recedes fast it will reappear in the same quantity in which it disappeared.
And that’s exactly what happened. The sea drained quickly from the beach, leaving stranded fish flopping on the shore. How easy it would have been for those who live off of the sea to run down to where the water had been minutes ago and fill every available basket with fish. Some people in fact did just that in South Thailand. Not the Morgan sea gypsies. When the water receded from the beach, the tribal chief ordered every one of the 181 tribal members to run to a temple in the mountains of South Surin Island. When the waters crashed ashore, all 181 tribe members survived because they were safe on high ground.
Just as certainly as an old truth, a truth that had been passed down for generations saved the Morgan sea gypsies--- the old truth about Jesus, a truth that has been passed down for generation and has been recorded for us in the Bible, saves people today. So I challenge you if you’re a Christian, be like Andrew and pass the saving truth about Jesus along to others. If you’re not a Christian I would remind you that Jesus alone is the way, the truth and the life and only those who put their trust in Him will enter heaven. And if you haven’t yet given your heart to Him I would encourage you to do so now....
NOTE TO THOSE WHO READ AND OR CHOOSE TO MAKE USE OF ANY OR ALL OF THIS SERMON: I am sharing this sermon with the hopes it will be an encouragement to others. I apologize for any blatant typing errors! If you find any I’d appreciate hearing from you so I can correct them. I try to give credit where credit is due, noting writers and or sources to the best of my ability. I have for years been drawing from a wealth of sources including this website. I recognize that my mind and writing processes are fallible. I may occasionally fail to properly identify a source. Please do not take offense if you see anything of this nature. I never intend to plagiarize. Having said that I want you to feel free to draw from my message. When appropriate I hope you will give credit as I do. But most of all I hope Christ will be lifted up and God will receive the glory in all things.
[P.S. This sermon series which I‘ve titled “First Things” was among the last things I said to the members of the congregation I served in Orleans, IN, at the end of a 12 year ministry with them.]