Summary: We can become effective witnesses if we acknowledge the need of the cross, experience the cleansing of the cross, and examine the way the cross works.
I know that most of you are Christians. But what I do not know is how many of you are effective Christians. How many of you can use your faith in an effective way?
I know that most, though not all, of you are professed believers. You have publicly acknowledged Christ as Lord; you have followed His command to be baptized; you have found your way into His church. Most of you are Christians. But how many of you are effective Christians? How many of you make a difference in this world, how many of you make a difference for someone else?
I am not asking, "Are you saved?" I am asking, "Are you effective?”
I am not asking, "Are you active in the church?" I am asking, "Are you effective?" “Do you make a difference?"
I am certainly not asking, "Are you happy?" or "Are you getting what you want out of your church?" or "Are you enjoying yourself?" I am not asking any of the self-indulgent questions by which religion is so often judged. I am asking one and only one question: "Are you effective?" can you make an impact? Does it matter to anybody that you are a Christian? Can you tell someone the Christian story so that they can receive the good news too? Are you effective?
To the disciples of Jesus, the drama of the last week of His life must have seemed like a walking dream. They were in it, they were experiencing it, but it must have seemed unreal. It must have been incomprehensible: too much to take in, too much to deal with. First the days of tramping toward Jerusalem, following a Jesus who seemed to know exactly what he was doing and where he was going, but who kept the secret closely.
And then the triumphal entry, the cries of Hosanna, the confrontations at the Temple and in the streets, the midnight arrest and the mockery of a trial. How in the name of common sense had it come to this, to a cross on the slopes of a place called Golgotha? How had it come to this, to an execution alongside common thieves? How had it all happened? Their minds must have been reeling with the fast pace of incomprehensible events.
To top it all off, by the time we get to the portion of Luke’s Gospel I’ve read today, they have also encountered the risen Lord, something for which nothing in all their experience had prepared them. And so it’s easy to imagine the disciples confused, emotionally distraught, upset, self-absorbed; it’s easy to imagine them trying to deal with their own feelings and trying to sort out their own reactions. In short, it’s easy to imagine them being pretty ineffective at this point in their journeys.
These disciples had seen things they believed to be unfair and horribly disappointing on Friday. Then on Sunday they saw something they would never have believed possible; these folks were in shock! These folks were in turmoil! And these men and women had to have been ineffective. They were too confused and wrapped up in themselves to be able to get out and make a difference with anybody else. There was too much going on in their own lives for them to be effective with anyone else’s life.
But their encounter with the crucified and risen Lord was designed to change that. The cross and its meaning was about to confront them and turn them around and make them effective.
The question is not, "Are you saved?" or "Are you a Christian?" or "Are you happy with church?" The question is, "Are you effective?" "Can you tell the good news to someone else?"
This morning I want you to learn that encountering the cross of Christ can make you effective. I want you to see that when you face the crucified Christ, and when you take hold of what He has done for you in the cross, you can become effective. In fact, I would argue that you will never be effective until the cross works its way into the fabric of your life. Let me suggest three things about this; let me suggest that when you acknowledge the cross, experience the cross, and examine the cross, then you will become fully effective. Acknowledge, experience, and examine the cross.
First, you and I will have to acknowledge the cross. We will have to grapple with the fact that the suffering and pain of Christ on that cross is real, and that in that suffering Christ is identifying with the harsh realities of human life.
We will begin to be effective as Christians only as we acknowledge that the cross deals with real human need. We will become effective as we are willing to tell others that we know the dirty little secret about all of human life; the dirty little secret is that all of us are sinners, all of us are in trouble, all of us are in need –and that the cross has dealt with that.