Summary: Theme: Our mission demands that we always be prepared to tell others what we believe and the difference knowing it has made in our lives.
Sermon: The Gospel According to You Is 12:1-6, I Peter 3:15 Feb 13, 2005
(Part of the series Putting the pieces together)
Theme: Our mission demands that we always be prepared to tell others what we believe and the difference knowing it has made in our lives.
In case you haven’t noticed our puzzle is beginning to take shape. You can begin to make up the picture. You can see some of the objects setting on the shelf. We are almost finished with Putting the Pieces Together. Next week will be the last sermon in this series as we put the finishing touches on God’s picture for us. I hope you will bring back your puzzle piece and find it’s place in our puzzle. And I hope as we conclude this series that you will have begun to understand your spiritual shape and how you fit in the big picture of the kingdom of God and Harmony United Methodist Church.
In Decision magazine, Peggy DesNoyers wrote: My job as a psychiatric home health nurse brought me in touch with many people who were hurt or angry and who were searching for answers to problems in their lives. I knew that Jesus was the answer, but I couldn’t bring myself to talk to them about him. I was the master of excuses. [Until] one patient changed my life.
Wanda was a 56 year old widow in chronic depression. All of her family had died, some of them tragically, within a span of 16 years. The loss and her grief overwhelmed her until life for her became a burden she was unable to bear. One day she quit her job, went home, pulled the curtains, and refused to leave her house. Eventually she stopped eating, and even the smallest of tasks became too difficult for her to do.
An observant neighbor had noticed the change in Wanda’s behavior, and that neighbor made arrangements for her to be taken to a hospital where she was admitted to the psychiatric ward. At the end of her hospital stay, when she went home, I was assigned to be her home health nurse. I visited her weekly to make sure she was taking her medication and was eating and taking care of herself.
Over the course of six months Wanda continued to recover. Although I knew she needed to meet Jesus as her Savior, I reasoned that she would soon be able to get out and go to a church somewhere herself and then she would hear about him there.
One day I went to Wanda’s house for my regular visit, and I was surprised to find the door ajar. I knocked and when there was no response, I pushed the door open and stepped inside. The living room was vacant, so I went to her bedroom and found her lifeless body on the bed. There were several empty medication bottles beside her and in her hand she held a note addressed to me.
I sat on the bed beside her and took the note: I read: Dear Peggy, I’m so sorry I tried it your way, but I got tired. Please forgive me. I tried. I just couldn’t do it. I got tired. On my knees beside Wanda’s lifeless body I promised God that I would never pass by another opportunity to tell someone about him. (Decision magazine, July/August 2000. “Silent No More” by Peggy DesNoyers)
None of us want to experience regret like that. None of us want to feel responsible for the death of someone who doesn’t know about Jesus. We know the Great Commission, we know we are commanded to “Therefore, go into all the world and make disciples of all men.” In fact many of you after last weeks sermon made a point of telling me that you invite everyone you meet to church. But when Jesus said “go into all the world and make disciples of all men” he wasn’t talking about inviting people to church, he was talking about telling them the Gospel and converting them to Christianity. He was talking about witnessing, evangelizing, and testifying (the three scariest words in the Christian faith). He was talking about telling the world about what God has done for you.
You see most people are not converted to faith by a preacher. They see us as professional salesmen doing our job. Most are not “saved” during an “Evangelistic crusade” or during a visitation time in the community. Seventy nine percent of people come to knowledge and belief in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior through a friend or relative. (According to Institute for American Church Growth, 1997) And it isn’t while they are in the church with.
Jesus understood that. “According to one count, the gospels record 132 contacts that Jesus had with people. Six were in the temple; four in the synagogues and 122 were out with the people in the mainstream of life. (J.K. Johnston-Sermon Central). People are converted, saved by faith, when they understand how God meets them in the real life and the best way for them to understand that is through your gospel, your story. “Stories build a relational bridge that Jesus can walk across from your heart to theirs.” (The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren page 290).