Summary: A sermon about practicing Christian Presence.
When I was 18 years old I became friends with another young guy named Tim.
One of the first things Tim asked me, which is something no one my age had ever asked me was: "Are you a Christian?"
Although it seemed a very odd question, I answered: "Yes."
I had grown up attending church, and although I was pretty "far out there" my faith had always been an extremely important part of my life.
As Tim and I began spending time together, though, it became very evident to me that Tim's definition of what a Christian was and my definition were quite different.
It's not that Tim ever questioned my answer to him that I was a Christian.
It was Tim's commitment to Christ which was displayed in his life that inspired me.
When I was with Tim, I felt the Presence of Jesus.
It was the first time I had ever met a person my age who was walking the walk and talking the talk.
I had never known it was possible; I had never seen it in action.
And as Tim and I spent more and more time hanging out together, I became more and more convicted and convinced that I wanted what Tim had...
...a living, personal and life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ...
Even if it meant radical change!!!
It's been said that Jesus' willingness to "be present" with Zacchaeus ends up being an act of evangelism.
Zacchaeus' encounter and time of hanging out with Jesus changes his life.
One scholar writes the following: "There's a lot of nonsense going on these days that passes for evangelism--and its nonsense because it has nothing to do with the presence of a Christian.
So much so-called evangelism these days has to do with passing on a message, a set of propositional statements.
And because its sole content is impersonal, it doesn't matter much how the message goes out--over the airwaves, or in print...or "just put the tract in their hands and maybe they'll read it."
Now, in quoting this, I am in no way saying that I totally agree with the quote.
I don't think that there is only one way to evangelize...
...and I believe strongly in handing out tracts.
This, I believe is a big part of the Great Commission.
For instance, when serving in World War 2, my Uncle Jack, who later became a United Methodist Minister...
...created a tract with some of his friends entitled, simply, "God Loves You."
One of Hitler's Body Guards picked it up off the ground one day as the war was ending and gave his life to Christ.
My uncle met the man at a Conference many years later.
He had been telling the story about making that tract when the former SS Officer came forward with tears in his eyes...
...telling my uncle that that particular tract played a big part in leading him to Christ!!!
There is not just ONE WAY to spread God's Word and plant seeds.
In any event, Alfred North Whitehead is quoted to say, "People are not as much persuaded by our reasoning, but caught by our enthusiasms."
And one of the best ways to spread enthusiasm is by being present with someone.
More than that, it's most effective if it's the kind of presence that means something, a genuine willingness to say to another person: "This is who I am"--not just "This is how you ought to be."
And most importantly "I care about you!!!"
It's an opening up of ourselves to others.
Making ourselves available.
Taking an interest in the lives of other persons.
Look at what Jesus said to Zacchaeus: He didn't say, "Stop stealing from the public with your tax methods! Stop getting rich off the backs of poor people!!!"
He said, basically, "I want to come to your house and hang out with you today."
Jesus spent time with Zacchaeus, He didn't try to master him.
He didn't try to sell him something--instead, He offered Himself for free.
He became a friend.
And we all need friends.
And everyone in the crowd grumbled, "There goes Jesus again. He's going and making friends with another hated sinner!!!"
People who knew me were pretty shocked when I gave my life to Jesus, after having spent a bit of time with my new friend--which also got me reading the Bible for the first time in my life.
At the time I was a long-haired, partying, heavy metal fanatic.
But I wasn't really happy, and I knew I couldn't live my life like that forever...or at least I really didn't want to...
...I just didn't know how to change.
At the time, I was taking a class in Public Speaking.
Each class member had to give a speech on an assigned topic every couple weeks.