Summary: A sermon to encourage people to witness your faith.
3rd Sunday of Epiphany 11
Witnessing your faith.
Matthew 4: 12-23
This morning I want to speak with you about something that all of us know as Christians that we are supposed to be doing, yet few of us, due to fear, ignorance, busyness, and other excuses and distractions, are actively involved – Witnessing to your faith.
Now before we go any further, hold on for a minute or two. I know that for some when they hear the word “witness” that they have already tuned me out, but wait! This message is not designed to heap on the guilt or twist your arm, this message is intended to enable, equip, and encourage you… release you into becoming a fisher of men. Why, because we are accountable not just to God but to each other.
Jesus wanted a return on His investment in people that He created. The Lord expects everyone to give an account for what they have done or with whatever they have been given - time, talents, and resources. Jesus held the disciples to a high level of accountability because he knew this would motivate them to accomplish all of God’s will. But I also want you to know that Our Lord never used accountability to instill paralyzing fear in His followers. Accountability acts as a fertilizer to increase growth and progress in every person.
So let me pose you a challenging question: “Why is our Christianity not more contagious? Why are we not winning more of our friends, relatives, and associates to Christ? Why are we not better witnesses?”
One of the ways that Pastors know that their congregations as a whole are not living up comes from statistics and surveys. According to surveys by George Barna, only about half (53 percent to be more precise) of born again Christians feel a sense of responsibility to tell others about their faith. In other words, nearly half of us do not think it’s our personal responsibility to share our beliefs with those who don’t know Christ. Then the really sad part, out of that 53 percent, how many actually DO share their faith with someone else? The reason I ask this is that surveys show that they only FEEL a sense of responsibility.
But let’s look into this accountability for a moment or two from a Biblical sense.
The first thing I want you to notice is Jesus did not use accountability as a club to beat His disciples into doing something that they did not want to do. The love of God assures us that the Lord always has our long-term interests in mind. When we become aware that we will have to give an account for our words, actions and results, we tend to behave more responsibly.
One of the barriers that many hold up to not witnessing their faith is that they might be misunderstood. Jesus also helped the disciples realize that they were primarily responsible to the creator of life. The notion that the disciples would have to give account of their lives and ministries motivated them to work for eternity rather than for mere human reasons. The disciples did not mind being misunderstood because they knew they were serving a higher power than the religious or governmental authorities of the day.
Jesus also helped the disciples choose if they wanted to be a part of His great commission or not. He told them, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." (Matt. 4:19) In other words they had the choice to reject the message and messenger. We cannot force our beliefs on another. A person who is convinced against their will tends to carry the old opinions with them the rest of their lives.
Now just because people will reject the message or messenger, does not give us a way out when it comes to being accountable to God. Jesus used accountability for everyone, yet he gauged future evaluations on the basis of how much information they had been given. Jesus said, "To whom is entrusted much, much is required."
When you study the Bible you find that Jesus held individuals accountable according to their own gifts, talents and their level of exposure to God. For this reason Jesus came down hard on the Pharisees and the Sadducees who wasted many of their great opportunities to advance His kingdom and His righteousness. They were the ones who knew better.
Jesus used accountability to help people realize that the universal law of sowing and reaping is ALWAYS in operation. The Lord taught people the importance of remembering that we will reap whatever we have sown in both in quality and quantity.
Jesus also helped everyone know that accountability puts every human in complete reliance on Him for the forgiveness of sins. No one is able to pay the penalty for their own sins because they do not have any suitable sacrifice to present to God outside of the blood of Jesus Christ. This puts EVERYONE on a level playing field. No one can say, “I am better because…”