Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Street Evangelism is Powerful: The Majesty of Carrying the Gospel

"We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many." -2 Corinthians 1:8-11

We often dream of great and mighty things. We dream of love that would be like a beautiful song, or music video. We dream of doing great things for God. We dream of revivals and great awakenings. We dream of a world that would made right by Christ. We dream of winning thousands to our savior Jesus.

And sometimes, after the days pass by, and things come about rather normally, like they did for me, as I’ve been here, and it didn’t happen for me, we often feel quite saddened.

We can find ourselves in the Christian life, under pressure, filled with stress, and scrambling to meet deadlines. Just as Paul and his companions. It says they were under great pressure, far beyond what they could even endure.

Have you ever heard that saying “God will not give you more than you can handle?” Yeah, that isn’t true. Jesus sweat blood in the garden because he couldn’t handle it. And Paul felt so overpowered, so burdened, so stressed that it says “he despaired of life itself.”

Have you ever felt that way? It’s not uncommon to those in the ministry. Think of the great prophet Elijah. He had won a great victory for the Lord in his showdown with the 500 false prophets of Baal. But he was overwhelmed and fled when he was threatened by Jezebel. He hid alone in the wilderness and said to God that he wishes he would just die.

But this is not the end of the story. Because God delivers us. In that very same verse it says, that Paul felt that they had suffered the sentence of death. They felt so disturbed, so overwhelmed that they felt dead. Like they’d been cut down. But it doesn’t end there.

It says But this happened, why? That we might rely on God, not on ourselves. Instead, we rely on God, who does what? Raises the dead. He delivered them from the deadly peril they faced, and Paul knew they would be delivered again.

We’re constantly offered up in this life to death. We carry the very death of Christ with us. We’re constantly offered up to trials, tribulations, persecutions, and sorrows. Yet we set out hopes on Christ, who does come and deliver us. Not by preventing the troubles we face, but by allowing those troubles to shape us, form us, and mold us into the likeness of Christ.

We may see great revivals, and great awakening, and great moves of God that we get to take part in. Someday I may just meet my wife and get married, and be truly in love. Each one of us have hopes and dreams and secret desires that we just see come to fruition. Or maybe they won’t. But our job is to be faithful to our God, whether we get what we want, or don’t get what we want.

No matter where Paul went in his ministry, he was doing one thing: Preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. And that always came with one thing: Trouble. Controversy. Stress. Rejection. Yet he continued, despite being beaten, dragged out of the city, arrested, flogged, and so on. All for the desperate desire for people to get saved by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Today we have the great opportunity to carry the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is our call. That is our mission. We can go out and learn. We can go out and speak. We can meet human needs. But eventually we must ourselves speak the word that brings life, the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The good news that Jesus Christ, God in human form, came into human history, on a rescue mission to save us, that Jesus took the penalty for our sins, and was slaughtered on the cross as a substitutionary atonement for you and for me.

We have a lot excuses for why we don’t evangelize. Why we don’t share the gospel. Why we don’t talk to people about Jesus. We’re too busy. We’ve got too much homework. We’ve got to get stats in. But I think it comes down to something pretty simple. We’re afraid. We don’t want to be rejected. We don’t want to offend anyone.

If we’re afraid to preach the gospel, what hope is there for the world? We have to be brave. We have to bold as lions. We have to be willing to speak up. Because time is running out for the people of this world. Their souls hang in the balance. All people who have ever been born will go to one of two places, either heaven with God in eternal joy or hell to be tormented endlessly for all eternity. Heaven is real, and hell is real. How much do we have to hate people to not tell them about Jesus? Yet I do it everyday. I don’t speak up at Jewel at the cash register. I don’t speak up at the laundry mat. I don’t speak up at the street corner. I don’t say a word at the bank. Unnacceptable. Completely unacceptable.

Sometimes we say well, you can’t evangelize like that it has to be relationships. And it’s true that relational evangelism is a good thing. But you’d be amazed how many stories I’ve heard about how people, total strangers, willing to be Jesus to people, got people saved. A pastor was visiting at the drug rehab center in St Louis at my summer assignment. Young guy in his late twenties. And he told the story of how he got saved. He was standing outside at college, smoking a cigarette, and a Christian walked right up to him, made a B-line to him, and started talking to him about Jesus. And he got saved. Today he’s a pastor impacting hundreds of people. Imagine if that man had been too afraid to walk up to him. Where would he be today? I think of Pam. Pam told me the story of how a woman she didn’t walked up to her, and said, “God loves you.” And Pam yelled at her, said don’t touch me, you don’t know me. But you know what? Those three words, Jesus loves you, stuck in Pam's mind for months, and she couldn’t stop thinking about it. Just because one woman was willing to say three words to a stranger. I always remember that, when I’m afraid to open my mouth. And then there’s me.

Two girls at college walked up to me in the hallway and said, “Do you think if you died today you would go to heaven?” They were using a method called evangelism explosion on me. I took the bait and they talked to me about Jesus. I laughed them off. They probably thought they blew it. They didn’t. They didn’t. I still remember that conversation to this very day, with two strangers, who were brave enough to come trembling to me, and speak the name of Jesus. Street evangelism is powerful. Never forget that.

And if your afraid, let me tell you this: The word of God says you must not fear them, instead you should fear God. So if you’re afraid switch that fear over to God. What will happen if you don’t preach to them? Will God hold you responsible on the day of judgment for their blood? Tremble at the thought of not reaching them for Jesus. Don’t tremble at the thought of talking to them. Tremble at what will happen if you don’t.

But most of all, remember, remember, remember, what Jesus Christ our dear friend, our dear savior did for you. Remember the nails that were pounded through Jesus own hands, and own feet. I have a little nail on my key chain, as a reminder. When I get nervous, I slip my hand into my pocket and rub the nail, and remember what Jesus did to remove my sin. If Jesus had not come and died on the cross, all of us would be sent to the fires of hell, plain and simple. That’s a fact. Jesus paid it all, without that payment, we are all doomed, because we’ve all sinned terrible. Jesus did everything. He was slaughtered as sin, for my sin, despite how perfect and righteous and holy he was and is.

Please, pause for a moment, and remember the nails that Jesus took for us. And remember the fate of those who don’t know Jesus as Lord.
Love is why Jesus came. And love why Jesus died. Let us carry that love to others. Finding Jesus was the greatest thing that ever happened to my life. Let’s give others that opportunity. 

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