- The Jesus Model
- John 17:17-18
- Lyndol Loyd September 8, 2019
This morning we are launching into our church-wide experience based on the book, Out of the Saltshaker and Into the World, by Rebecca Pippert. As a part of this series, I’d like to ask us to read together out loud our theme passage of scripture which comes from Matthew 5:13-15. Would you please join me as we read from the screen together?
“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. 14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.”
Whenever I used to think about the word evangelism, I would think about it in terms of people or things that I could never be or didn’t want to be. I would think about Billy Graham and his crusades where he would fill up stadiums across the world as people came from far and wide to hear him preach and without fail thousands of people would respond to altar calls as George Beverly Shea lead those gathered in singing, “Just as I am without one plea…”
While I feel that God has called me to be a pastor and a preacher, I know that I’m no Billy Graham. I don’t have the flare he had. I don’t speak in the same style that he used. The truth is that I don’t make a very good Billy Graham.
When I would hear the word evangelism I used to think about what I call “Bullhorn Guys.” You know who I’m talking about, the ones who tend to stand on street corners or in free speech areas on college campuses and yell things out at people such as, “Repent, or you will burn in hell!” or “If you died tonight do you know where you would spend eternity?”
That isn’t my style. Quite honestly, I don’t think I want it to be. Could I do that? Yes. Do I want to do that? No. I don’t like it, and I don’t think most people respond well to it. It feels angry and overly aggressive to me. At best, it feels like evangelism is just verbal proclamation in the form of monologue where listeners have to accept or reject a proposition. The last time I checked, the Holy Spirit isn’t pushy.
Another image I had in my head was of people who would walk up to complete strangers and hand them a tract followed by asking them something such as, “Did you know that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life?” This used to be a fairly prevalent tactic that people would use back in the ’80s and ’90’s. I’ll certainly give it to those who go about evangelism in this style that they are out there trying.
I was never drawn to this kind of evangelism either. It felt cold and impersonal to me. There might have been a time when those kinds of tactics used to work on some level, but I don’t see it working in the culture of 2019. It lacks relationship, and my sense of people today is that you have to earn the right to be heard by someone.
Maybe you’ve come into contact with some of these same stereotypes of what it means to do evangelism? I just knew that I wasn’t interested in perpetuating any of those stereotypes, so I did what I believe all too many Christians choose to do; I ignored evangelism.
Some of you know what I’m talking about because you’ve done the same. Evangelism, as you’ve been exposed to it, creeps you out, so you ignore it altogether.
But the problem is that it makes it all too easy to treat faith in Christ like a private matter that we only discuss with select people in controlled environments where we feel comfortable. When we do this, we end up spinning Jesus into a personal/private God who exists to serve us and keep us comfortable.
I realize that might be hard for us to hear because it is a convicting thought for many of us. If you and I can’t talk about Jesus and can’t influence people toward Him, then he is a private, controlled, and self-serving God. He becomes “Your” God who is meant to follow you.
That simply doesn’t jive with God’s Word. Acts 1:8 says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Jesus has always intended his followers to witness about His life, death, and resurrection. Every follower from day one until now is to be part of Jesus’ mission to witness to the whole earth. If you aren’t doing that then you aren’t following Jesus, but rather some made-up God.
If we want to change, we have to admit that we have a negative stereotype about evangelism, but also admit Jesus has a new paradigm for us — we need to open ourselves up to what that is.
For me, my ideas about evangelism changed when, as a college student, I read the first edition of Out of the Saltshaker and Into the World. All of a sudden, I realized that evangelism…
- …isn’t about trying to be someone I am not or could never be. It is about allowing God to use who He created me to be.
- …isn’t about yelling, arguing, or being aggressive. It is about having authentic conversations with people where they can ask questions, express their doubts and fears, and wrestle with issues of faith.
- …shouldn’t be thought of as an event that I go and do, but more of a lifestyle that I live out as I go about my everyday life.
Church, I want to invite you to join me in changing the perception around evangelism and evangelists. Evangelism means “announce or bring good news.” This should be a great thing, right?
Why does bringing good news only have to be loud, pushy, and arrogant in its style? Even if the news is good, the method stinks. Let’s change it. Do you know how we can?
What if all of us started sharing our faith more regularly in relational, humble, listening ways, and, let’s say, all 1,000 plus of us here at LakeRidge did this and started sharing our stories? It would result in some new paradigms of evangelism and what it means to be an evangelist.
Evangelism doesn’t have to be the street sign holder, slick tv preacher or pushy guy—it can be the relational, quiet, listening-yet-bold-in-the-right-moment woman, man or child.
Church, we need to take hold of the reality that Jesus is good news, and He has brought a kingdom to earth where life in its fullness is possible. People need to know about this, and they need to step into this.
Find your way to share this good news. Find the way that you talk about anything significant that happens in your life and start doing that with the good news of Jesus. We all influence people toward great things.
Use that same authentic way about you to influence people toward Jesus. You can do it! Let’s recapture the imagination Jesus intended when he called us his witnesses.
In John 17:17-20, we find Jesus praying for his disciples and for all who will ever be his disciples. Here is what he prays. 17 “Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. 18 Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. 19 And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth. 20 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.”
Did you catch that? Jesus’ plan for reaching people with the good news of the gospel is you, and me. God entrusts us and empowers us to tell His story.
I want to suggest to us this morning that the most effective thing we can do if we want to live into this calling is to study the life of Jesus. We need to look more deeply at His life and learn His values and priorities. If we live by the values and priorities He had, I believe we will find evangelism happening more naturally. It will become a lifestyle for us, not some project that we go out and do.
Jesus was wholly concerned with God and wholly concerned with people. The life that Jesus lived rose up out of the simple idea of loving God, our neighbors, and ourselves.
Look at the life of Jesus, and you will find that he didn’t just love some people. He didn’t just love the lovable people. Jesus loved sinful people. Look at the life of Jesus, and you will find that His actions demonstrated that everyone is someone to God. Jesus connected with tax collectors and prostitutes, beggars and fishermen, women and children, the wealthy and the enslaved, just to name a few. That is Jesus’ example.
Jesus reaches out to others in love and asks us to do the same because we are called to mirror Christ’s character. This isn’t a call to be affectionate and sweet because it is a nice thing to do. It is a call for us to love the way that God loves, to see people the way that God sees people, to value people the way God values people.
It has been said that our sociology reflects our theology. I think that’s true. The way we treat others reveals what we believe God is like. In Out of the Saltshaker, Rebecca Pippert points out that this has tremendous implications for how we do evangelism. “People will understand as much of the love of God as they see in our own lives. The first Bible many people will read will be us and how we live.”
We are called, therefore, to mirror the love of God — a love that is so extravagant that we must never keep it to ourselves. When you know what it is to be a recipient of the love and grace of God, how could you ever keep that to yourself?
While it is absolutely true that Jesus radically identified with the world. It is at the same time true that Jesus was radically different from the world at the exact same time.
The real contrast here in how Jesus went about living as someone called to holiness and how the Pharisees of Jesus’s day went about the idea of holiness. The Pharisees fenced themselves off from people outside of their circles so that hey wouldn’t get “infected” by them. Jesus walked alongside people. He was approachable. He accepted people as they were. He identified, but He was never identical with the world.
Jesus welcomed and loved sinners; He didn’t overemphasize righteousness. He showed genuine compassion for people, but He was also direct and uncompromising in denouncing sin. Jesus had compassion, but there was also a toughness in His love. He won them without sacrificing the purity of His life.
My favorite example of this is when Jesus is confronted by a group of religious leaders who brings a woman caught in adultery to him. They look at Him and say, “The law says to stone her. What do you say?”
They hoped that they could catch Jesus in a trap. If He said to stone her, they could accuse him of being unloving and cruel. If he said not to stone her, they could accuse Him of breaking the law.
Instead, Jesus turns the tables on them by saying to let anyone of them who was without sin to cast the first stone. At that, they all dropped their rocks and walked away.
Then Jesus does something very interesting. He looks at the woman, and He tells her to go and sin no more. He shows love and compassion for her, but at the very same time, He calls her out of her sin.
It seems to me that this is the model Jesus would have us follow as we seek to give our faith away to people who are in need of Jesus. We are called to radically identify with the world. We are also called to be radically different from the world.
Jesus very clearly believed in obedience to God, and he clearly called people to obedience to God. In Luke 6:46, Jesus told His disciples, “What is the point of calling me ‘Lord, Lord,’ without doing what I tell you to do?”
In this case, I would point us to an encounter that Jesus had with an expert in religious law that we find later in Luke’s gospel. He asks Jesus the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus responds by asking him what it was that he understands a person is supposed to do. The guy tells Him that his understanding is that a person is supposed to love God with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength and that he is supposed to love his neighbor the exact same way. The man was really just messing with Jesus. He really wasn’t all that interested in finding out Jesus’ answer as he was with trying to show Jesus what he knew. Jesus looks at him and says, “You’re right. That’s correct. Now go do it.”
Jesus knew that obedience to his Father’s Word brings about faith. Over and over again in the New Testament we see Jesus calling people to faith and obedience.
Jesus’ style wasn’t so much to look at someone and say, “Go consider what I’ve said.” Jesus’ style was quite often to say, “Go and try out what you’ve heard me say.”
In our evangelism, we need to call people for as much commitment as they are prepared for. Not everyone we meet is ready to accept Jesus, but everyone we meet is somewhere on a continuum in relationship to Christ. Our job is to draw them closer.
Church, if we are to be fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ, His values and his example need to be deeply rooted in us. We need to be more concerned about how our lives reflect His love, His holiness, and His obedience. When we live this way, I believe God will use us to draw people to Himself.