The Works of the Church:
Evangelism, Part 1
John 2:17; 2 Tim 2:15; 2 Cor 5:11; Rom 1:16
The Marks and Works of the Church
John 2:17; 2 Tim 2:15; 2 Cor 5:11; Rom 1:16
Evangelism, Part 1
This morning we are pivoting to a new Work of the Church. My method in dealing with these Works of the Church has been to follow what Jesus says in Matthew 22:35. Turn with me there. This is what Jesus says:
And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And ha second is like it: You shall love your neighbor
as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.'”
In this passage, Jesus teaches us that there are two things that the Church must do, two works that the Church must engage in. The first Work we are to do is we are to love God. Jesus states, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” This is primary. This is the Church’s chief Work. We discussed this Work in my sermon on Exaltation. The primary activity the Church engages in is to love God, to exalt God. The next activity the Church is supposed to do is captured in what Jesus says regarding loving people. Jesus states, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The second activity we as a Church are to do is we are to love people. We’ve dealt with this Work in my two most recent sermons on Edification. The Church is supposed to edify Christians. We are to build one another up in the faith, to equip one another for the work of the ministry. Edification is a type of love that
is directed inward. It is a love that the Church shows towards its own, towards Christians. This type of love is very important. The Church is supposed to love its own. We are called to love our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
This point can be over-emphasized, though. There are churches that only exist for the sake of their kind. There are churches that only seek to show love to those who are a part of their church. This is misguided. While we are called to one another and care for one another, that is not the only type of people-love we express here. We also seek to show love to the lost and the dying who are outside this congregation. We seek to show love for all peoples, all around this world. This love for the lost and the dying shows itself in the Work of evangelism. Jesus calls us to love
our fellow man—both Christian and non-Christian. Love for Christians was dealt with in the Work of Edification. Love for the non-Christian will be dealt with in the Work of Evangelism.
For this morning and for the next two weeks we will deal with this Work of Evangelism. There will be three sermons for this Work. For the following two sermons, we will focus upon missions—with one message on missions from the OT and one from the NT. For this first sermon, we will focus upon personal evangelism.
Personal evangelism is very important. It is an essential command of Jesus Christ to Christians. If you do not share your faith, you disobey Christ. It is part and parcel of the Christian faith. Absolutely central. I don’t think you need much persuasion to believe that point. It’s basic to
Christianity. As evangelical, evangelism is something that we are known for throughout the world. What we often need help in is not persuasion that it’s important but help in doing it. We need guidance and direction in it. We know that it’s important. We know that we should do it. But we still don’t do it.
In order to assist you this morning in your personal evangelism, I want to identify some common obstacles in personal evangelism and make some suggestions as to how to overcome those obstacles. Evangelism is exceedingly important but hard to do. I want to help you this morning.
That’s where we’re headed this morning.
The First Obstacle: Apathy
The first obstacle in personal evangelism that I want to discuss this morning is apathy. Apathy in evangelism is when God commands us to share our faith, we respond, “Meh.” It’s when we feel indifferent about God and about man. “Take it or leave it” mentality. The thought that those who die without personal faith in Jesus Christ suffer an eternity in hell makes no difference to us. Meh. Okay. Sure.
With reference to evangelism, the causes of apathy in churches vary. One reason is some people who come to church aren’t in fact Christians. That’s a very real reality. They have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof. The gospel has not made impact in this people’s lives
because the gospel isn’t in their life. They live just like the world and yet come to church on Sunday. I pray that is not you this morning.
Another reason for apathy is that we doubt the power of God. Sometimes in evangelism we must repeatedly tell people the same thing. Over time, because we have not seen fruit, we begin to doubt that God will work. “What’s the point?” we might think. We don’t believe in God’s
power. We only believe what we see, which is people rejecting Christ.
Another reason for apathy in evangelism is tribalism. The mentality here is that we only want this church to be filled with “our type of Christians.” When we begin evangelizing, we might see people end up in our church that are different then us. Some Christians don’t like this. Some
Christians only want to replicate their own. This leads to apathy of evangelism, maybe even resentment. “Our church is fine the way it is,” might be the thinking process.
Another reason for apathy is that Christians capitulate to culture. Much of broader culture teaches that Christians are judgmental, bigoted, hateful. Christians are especially this way when we talk about matters of sin and judgment. Talking about these things is off topic. Christians can
fall prey to these criticisms. They begin to honor the culture. If broader culture says we can’t talk about these things, then we probably shouldn’t. We begin to begin to think that evangelism is a negotiable aspect of the Christian walk.
Overcoming the Obstacle
How do we overcome this obstacle of apathy? The antidote to apathy is zeal. Apathy is perpetual passivity and indifference. Spiritual slothfulness and laziness. Zeal is the opposite. J. C. Ryle, an 19th century evangelical Anglican, defines zeal this way.
Zeal in Christianity is a burning desire to please God, to do His will, and to advance His glory in the world in every possible way. It is a desire, which is not natural to men or women. This desire is so strong, when it really reigns in a person, that it impels them to make any sacrifice-to go through any trouble-to deny themselves anything-to suffer, to work, to labor, to toil, to spend themselves and be spent, and even to die-if only they can please God and honor Christ. A zealous person in Christianity is preeminently a person of one thing. They have a passion for one thing,
and that one thing is to please God and to advance God’s glory. If they are consumed in the very burning of their passion for God, they don’t care—they are content. They feel that, like a candle, they were made to burn; and if they are consumed in the burning, then they have only done the work for which God has appointed them.
We see this notion of zeal modeled in Jesus’ life. Turn to John 2:13. Jesus is our model. We see how it is that we should live from him. We will read through verse 17. This passage reads,
The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the moneychangers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
This story recounts Jesus’ cleansing of the temple. One of Jesus messages to the current religious culture of the day is they had forsaken God. They didn’t buy it. They weren’t going to change. They didn’t care. How easy would it have been for Christ to just gone along with the flow, not unsettle the current religious culture, not offend the host culture. To be apathetic. He didn’t do this, though. Jesus was not apathetic about his Father’s house. Jesus’ zeal led him to action. Jesus saw that his Father’s house had been desecrated by sinners. Jesus becomes enraged. He went against the grain and did something offensive and confrontational.
To overcome not caring about evangelism, we must care about evangelism. To overcome apathy in evangelism, we must have zeal. Our deepest desire, our most controlling impulse must be the glory of God. Above all else, he is our purpose. We must have the same zeal that Christ had in cleansing the temple in our pursuit of evangelism. Some bedrock conviction that propels us out of our comfort zone. This conviction is the glory of God. And we hold this conviction with a
The Second Obstacle: A Lack of Knowledge
The second obstacle we must overcome is a lack of knowledge. Many may feel that they want to evangelize but that they can’t because they don’t know what to say. To evangelize, you must know what you are talking about. You must know what the gospel is. You then must how to
explain the gospel. And then you must sometimes know how to defend the gospel. This requires some knowledge. Gaining and maturing in this knowledge does not just happen. There is a knowledge gap that we must overcome in order to share this gospel.
All of this is understandable. If there is one obstacle that I think might be valid, it would be this one. Abraham Lincoln, I think, said,
Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.
There’s a lot of wisdom in this statement. If you begin sharing the gospel and you start talking about how people must try hard to earn favor with God, you’re not sharing the gospel. It’s better to not say something like this.
I don’t think, though, that this is the best to understand our situation. Many of us have been in church for years and still don’t know how to share the gospel. This is not good. Rather than applying ourselves and growing in our understanding, our attention is more enraptured by TV,
movies, Facebook, YouTube, likes, followers, the unimportant. I know these things are true of you because they’re true of me. Too often my attention is pulled away from the eternal to focus upon things that don’t matter. We exchange the knowledge of God for comfort, entertainment,
and endless amusements.
Overcoming the Obstacle
How do we overcome this knowledge gap? Turn with me to 2 Tim 2:15. If you don’t know, this is the AWANA verse. This is what Paul says,
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
Here we have a commandment from Paul to Timothy. Paul tells Timothy to “do his best to present himself to God.” Paul is discussing Timothy’s work as a pastor, particularly his work as a teacher of God’s Word. Pastors are to labor earnestly over the Word of God. Pastors must be this way.
The application goes beyond that, though. This command is for all Christians. While pastors must be this way, all Christians should be this way. All Christians are called to do their best to present themselves to God as approved workers. This work for “do your best” means
To be especially conscientious of discharging an obligation, be zealous/eager, take pains, make every effort, be conscientious.
These efforts are aimed “rightly handling the word of truth.” As Christians, we are to strive for doctrinal and biblical maturity. We should know how to rightly handle Scripture. We should make every effort to do so. This involves reading, study, inquiry. If you have a theological
question, don’t be content to let that sit. If you don’t know how to present the gospel, don’t be content with your lack of knowledge. Instead, strive to fill that void. We have some resources available for you to do this out at the book stand. Please talk to me if you have questions about this.
The Third Obstacle: The Fear of Man
This last obstacle is the one I struggle with the most. I imagine that this might be the one you struggle with the most, too. I would imagine that most people here are not apathetic about evangelism, and that most know enough to be able to share the gospel effectively. Still, there’s
this one last obstacle that often prevents us from evangelizing. This last obstacle is the fear of man.
I have had many run-ins with the sin. Many. Let me share a funny but sad story of my disobedience to Christ with this sin. My first year of college was an incredibly transformation year for me. It was also an incredibly difficult year. That was the year that God got a hold of my life and wouldn’t let me go. I was away from home for the first time, lonely, sad, and struggling. Through the pain, God mediated his grace to me. transformed me. Made me into the person I am today. I would not be here without that year.
One night during my freshman year, I was in fervent prayer in my door room. I don’t remember exactly what I was praying but I remember shedding tears. I was pouring my heart out before the Lord. And in a moment of over-zealousness I told the Lord that I would do anything for him (By the way, you should never pray that type of prayer). After I was done praying, I went down the hall to our floor bathroom to take a shower. In this dorm, we all shared a hall bathroom. The bathroom had individual stall showers. So, as you showered you might have guys to your left and right showering, too. This night there were two other guys showering at the same time I was showering. I knew one of the guys. He was a big, red-headed football player. The other guy I didn’t know. These two guys struck up a conversation. As they were talking, the one guy who I didn’t know asked the football player how things were going with his girlfriend. The football player began disparaging his girlfriend. And the reason why he spoke poorly of her was because she was a Christian. I don’t remember the specifics, but he was insulting her for her faith.
Being the bold and courageous Christian that I was, what do you imagine that I did? Did I stick of for Jesus Christ and his gospel? Did I stick up for my sister in Christ? Did I say as David said to Goliath, “Just who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” Um, no. I coward. I didn’t say a word. I just stood there, like an utter coward.
In this moment, what mattered most to me was how these two guys perceived me. What I ultimately sought was that these guys would not disapprove of me or make fun of me as this one guy did of his girlfriend. I feared them. I feared what they might say or do to me as ultimate.
What I didn’t do is that I didn’t fear Christ. I didn’t revere his opinion as the most precious opinion. I didn’t see his perspective as the ultimate. Rather, the opinion of man was ultimate, not God’s opinion.
This sin of fearing people is not unique to me. You, too, have these same tendencies. You, too, do these same things. You, too, cower when you should be bold. You are silent when you should speak. This is a sin that we all commit.
Overcoming the Obstacle
Well, pastor, how do we overcome this sin, this hurdle in evangelism. Great question. Turn with me to 2 Cor 5:10–11. This is a wonderful passage for this issue. Paul says this,
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.
Paul discusses here the judgment that Christians will partake of after they die. This judgment is for the purpose evaluation, not condemnation. For those who are in Christ, there will be no judgment. That has been dealt with in Christ. There will be a time of evaluating, though, when
Christ will sift through our lives to find our fruit. This is the time of ultimate accountability. Have you ever been held accountable for something? Even if you’ve done everything right, there still is a sense of fear that falls upon you, a sense of soberness, of stress.
Paul uses this feeling of the anxiety produced by a time of accountability to serve as the motive for his evangelism. He states in v. 11, “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.” The fear of the Lord, who is specifically Christ as he will one day stand in judgment upon his people, is what motivates Paul to persuading others of the truth of the gospel.
What we see here is that the way to overcome our fear of man is to replace it with a fear of Christ—specifically, the fear that our whole lives will be put on display before Christ and he will determine how faithfully we have lived for him. There is coming a day of reckoning, a day of
accountability. This day, when we see Christ face to face, is supposed to motivate our evangelism.
Notice that Scripture encourages this type of fear, a fear of Christ. We don’t exchange the fear of man for something that is not fear. Instead, we exchange one type of fear (a sinful fear) for a different type of fear (a godly fear). As humans, we were made to worship. We were made to
exalt something else besides ourselves. This fear, reverence, awe is an expression of that worship. What it is that you revere is that which you worship.
These obstacles that I have discussed today—apathy, lack of knowledge, and fear of man—are spiritual problems. They are matters of the heart. They express our inner state. They express how
we are in our heart.
Because these are spiritual obstacles, the way we overcome them is through spiritual solutions. We need zeal, we need to strive towards theological maturity, and we must fear God. These solutions are spiritual—they aren’t life hacks, Ted talks, or anything of human ingenuity. They
come from God. You cannot muster them up on your own. You cannot will zeal for God. You cannot oomph up a desire to know God. You cannot naturally overcome your desire to please eople. The problems are in us and yet the solution is outside of us.
Turn with me to Rom 1:16. Paul says this, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” For us to overcome obstacles in sharing the gospel, we need to see more of the gospel. The power to
share the gospel arises from the gospel. It is through the gospel—the story of the person and work of Christ in his first and second coming—that God empowers us to share the gospel. Look to God for help this morning. If you don’t share the gospel, ask God for the power of the gospel to share it. Look to God, friend. He is your answer and your hope.