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CHRISTIAN LIFE - SHARING STARTS WITH CARING Matthew 28:18-20

EFFECTIVE SHARING STARTS WITH CARING

Matthew 28:18-20

I know, "Sharing starts with caring!"  It sounds like something cheesy like a Care Bear would say, but it's true. Effective evan­gelism starts with a God-given concern for the person you are speaking with. People can tell if you really care about them. A child knows it; even a dog can tell! So I begin with this question: Do you care about people who do not know the Lord? Far too often we see them as the enemy when, in fact, they are under the control and influence of the real enemy, Satan.

Speaking of nonbelievers, 2 Timothy 2:26 says we are to be patient in our dealings with them. So, effective sharing of one's faith starts with a concern, a burden. Be honest. How do you really feel about unbelievers? The great British preacher C. H. Spurgeon wrote the follow­ing words about the unbelievers to whom we present the gospel message:

“The Holy Spirit will move them by first moving you. If you can rest without their being saved, they will rest too. But if you are filled with an agony for them, if you cannot bear that they should be lost, you will soon find that they are uneasy too. I hope you will get into such a state that you will dream about your child, or about your hearer perishing for lack of Christ and start up at once and begin to cry, ‘O God, give me converts or I die!’ Then you will have converts.”

There is even a place for anger when it comes to sharing our faith. Before the apostle Paul delivered the gospel message to the pagans of Greece, Acts 17:16 tells us, He was deeply troubled by all the idols. Another way to translate Paul's reaction to this idolatry is, "He was irritated and aroused to anger." It's no wonder. Athens was "Idol Central" of the planet at that time. Have you ever looked around at our culture today, seeing so many trapped by sin, and just gotten angry? Not at the people, but at the one who is doing this to them? We usually think of anger as a negative thing, but did you know there is a place for anger? It's often called righteous indignation.

As a result of being deeply troubled, Paul came up with a plan and took action. Any effective attempt at sharing one's faith must begin with a God-given burden. (1 Corinthians 9:16) Now, be honest: Do you feel that way?

Spurgeon also said, "Winners of souls must first be weepers of souls.”

If we want God to work through us to reach people who do not yet know the Lord, it must start here.

In Luke 15 we are given a perspective of how God views those who don't know Him. You may be surprised by what you read there. Jesus, in three metaphors, conveys how God loves people:

  • Like a shepherd who lost a sheep. (vv. 4-7)
  • Like a woman who lost a coin. (vv. 8-10)
  • Like a father who lost a son. (vv. 11-32)

Have you ever lost something of great value? You search until you find it--just like the shepherd who lost his sheep. And time is of the essence for a shepherd with a wayward lamb. Sheep are defenseless animals. They cannot run fast.  They do not have teeth to speak of, or even claws to scratch with. They are basically "leg of lamb" for the taking; the only thing missing is the mint sauce.  Not to mention the fact that sheep are among the dumbest animals on the planet, and are constantly getting themselves into trouble.

Don't take it as a compliment when Scripture says in Isaiah 53: All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way.

So, the shepherd, despite the fact that he still has ninety-nine sheep, searches for that stray lamb until he finds it. The sheep desperately need the shepherd, and the shepherd cares about his flock. When the shepherd located the lamb, he was filled with joy and brought it back, rejoicing. Jesus then inserts this point in verse 15:

In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven't strayed away.

Every time someone on earth believes in Jesus, Heaven rejoices! This reminds us that God cares about individuals. Sure, He loves the world as John 3:16 says, but He loves each and every one of us—and He is searching for us. You might say, "Yes, but that's Jesus! I just don't feel that way about people that are not Christians!” But does not Philippians 2:5 tell us, Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus.

Reflecting His love, we should be searching for others as well. Jesus cares.

Then Jesus spoke about the woman with the lost coin. This most likely was the coin a bride would wear in her wedding headband, so it had great value on multiple levels. It would be like losing your wedding ring!  But this woman would not give up, so she searched until she found it. Again, Jesus says in Luke 15:10, In the same way, there is joy in the pres­ence of God's angels when even one sinner repents.

In Luke 15:11-31 we find one of the most amazing stories ever told. It is the story of a father who had two sons. In the telling of the story, we usually focus on the antics of the one boy who went, according to Jesus, "to a far country" and spent his money on wild living. This boy hit rock bottom and ended up feeding pigs, not a very kosher thing for a Jewish boy. He was so desper­ate, he was thinking of eating the food he fed the pigs. Then, he came to his senses and said, “My father's hired hands have it better than this. I'll just go home and tell Dad I'm not worthy to be his son, but at least I can work for him.”

But let's not miss the bigger picture: this story is really about a father who missed his son. I am always amazed at how it seems to resonate with every culture, every person—young or old, man or woman, rich or poor. It's usually referred to as the Parable of the Prodigal Son, but it could just as easily be called the Parable of the Loving or Forgiving or Caring Father.

Now, here is the point: Jesus is telling us that God the Father is like the father in this story. When we or any other sinners are apart from Him, He misses us. He longs for us to return, and that is because He loves us and cares about us.

Then one day it happened. Down the long road that led to the family estate, the father saw his prodigal boy. Luke 15:20 tells us that,

And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.

Now, understand how radical of an idea this was to first-century ears. In that culture, it was considered undignified for an older man to run. Not to mention that it's hard for an older man to run! (I know this from personal experi­ence.) But Jesus presented the Father in Heaven as willing to "lose his dignity" to get to His prodigal son! This shows how much God loves us and cares about us and how much we should love and care about those who don't yet know Him.

Would you be willing to "lose your dignity" for a moment and engage someone with the gospel message?

Would you be willing to leave your "comfort zone" and take a little step of faith?

Would you be honest enough to say that perhaps you don't care as much as you should about people who do not yet know the Lord?

Allow me to make a suggestion. Why don't you pause for a moment at home and pray a short prayer? Something along these lines:

"Lord, You have told me to go into all the world and preach the gospel. But in all honesty, I am not doing that as I should.

Will You help me with this?

Will You give me a heart for those that do not yet know You?

Will You give me a burden for people who are not believers yet?

Will You give me a holy boldness like I have never had before?

I know Your heart is to reach them, and You showed this by sending Your Son Jesus to die on the cross for the sins of the world. Give me that concern for them that would reflect Your heart. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen."

Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15 convey Jesus’ command often referred to as the Great Commission. For many followers of Jesus, the Great Commission has instead become the Great Omission, and that is more than a pity. Let me state something that may shock you, but I believe it is true with all of my heart. To not share your faith, to not tell others about Jesus Christ, is a sin.

When we think of sin, we envision breaking commandments and doing wrong things—and indeed that is sinful. But the Bible speaks of sins of commission and sins of omission.

A sin of commission is doing what you should not do.

In contrast, a sin of omission is not doing what you should do. James 4:17 says,

To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.

Whenever you bring up the topic of evangelism, people often cringe. It's been said, "There is one thing that believers and nonbelievers have in common: they are both uptight about evangelism." When it comes to sharing the gospel, it seems we plan for failure far more often than success. Maybe that's why statistics indicate that 95 percent of all Christians have never led another person to Christ.

Let's say you were walking down the street, and you heard people screaming. You looked in their direction and saw a house in flames. Someone cried out, "There is a person in that building!" Let me ask you, if you were to keep walking without a passing thought to those in serious danger, would that be wrong? I would hope you would at the very least call 9-1-1. Even more, you might go into that building and try to rescue that person inside.

Yet, every day we walk by people that we know and don't know, who are without Christ, and we don't do a thing to help them. We don't try to initiate a conversation about our faith. We just keep walking. And to be blunt, a fate even worse than a house fire awaits those who reject the offer of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. It is eternal fire. And the last thing that God wants is to send any man or woman—deeply loved by Him and made in His very image—to this place called Hell.

That is why He sent His Son Jesus to live a perfect
life, to die a perfect death on the cross for our sins, and then to rise from the dead.

That is where you come in. God wants you to bring other people to Himself. You might protest, "God could never use someone like me! Actually, He can, and He will if you will let Him. It could even happen before the day is over. He will not force you to share your faith, but He will prompt you. And when you take a step of faith, He will empower and use you.

I want you to discover the adventure of being used by God, especially in the area of telling others about Jesus. In 2 Chronicles 16:9, God says He is looking for people that He can "show Himself strong on behalf of." He is searching for someone who will simply say, "Use me, Lord!" Would you be that person? If so, a wonderful adventure awaits you.

I want to let you in on what may be a surprise: sharing our faith can be both exciting and, believe it or not, fun! (Psalm 126:6) As C. S. Lewis pointed out, “Joy is the serious business of Heaven!" So, if there is joy in Heaven upon hearing the news of a conversion, there certainly should be joy in having a role in it.

Next to personally knowing Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord, the greatest joy I know of is leading others to Christ and watching them grow spiritually. And you can do that too. It should be a joyful, happy thing to tell others about your relationship with God and explain how they can have one too. I have found that the happiest Christians are the evangelistic ones. And I have also found that the unhappiest Christians are the nitpicky kind. They are so busy arguing theological opinions that they miss out on opportunities. As the old country preacher Vance Havner used to say,

"If we are too busy using our sickles on each other, we will miss the harvest!"

Yes, there is a happiness that we are missing out on if we are not sharing our faith. John wrote in 1 John 1:4 that his personal joy was made complete by sharing with others the message of Christ. (Acts 20:35) The believers I know who make a habit of sharing the gospel are happy people spiritually.

What’s your excuse? Clearly God could reach people without us, but instead He has chosen to work through us. In fact, He seems to go out of His way to find the most unlikely candidates to accomplish His divine purposes.

When God called Moses to speak out for Him, in Exodus 4:10-13, Moses essentially said, "I can't. I have a speech impediment! Please choose someone else." In Jeremiah 1:6, when called by God to speak, Jeremiah felt he was too young.

Think of those that God used who had challenges and failures in life:

  • Noah got drunk.
  • Abraham was old
  • .Jacob was a liar.
  • David had an affair and arranged for the death of his lover’s husband.
  • Peter denied Christ.
  • The disciples fell asleep while praying.
  • Timothy had an ulcer.
  • Lazarus was dead!

Again I ask, what's your excuse? You might say, "I'm not qualified. I'm not gifted or talented." Do you want to know a little secret? You are just the person God is looking for. He likes to use people that are not necessarily self‑confident. (2 Corinthians 4:6-7)  No, you may not feel qualified, but God is not looking for ability as much as He is looking for availability. He says to us today what He told Moses in Exodus 4:11-12.

God does not call the qualified; He qualifies the called. God has not blessed you with all the messages you have heard in church or have read in books over the years so that you can hoard it all to yourself. Have you seen the TV programs that show the lifestyle of what they call "hoarders"? I'm not talking about people who just keep a few things too long. These are people who have filled their homes, their garages, and every square inch of their space with stuff. It takes days to clear it out.

Sometimes as Christians we can be the same way—hoarding all that God has given to us, and not sharing it with others. So let's get this idea out of our heads that sharing our faith is some­thing we cannot do and something that is miserable to engage in. Nothing could be further from the truth. Remember this: you are blessed to be a blessing.

Now I want to help you discover one of the most effective tools in your evangelistic toolbox: your personal story. It is often called your testimony. Everyone who has put his or her faith in Jesus Christ has a testimony. Granted, some are more dramatic than others, but every story is valid, including yours.

The woman Jesus met and talked to at the well certainly had a story and a reputation. After her conversation with Jesus, she believed He was Messiah and immediately went out and began to tell others. I'm sure everyone knew her story, and they could see the radical transformation that had taken place in her life after her encounter with Jesus Christ. Her testimony was powerful. (John 4:3)

A person can argue all day with you about certain facts. But they cannot argue with your personal story of how you came to faith. Using your testimony as a bridge is very effective because it helps to find that common ground with the person you are speaking with. They may be surprised that you were not always the way that you are now as a Christian--that you did not always believe what you now believe.

You could say something like, "This is the way I used to think and the way I used to view Christians and the church, but then . . ." Fact is, the way you used to think may be the way the person you are speaking with is presently thinking. You are showing them how and why you changed your direction in life—how and why you became a follower of Jesus Christ.

Perhaps you struggled with drugs and alcohol. Perhaps you were in a life of crime. You may have been living in immorality. Then again, perhaps you were not addicted to anything, and instead were very successful in your field, but there was still emptiness in your life.

The main thing is just tell your story. Every testimony is valid because there is someone out there a lot like you.

You can do this! I challenge you to obey the Great Commission to tell people about the good news of Jesus Christ. Each Christian has that responsibility.

THE INVITATION

You can't depend on your own goodness to get to Heaven. We've all sinned  (Romans 3:23). Jesus paid the penalty for your sins with His death on the cross and His resurrection (John 3:16).

To be forgiven and be guaranteed a place in Heaven, you need to repent of sin, confess that you are a sinner, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ in your heart (Acts 2:21).

You can use the following prayer or your own words, but you must actually believe in your heart that your prayer is real:

Lord Jesus, I believe You are the Son of God. I confess that I have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed. Please forgive all my wrongdoing and let me live in relationship with You from now on. I receive You as my Savior and recognize that the work You accomplished once and for all on the cross was done on my behalf.

Thank You for saving me. Help me to live a life that is pleasing to You. In Your name I pray, Amen.