“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. JOHN 15:5-8 (NIV)
Our final message today, on a series of messages about what’s required to be a member His church, is the assignment of evangelizing, i.e. sharing the good news of Jesus Christ to mankind. It’s not just the job of the evangelist, pastor or priest, it’s required that all Christians tell about Jesus and His love. The example of the vine, just read, was spoken in the context of evangelism. Our redeemed life in Christ is not about greedily asking for more and more for ourselves, it’s about telling the world about what Jesus has done for us and how they can step today into the same blessed and purposeful life.
When it comes to sharing, or witnessing, about our faith, there are really no options involved. You cannot decide to not be a witness. When I travel to a foreign nation, it’s pretty obvious that I am American citizen. The way I dress, conduct myself and my accent quickly reveals my citizenship. I am a representative of the USA when I travel—-as is every college student that gets stoned in Holland or drunk in Mexico. We represent what the other nations assume is the “real” America they’ve heard about as they listen to us and watch us. Needless to say, many nations have a dim view of us because of American tourists and college spring breaks.
It’s no different in our citizenship in the Kingdom of God. Most folks already know that we are disciples of Christ because of our bumper stickers, something we mention in conversation about our church, or by our confession about the faith. The true witness, or testimony, they imagine is determined by how we conduct ourselves, respond to awkward situations, or treat others that might not treat us so nice. You are a witness. The question is, would others want to attend this church, or join the Kingdom of God based upon what see you do and hear you say? Does your life cause people to more strongly believe in Jesus Christ or cause them to doubt?
In C.S. Lewis’s book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, there was a scene when Aslan, the good Lion, roars and breathes on the statues in the White Witch’s castle and they suddenly are filled with life, energy, and joy. It’s a parallel of how we, like the statues in Narnia, can be infected by the life of Christ by staying close to the warm, moist breath of God.
“….Christianity makes us this promise: if we let God have His way, we may come to share in the life of Christ. If we do, we shall then be sharing a life which was begotten, not made, which always has existed and always will exist. Christ is the Son of God. If we share in this kind of life we also shall be sons of God. We shall love the Father as He does and the Holy Ghost will arise in us. He came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has—by what I call ‘good infection’. Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.
Joy, power, peace and eternal life – these are the things that human beings have been longing for since the beginning of time. There are many false paths to attaining them. However, in some ways the means to them is easy – draw close to the Triune God and surrender to His forgiving and life-changing grace that allows us to become little Christs.” (Mere Christianity)
And that my friends is the goal. To become so much like Jesus Christ that those who are looking at you and me may find Him in you and me. I say, “those who are looking”, because the longer I live, the more apparent it is that some are not looking and will never choose to receive Christ as their savior, let alone become like him. I am called by Jesus, nonetheless, to faithfully preach the gospel and share my faith, irrespective of the response of the people who hear me. They may choose to be infected by Jesus, and that’s my prayer, but they may have become so inoculated by the cares of the world and the allure of the enemy that they never come to Jesus. But I must never compromise the effectiveness of my work by measuring it to mankind’s notion of success. We are effective, pleasing and where we belong if we are obedient to Him in sharing the good news—-never measure how pleased God is with by keeping count of converts or attendance at rallies. One man, one fire for Jesus Christ, totally committed to following Him, is of more value in the eternal work of the Kingdom than 10,000 who convert and then go home —-never truly sold out to Jesus Christ. You do not know how your faithful and witness and committed efforts at evangelism is changing the world by reaching the next Saint Francis, Mother Theresa or Billy Graham.
Jesus last words on earth was this: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” (Mathew 28:19). Funny how we add to and take away from things He clearly said. He did not say “save people”, or “convert people to your way of thinking”, or even “go and stop abortion, save the whales, and protect the oceans”. But that’s what many Christian fellowships focus upon! I sat through a 45 minute service in a mega-church a few years ago where the entire message focused on the proper use and disposal and re-cycling of batteries! If we preach Jesus cannot, helping with good causes cannot help but follow, if Christ reigns in our hearts. He’s pro-life, pro-whale, pro-save-the Amazon, etc. But He is first, pro humanity. He would that all would be saved.
Making Disciples—-that’s the task not merely assigned to the clergy, but to all of us. And to do that you’ve got to get involved with other people’s lives. And to get involved, you’ve got to have you own house in order. You can’t go about trying to make disciples for Jesus if you’re not a disciple. So are you? Are you not only one that has been saved by Him… but is being discipled by Him? To be a disciple is to be an apprentice—-a learner—-one who is being trained. In my opinion you never depart this earth anything more than an apprentice of Christ if you truly love Him. The next step is eternity with Him. Are you letting Him teach you how to pray, how to give, how to prioritize, how to respond and react? Is He the master and are you the apprentice? Is it obvious to everyone you know, that you follow the will, word and directive of your master—-Jesus Christ?
If He is my master, I will become more like Him—-and my old self will be a shadow. I will maintain my own personality—-for sure….here and in heaven. But the pettiness, the pride, the arrogance, all those annoying traits associated with my merits, will dissipate. And what will replace them is the sweetness of Jesus. Is that happening in your life ? Not all at once, of course, but when you come across people you’ve not seen in years, do they notice something wonderfully different about you? If not, why not? God… your wife…your children..your boss… your neighbors are not to blame.
We know that all the disciples, except for Paul, were married. Your spouse, children and doing things with relatives are important—-Muslims, Jews, Hindus, atheists and most higher primates in the animal kingdom realize this! But you and I were saved from perdition for the purpose of glorifying God and being of use to Him to rescue others from perdition! All the other things that surround our life, pleasant and noble though they might be, cannot become the focus of our lives. But it is the good things in life that mute the message of Jesus Christ —which is the BEST thing. Churches in Europe and the Americas are focused upon many good things but neglect evangelism. The church is exploding in places where the gospel is truly preached, such as Africa and much of Asia, but we’ve lost our way in most mainline churches.
In closing, consider the “parable of the talents”. “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants[a] and entrusted to them his property. one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.[c] You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be
given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
He’s talking to us! We’ve each been given various gifts, and for what purpose? To put to use for our Master. The idea clearly conveyed is that we’re to use the gifts He’s given us to bring more into the kingdom! Maybe your gift is culinary, or organizing things, or fervent prayers, or speaking. It doesn’t matter to me——-the question is are you using your blessed gift—or gifts—-for Him and the lost—-or are you “saving” it for something else?