Over the past couple of weeks in our faith communities in Idaho, we’ve been talking about “evangelism.” Over the years and for many Jesus followers, just hearing the word raises fear, apprehension, nervousness, and even a sense of regret. For it has been the experience of many Christians that evangelism in our past has been filled with feelings almost like that of a phobia…we were taught a “content-driven” formula and then “guilted” to act. That frightens many people to death! Many of us, compelled by guilt, have traded integrity filled, loving relationship or friendship with a manipulative “presentation” of the Gospel that was centered more on BAD news (or scary news) than GOOD NEWS.
Yet, don’t miss this – the GOOD NEWS (Jesus – Jesus IS the Gospel) can change and transform people’s lives as it has ours and Jesus calls us to share simply what we have experienced in a relationship with Him. As we share Jesus, we want to build and have real, integrity filled, loving relationships with people without some hidden, manipulative agenda. As we share Jesus, we want to LIVE OUT the presence of Jesus in and through our lives in such a manner that the GOOD NEWS is not only GOOD NEWS but redemptive, transformational news. As we share the GOOD NEWS, we want to do so in a manner that does NOT come with relational or spiritual threat but comes to people from the love that we have for them that is just as everlasting, just as unconditional, just as life-changing as the love and grace that we have received from Jesus ourselves.
So, every Jesus follower MUST be clear on the GOOD NEWS we share. What is the GOOD NEWS and why is it good?
Well, GOOD NEWS is what changes our past and that which affects our present and also completely changes our expectation for the future…Jesus has impacted our past, and continues to change our present while giving us a HUGE promise for our future.
The GOOD NEWS changes our future because the GOOD NEWS is filled with the reality of Jesus and His kingdom coming in full. That’s the fulfillment and the answering of our prayer, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” That’s the promise that we recite every week in the Apostle’s Creed – “I believe in the HS, the holy Christian church, communion of saints, forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” That’s a vision of eternity in relationship with God and each other. The GOOD NEWS reminds us what is in store for you and me through Jesus (the GOOD NEWS) – we don’t have to fear the biggest enemy of humankind…death. Jesus conquered death – Jesus put to death, death, and through Jesus and God’s eternal love, we don’t live under a curse, but under a promise that when we breathe our last, that we walk through an open door into the eternal presence of God.
Now, all of that is VERY GOOD NEWS! The question is though is, “why not just stop there?” Well, what we are discovering more and moreover the years is that a faith and GOOD NEWS that doesn’t change the PRESENT isn’t really the good news that most people want. Most people can’t even think about what’s going on tomorrow, so thinking about eternity is a whole nother story. Faith (Jesus) has to change the PRESENT. People need to see that Jesus isn’t just about “pie in the sky when you die” but that the good news changes the present. If we could just catch a glimpse that God wants to invade the here and now with His Kingdom and His presence, it would change the way we LIVE. Jesus wants to invade every area of your life with the Kingdom. In other words, it’s not enough for us to just embrace the new reality of the work of the cross and empty tomb FOR us and our future, it also must work IN us for our present; it needs to embody how we live our lives. When we have truly encountered God and His grace, we are changed…we are transformed…we have a new identity TODAY!
The Apostle Paul wrote some interesting and relevant words in 2 Corinthians 5:
“For if we are beside ourselves (literally, “out of our mind” it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls (compels) us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”
Paul had a HUGE story…he had everything going along in life VERY well, but then Jesus invaded his life. He went from respectability and authority and status to, well, soon after following Jesus he got shipwrecked, thrown in a prison, beat up, and riots broke out wherever he traveled. He exchanged a very predictable, good life for a very unpredictable, tough life. People in his time most likely wondered why ANYONE would do that! But right here in 2 Corinthians 5, he tells us why – he’s going through all hardships that he is going through for one reason – he was compelled by love he had experienced. That love changed his life and his relationships and how he DID every aspect of his life. The love of God for him caused him to fall in love with Jesus Christ which then caused him to share in God’s love for people…love compelled him. Paul wasn’t motivated by any law code. He wasn’t motivated by any should or fear or guilt because Paul knew that being motivated by love and love only is always the only kind of fuel that the kingdom of God can run on. Read that clearly friends – LOVE is the only fuel that the Kingdom of God can run on. Good doctrinal understanding and adherence is just that…good.
Participation in the Body of Christ is something that should be the bedrock of every Jesus follower’s existence. Love for God’s Word is something that should cause our hearts to beat fast as well. But it is NOTHING ELSE BUT SHARING LOVE, sharing IN God’s love and living OUT that love in our lives to others that really should be that which marks our lives. When it comes to sharing faith in Jesus, don’t be compelled by legalism. Don’t be compelled by “shoulds,” “oughts,” or “guilt.” Anytime evangelism is motivated by any of those realities, it is just not right. But it’s altogether different when you’re compelled by love. You see, the GOOD NEWS changes your present…it changes your motivation for living. We are now compelled to share our lives and live out our faith in our everyday lives. Once you have experienced Jesus, the goodness of Jesus, is going to ooze out of you. If you’re going to be a bearer of GOOD NEWS, it is going to come naturally.
So, what is evangelism? How do we live out the good news? First of all, the GOOD NEWS should change the way you look at people. In other words, who Jesus is and what Jesus is doing should change the lens you use when you look at the world. In Jesus, you see people differently. Remember that Paul also wrote that IN JESUS the old things have passed away? You see, the cross changed everything not just for you but every person you see. One of the ways that changes everything, Jesus starts to reveal, challenge and then collapse your judgment mechanisms. You know this – we all have this compulsive thing that we do where we judge and assess people. We often don’t know that we do it, but we do – because we’re so used to doing it. We look at people and we decide what we agree with or we don’t agree with; what we like what we don’t like; there’s a gossip column going on in our brain. But if you allow the Holy Spirit to collapse those judging mechanisms and you start agreeing with God that because of what Jesus did every person you see has got unsurpassed worth it if you do that, you begin to see what God sees. You begin to see what God sees and then you begin to love what God loves. That’s the love that compels us towards evangelism that neighbor of yours.
Friends, some of your friends think they really are worthless. But you know they are not…they have got unsurpassed worth in the heart of God. Some of your friends are miserable because they think they’ve done the unforgivable sin. But you know that all sin has been taken care of two thousand years ago on a cross of love. Some of your friends think that they’re going to be addicted the rest of their lives and that they are no better than that. But you know that that addicted self was crucified 2000 years ago. And better yet, you know that the gulf between those two things creates a yearning in your heart (because God is changing your heart to be more and more like Jesus’ heart) to set people free.
Friends, that is our message. This is the good news. God’s not holding your sin or anyone’s sin against them. God is 110 percent in favor of you and every person you meet! Because of the Cross and empty tomb, everything has been changed. When you see anyone, you know that God is on their side. That He’s for them. He just wants to have a relationship with them.
Friends, because of Jesus, you have “new creation” eyes and those eyes, the eyes/lens of Jesus, sees every person you see as one for whom Jesus died and therefore they have unsurpassed well worth. I encourage you to consider this – when you find yourself thinking these “old creation” thoughts, those judgmental thoughts, self-righteous thoughts, ask the Lord for the Spirit’s power and love to put them aside and agree with God that that person that you are with has unsurpassed worth in the heart of God. And lastly, pray that you can become a blessing “machine” in life. Bless everyone you see. Friends, we’re missionaries here on assignment. We’re ambassadors and our job is to demonstrate God’s love by how we live day to day. If you have any judgments towards anyone, put them aside and pray a blessing on them. I pray that you see the world with new creation eyes and be a new creation person compelled by the love of God to spread good news (of Jesus) to people who very desperately need it. That’s our call…that’s our purpose!