Bringing the Gospel Home

January 8, 2017 ()

Bible Text: John 1:35-51 |


Bringing the Gospel Home | John 1: 35-51
Brian Hedges | January 8, 2017

Thank you, worship team. Good morning! It’s really good to see you again. We’re back after a really brief trip down to Texas and back and we miss you when we’re gone. We’re always glad when we’re home. I want to just mention that as it is the new year, some of you may have missed Del’s sermon last week on developing a spiritual vitality plan. That sermon is available online and there’s a worksheet that’s on the table in the back and I would encourage everyone to pick one of these up and work through this process or some similar process. To think through your spiritual goals, but not just goals in your spiritual life, thinking in terms of prayer and Bible reading and so on, but thinking holistically about your life as a disciple. As a follower of Christ and every area of your life—where does alignment need to take place? Where you’re bringing your life into alignment with Christ and seeking fullness and blessing and grace in him.

I would encourage you to do that. Use that sheet. Listen to that message and do that. Share that with someone else, maybe in your small group. Maybe a small group leader or a close friend and let’s be walking together with Jesus this year. The new year is a wonderful time for us to just have a fresh start for that.

This morning we’re going to continue in our 8 week study on the gospel of John 1-3. This morning we’re going to be in John 1: 35-51 and for the message this morning, I’m borrowing the title of Randy Newman’s excellent little book called Bringing the Gospel Home. That book I would encourage you to read if you have burden for unbelieving family members. Randy Newman’s book is the most encouraging thing I know of for that. But, I want to use that title this morning for this passage and for us to think about evangelism and especially evangelism of people that we are close to.

So, John 1:35-51. As you know, John’s gospel was written with a two-fold purpose. It says in John 20:31 that “these things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” And throughout the gospel of John, what John is doing is portraying for us Christ himself. He’s showing us who Christ is and what he is like and then he is showing us people’s encounters with Christ. And those are the two things that kind of make up the tapestry of this narrative as John moves through the ministry of Christ to the passion of Christ and his resurrection.

And this morning, we see in particular, the first disciples of Jesus, their engagement with Jesus and with another and how this little band of disciples begins to multiply. And it’s a very helpful passage, teaching us something about evangelism. So let’s read it together.

John 1:35-51 “The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). 43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

This is God’s word.

Let me just begin with a question and I would like you to raise your hand. How many of you have a family member, maybe a parent or a child or a brother or a sister—someone in that immediate family—how many of you have a family member who is an unbeliever or for whom you have a deep concern about their relationship with God? Let me see your hand. Look around. The fields are white unto harvest. Bring your hands down.

That’s almost every hand in the room, maybe it was every hand in the room. We all have family members, we have people within our immediate families that do not know Christ or who are walking apart from Christ, who are outside of the faith and we are concerned for them. So, there’s some immediate urgency here. Alright? There’s immediate urgency if we have family members who do not know Christ and you and I are likely the Christians that are closest to them, within their closest circle. We obviously have burden, we obviously have some responsibility. What we need are the right kinds of skills and approach to be able to dialogue with these family members about Jesus and to prayerfully ask God to bring them to faith.

Well, that’s what I want to talk about this morning. I’m right there with you. I have family members for whom I’m concerned, as you do. And so, how do we go about it? How do we go about having these conversations and what does scripture have to teach us?

Evangelism, I think, is a difficult topic today. I think it’s harder right now in our culture, than it’s been. It’s harder now than it was 20 years ago, or that it was 40 or 50 years ago, because our culture is moving speedily, further and further away from a Judeo-Christian ethic and worldview. We have less common ground with unbelievers now than we had several decades ago and so it’s difficult. Evangelism is hard. Not only that, we live in a world that’s kind of burnt out on sales techniques and the kinds of evangelism that were done in previous generations. They don’t seem to work as well anymore.

But, then when you start talking about evangelism with your personal family members, then it really gets complicated, doesn’t it? Then it really gets complicated because these are relationships that have history. These are relationships where maybe there’s been offenses, there’s been hurt feelings. It’s complicated. This isn’t an easy topic and I know that. I know that from personal experience as I’m sure you do as well. So, what can we learn from scripture?

And I want to share some things with you this morning that I hope will be both helpful and will be hope-giving as you think about engaging with unbelievers in your family. And we can extend that—your neighbors, your coworkers, you classmates, your friends who do not know Christ. Six things that I want to share with you this morning. So, six point sermon. These are going to be quick. I’m going to spend three or four minutes on each one. But, all things that I think you will see clearly in the text and that can help us.

(1) The heart of evangelism is pointing people to Jesus. (v. 35-36)

That’s pretty self-evident, I think, in the text. It’s something that we can sometimes miss. Sometimes we confuse lots of other conversations with evangelistic conversations. So, let me just be real clear. Evangelism is not talking about why someone should follow your political platform. Evangelism is not inviting someone to your church. Evangelism is not trying to get someone to agree with you on some secondary theological issues. Evangelism is not pointing someone to the 10 Commandments and telling them they should live a certain kind of way!

All of those things are fine things to talk about, but evangelism is pointing people to Jesus himself. And you see that in the text. You see it right there, verses 35-36, where John the Baptist, standing with two of his disciples, points out Jesus. Jesus walks by and John says, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” And of course this connects with the previous paragraph where John had told that the one would come, the latch of his sandal he was not worthy to loose. He told them that this person would come and would baptize them with the Spirit and he called him the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

We can learn something right here from the witness of John the Baptist. James Montgomery Boise, who was that great pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, has done wonderful exposition. He left those sermons, that exposition behind for us and there’s a place in his commentary, his exposition on John, where he talks about John the Baptist’s witness. And he just points out that it really involved three things and these are the three things that are involved in any kind of witness. John the Baptist did this and the disciples following him do this. (1) They didn’t attract attention to themselves. (2) They bore a verbal witness to Jesus. (3) They did so in order that those who to whom they were speaking might believe in him also.

They weren’t attracting attention to themselves and you see that with John the Baptist throughout John 1. When John, the gospel writer, the evangelist, introduces the Baptist in verses 6-8, this is what he says, “There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light but came to bear witness about the light.”

And then when you get into the narrative, that’s exactly what John does. People come and they’re asking him, “Are you him? Are you the prophet? Are you the Messiah? Are you the Christ?” And he’s saying, “No. It’s not me. Don’t look at me, there’s someone else more worthy than me. There’s someone else better than me. There’s someone else that has the answers. Don’t look to me. Look to him.” And he points to Christ. That’s the heart of evangelism. It’s not attracting attention to ourselves and it’s not pointing people to anything else. It’s pointing people to Jesus Christ himself.

And so that’s what we just need to grasp here at the outset. This is what evangelism is. It is sharing the good news of who Jesus is and what he has done with others. I like the way Tim Keller has said it. I’ve quoted this often: “Christianity doesn’t give us good advice, it gives us good news.” It’s not just telling us how to get our lives together, it’s telling us what God has done in and through Jesus Christ to rescue us and to redeem us. So, that’s first—pointing people to Jesus.

Here’s the second principle of evangelism. If the first has to do with the content of our proclamation, this one has to do with the process itself.

(2) Evangelism usually involves a process of ongoing dialogue and gradual discovery. (v. 37-39)

You see this throughout the passage but notice it especially in verses 37-39: "The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour."

Now, what you see here is the beginning of a dialogue. They enter into a conversation with Jesus and it’s an ongoing conversation. They go spend the rest of the day with Jesus. The tenth hour of the day, according to the reckoning of time here would have been four o’clock in the afternoon so they spend the rest of the day in conversation with Jesus. And it’s interesting that there’s a gradual discovery in this passage and indeed in the gospel records of who Jesus is. Notice that when they first encounter Jesus, they just call him Rabbi. Teacher. They recognize him as a teacher but it’s only a little bit later that they recognize him as Messiah.

And indeed all the scholars tell us this and it’s pretty self-evident when you read the gospel records that even though they confessed him as the Messiah, they didn’t understand that. They had a certain idea of who the Messiah was and who he’d be and what he would do and Jesus completely confounds those expectations. They did not expect a Messiah who would die on a cross. They expected someone who would come and kick off the Roman boot off of the Jewish neck. They are expecting a military leader. They’re expecting a political savior. They’re expecting something like that.

So, even when they confess Jesus as the Messiah, they don’t fully understand. Much less do they understand all of the implications of his deity. Of who he is as the second person of the trinity. The Word who became flesh. That only became clear to them gradually, over time.

And something very much like that is also true, I think, for many people who are in the journey to Jesus. Now, I know that occasionally there are dramatic Damascus road type conversion experiences. It happened for the Apostle Paul. Right? He sees this vision of the risen Christ on the Damascus road and instantaneous transformation. But even with Paul, he’s already heard Stephen preach. Even with Paul, he already had exposure to the gospel.

And most of the time, for most people, their journey to faith is going to involve an ongoing discussion, an ongoing dialogue. It’s going to involve a gradual discovery. It’s gonna involve a process of moving towards the faith. And you see that in the passage with these disciples. Then you see it again with Philip and Nathanael, a few verses later, when Philip goes and tells Nathanael, “We’ve found him.” There’s some ongoing discussion. There’s some discussion that begins at that point and so here’s the point that I want us to grasp right here, is that you and I should expect process. You should expect there to be a process. And then ongoing discussion and dialogue with unbelievers. And then, one of our goals should simply be to keep that discussion going. Keep the dialogue going.

Don’t be discouraged if in the first conversation, or within the hundredth conversation, someone hasn’t come to Christ. Just keep the friendship going. Keep the relationship going. Keep the conversation going.

One of my mentors came to Christ (this is someone who mentored me twenty-plus years ago now) he came to Christ because someone shared the gospel with him over one hundred times. Over a hundred times! It was a friend in college and he was completely annoyed by this guy. This guy just would not stop telling him about Jesus. He was completely annoyed. He didn’t like the guy. He didn’t care about the gospel. He didn’t care about Jesus, but after a hundred times, more than a hundred times, he came to Christ! And you just don’t know. You just don’t know which conversation God might use and you don’t know where someone is in the process but don’t be discouraged. Expect there to be a process.

(3) Effective witness is the overflow of a heart captured by Jesus. (v. 40-41, 45)

So, here I’m thinking especially about motivation. What is it that actually motivates us to share the gospel with people? Now, there’s lots of things that are potential motives. We might feel guilty for not doing so. We might feel fearful of someone dying without Christ, as we should. Or concerned that here’s someone who dies outside of the faith and without Christ, without assurance of eternal life, without their sins forgiven. So that fear might motivate us. Guilt might motivate us. There’s lots of possible motives.

But, what I want you to see is here’s the most effective motive: it is a heart that’s been captured by Jesus. And I want you to notice this in two places here in the text. In verses 40-41, when Andrew goes and finds his brother, Simon, what does he say? He says, “We have found the Messiah, which is the Christ. We have found him!” And that’s essentially the same thing that Philip says to Nathanial in verse 45. “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” We have found him.

You see, that’s the heart that gives rise to effective witness and evangelism. It’s not just sharing because of guilt or because of fear, it’s because your heart has been so captured by Jesus that you can’t help but say something about him. And for many of us, we need to go back to right here. Before we can really effectively evangelism, our hearts need to be freshly captured by the wonder of who Jesus is.

The Dutch reformed missionary from South Africa, Andrew Murray, onetime said, “The reason there is so little enthusiasm for the kingdom is because there is so little enthusiasm for the king.” And some of us need to recapture our enthusiasm for the king. For Jesus himself. The reason why we don’t share Christ more often is because our hearts have not been captured by Christ. There’s not something in us that is saying, “We found him!” And so we need that. We need that. You know how, when you’re excited about something, you tend to share it with others? You go to a great restaurant, you’ve been there for the first time and then you share it with your friends. You see a movie that you really like and you go tell your friends about it. You read a book that enthralls you, you hand it over to your reading friends. Well, the same principle is at work, or should be at work in evangelism. When you’ve found Christ, you’ve found him, when there’s that moment of, “I’ve discovered this treasure, this person who is the greatest thing in my life,” then of course you’re going to want to share him with others.

So, principle number three is, “Effective witness is the overflow of a heart captured by Jesus. And then here’s number four.

(4) Evangelism begins with your present circle of personal relationships. (v. 40-42)

John tells his disciples, “Behold the Lamb of God.” Andrew goes to his brother, Peter. Philip goes to his friend Nathanael. What are they doing? They are starting with their circle, their present circle of relationships and they’re just telling the next person. That’s what they’re doing.

And in the same way as the hands that were raised a few moments ago, indicated, we all have a circle. We all have a circle of relationships, of family members, of friendships, of people for whom we are concerned. And evangelism starts right there. Now we might think about sharing the gospel with the stranger, you know, on the airplane. Or door-to-door evangelism, you know, knocking on doors and things like that. Those are all fine things to do. I’ve shared the gospel on an airplane before, you probably have too. That’s a good thing to do, but the starting place for all of us is really just right where we are. Our present circle of relationships.

Let me just make it real practical, alright? There’s a lot of parents in this room. Parents, have you shared the gospel with your children? I mean, don’t just assume that because they come to church, they’re Christians. Don’t just assume that because they’re being raised in your home, they’re Christians. Have you personally shared the gospel with your children? Have you personally confronted them with their need for Christ? Their need for forgiveness? And with the absolute sufficiency of what Christ has done to save them and the need for a personal encounter with God. Have you told your children, as Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3, “You must be born again. You must be born again, it’s not enough that you’ve been born into my family, you must be born again into the family of God”? That’s a starting place.

What about a brother or a sister? What about a parent? What about another close friend or relation? Start in those relationships.

(5) We should be prepared to respond to people’s doubts and objections with humble patience. (v. 45-46)

Now this is where it really gets tough, isn’t it? It’s one thing to share the gospel with someone, but to persuade. That’s harder. It’s one thing to share the gospel with someone, but what if they don’t believe? What if they hear and they come up with all kinds of objections?

I recently had a conversation, a lengthy conversation with someone I deeply care about, about the gospel, about Christianity and there were all kinds of objections. And I couldn’t answer all of the objections. Not to the satisfaction of the person to whom I was speaking. We’re going to encounter this. And I’m glad that Wes and his leading of our worship this morning, acknowledged that there’s still skeptical parts in his heart and if you’re honest, for most of you, there are parts of your heart that are still skeptical, too.

Certainly, there are in mine. My temperament, my personality is such that I can’t really take anything for granted. Everything needs investigation. Everything is subject to second-guesses, I mean, this is just the way my mind works. And so I’ve had lots of doubt. I have had lots of doubts about Christianity and there are questions that are not easy to answer. And so you should expect that in others. Those doubts in God’s grace can be overcome. But, we’ve got to engage these kinds of doubts and objections in the right way. And you see a wonderful model for this in the passage in Philip and Nathanael. Look at verse 45.

John 1:45, “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

Nathanael, a pretty blunt, honest guy, he just says, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Seriously? Nazareth?” Nazareth evidently did not have a great reputation. It was a podunk little town. And Nathanael probably knew that the Messiah was supposed to come from Bethlehem. Nazareth? This is a problem. How could something good come out of Nazareth?

There was a town in Texas where I grew up called Big Spring, Texas. If anyone is from Big Spring, raise your hand before I say something to offend you. Okay, nobody’s from Big Spring. We used to call it “the armpit of Texas.” It was just not a town you want to visit, alright? I think that was what Nazareth was like. The armpit of Galilee. Could anything good come out of Nazareth? And it’s an objection. It was something like an emotional reaction on Nathanael’s part. Like, there’s this visceral emotional reaction he has, “Nazareth? Really?” But, it’s also probably a theological objection or a philosophical objection. Can the Messiah come out of Nazareth?

Now I know nobody’s gonna have that objection today. You know, your average person doesn’t know much about Nazareth. They’re not gonna have that objection but they’re gonna have other objections. And those objections may be emotional, they may be philosophical, they may be theological. It may be something about Christianity that seems utterly implausible to them. “Do you really believe that Jesus is the only way to God? That the only way someone can go to heaven is believing in Jesus? With all the religions in the world?” That’s a huge one. And there are lots of others. People have these objections to Christianity. What do you do? What do you do when those objections come?

Well, don’t get offended. Don’t react defensively. Don’t overreact. Don’t get into arguments. Have conversations but keep a humble posture and be patient. Look at what Philip does. He just says, “Come and see.” Come and see! You know what he’s doing? He’s inviting Nathanael to come learn more about Jesus. And it’s not Philip who overcomes the objection about Nazareth. You get that? It’s not Philip. Who overcomes the objection for Nathanael? Jesus does. Jesus does. And that leads to the last point here which I think is maybe the most encouraging thing.

(6) We are not just sharing a message, but introducing people to a Person, who works to bring people to himself. (v. 47-51)

We need to see here that we are not just sharing a message when we do evangelism. When we witness, we are not just sharing a message, we are introducing people to a Person who works to bring people to himself.

When I was initially thinking about this message, I was thinking of it in terms of a three way relationship. Think of a triangle. Okay? One line of the triangle is my relationship to Jesus. One line of the triangle is my relationship to the person that I’m evangelizing. And one line of the triangle is that person’s relationship to Jesus. And evangelism always involves all three of those lines. It always involves all three.

There’s a way for you to relate to Jesus and a way for you to relate to the person you’re sharing with. But, Jesus is at work also. And you see that in the passage. Look at verse 47.

John 1:47-48, Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”

This is supernatural. Jesus is revealing something supernatural about himself. He knew something about Nathanael before he’d ever personally met Nathanael in the flesh. And Nathanael recognized, when he comes into an encounter with Jesus, he recognized, there’s something different. There’s something unique. There’s something powerful. There’s something supernatural going on here and that’s what changes things.

The concern about Nazareth, that just falls off the radar. Because now Jesus is on the scene and Jesus is doing something supernatural in the life of Nathanael and look at what Nathanael says, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” The objections are overcome. Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”

This is really encouraging to me and I hope it will be to you. When I think about my unbelieving loved ones, not to mention unbelievers in our neighborhoods and our cities and so on, when I think about these unbelievers and I think about the obstacles to someone coming to Christ, when I think about that--that can be overwhelming. It’s really hard to persuade someone to become a Christian. You can’t argue someone into the kingdom and even having those conversations—that’s difficult. They are not easy conversations to have oftentimes. Sometimes they’re hard conversations to have. It takes courage. It takes patience. It takes a lot of wisdom. It’s easy to mess up and say something wrong.

But, here’s what’s encouraging. What’s encouraging to me is that ultimately the decisive factor in someone coming to Christ is not the effectiveness of my evangelistic witness. The decisive factor in someone coming to Christ is the power of Jesus himself working by his Spirit through the gospel to overcome objectives and to bring someone to Christ.

I take a lot of comfort from an old hymn by Josiah Conder. It goes like this:

’Tis not that I did choose Thee,
For Lord, that could not be;
This heart would still refuse Thee,
Hadst Thou not chosen me.
Thou from the sin that stained me
Hast cleansed and set me free;
Of old Thou hast ordained me,
That I should live to Thee.

’Twas sovereign mercy called me
And taught my opening mind;
The world had else enthralled me,
To heav’nly glories blind.
My heart owns none before Thee,
For Thy rich grace I thirst;
This knowing, if I love Thee,
Thou must have loved me first.

It wasn’t that I sought him. He sought me. And I sought him seeking me. But he took the initiative. And you see that here, Jesus is on the scene and he’s doing something here that works supernaturally. Profoundly. Miraculously. And folks, he still does that. He still does that.

I mentioned at the beginning, this wonderful book by Randy Newman, who has done evangelism for years now with who used to be Campus Crusade for Christ, now Cru. And he wrote this wonderful book, Bringing the Gospel Home, and I encourage you to read it. This is one of those books I would love for every single one of us to read because we all have people in our family that we’re concerned about. This is a book that will encourage you. It will give you tools to help you have these conversations. It will motivate you to prayer. It will give you hope that God can do something. And in response to prayer, will. So take encouragement here from this point.

And then the final thing to just notice is this, this isn’t really a point, but I just want to end on verse 51. This also is encouraging to us in evangelism when we understand what Jesus is saying here. Jesus has this encounter, this exchange with Nathanael, says, “You will see greater things than these.” And then verse 51, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

What does that verse mean? Jesus calls himself Son of Man. That’s kind of interesting. He’s the only one who does that. He calls himself Son of Man. Seems that Jesus is taking language from the Old Testament and infusing it with new meaning so that he can define for himself who he is. Everyone else is calling him Messiah, and he was the Messiah, but they had a certain expectation of what the Messiah would be. Jesus calls himself Son of Man but then this, kind of mysterious, cryptic way of referring to himself as the Son of Man. “You will see the heavens open and the angels of God descending.” What in the world is he talking about? And I think the key to this is Genesis 28.

Do you remember when Jacob was on the run from Esau his brother? Here’s Jacob, the deceiver. Here’s Jacob who’s trying to manipulate his way into receiving a blessing and being an heir to the covenant and so on. Jacob just messing up every which way. And then in Genesis 28, he’s on the run and he has a dream. And do you remember the dream? The dream of a ladder. And he sees angels going up and coming down the ladder. And he wakes up and he names the place, “Bethel--the house of God,” because he’s met with God. God is in this place.

I think Jesus is alluding to this and I think what Jesus is showing us here is that he, the Son of Man, is the mediator between God and man. Jesus is the way to God. Jesus is the way to the heavens being open. Jesus is the ladder between heaven and earth. And he is this mediator between God and man as the Son of Man, which in the gospel of John--as you’ve traced the references to Son of Man in the gospel of John--it becomes pretty clear that the Son of Man is this one who will be lifted up on the cross so as to draw all men to himself.

The next reference to Son of Man uses this language of ascending and descending in John 3:13-15. Jesus says to Nicodemus, “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

What it’s showing us here is the power of the cross. That Jesus, through his work on the cross and the resurrection, opens the way to God. Opens the way to God. And it is the power of the cross and the message of the cross, that’s right at the heart of our evangelistic witness. And our evangelism to others.

So, this morning, I want to end with something of a commission. Or maybe a challenge to you and to me, to all of us. We almost all of us raised our hands. Okay? There are people we love that we know, that we care about who do not know Christ. Let’s pray really hard this year. Let’s pray really hard this year. Let’s pray that God will open doors for conversations. That God will enable us to initiate and then be involved in ongoing dialogue. Ongoing discussion with these friends and family members. These people that we care about. Let’s be praying that God will equip us and so fill us with His Spirit and equip us with tools that we can have these conversations. And we can have them well.

We have a prayer meeting tomorrow night. It’s a wonderful time to come and to pray for unbelievers. Alright? That’s gonna be the main agenda tomorrow night. We’ve prayed for lots of things at these prayer meetings, but we need to be praying for unbelievers. That they will come to faith in Christ. Let’s ask God to do for us what was going on right here in these first disciples. One sharing with another, bringing them to Jesus. Now let’s see what God will do. Let’s pray.

Father, we all have burdens, people that we know and love who do not know Christ in a saving way. And right now we lift them up to you. You know the names that are in my mind and you know the names that are in the minds of every person now praying. We ask you to mercifully work in their hearts. To draw them to Jesus Christ. We ask you to give us opportunities to have conversations with them. We ask you to give us a heart of love and of compassion and of patience and of humility and of understanding, so that we can have helpful conversations where we’re not at all speaking down to others, but we are engaging with their objections and their concerns and their doubts.

We pray that you would give us wisdom for those conversations. That you would help us to consistently point people to Jesus himself as the answer. And we pray especially that, where Jesus in your sovereign mercy and power, or by your Spirit and through your word, that you would work to bring about real conversion. Real change and transformation. We know that you can do this. You’ve done it for us. Would you do it for others? Give us wide, open hearts to the world around us, at least to those in our own family. And let this be a year where we see more than we have seen in previous years of you at work.

We thank you, Lord Jesus, that you have saved us and we know that one of the things we need is to be recaptured by the wonder of the gospel. And so this morning. as we come to the table, we pray that you would use the table to that end. Use that as a means to reorient our hearts to the sacrifice that you have made on our behalf. That you have poured out your blood. That you have broken your body for us, to give us eternal life. And as we take these elements, as we take bread and juice, may we by faith, feed on Christ our risen and ascended Savior and all that he has done for us. May we be nourished. May we be strengthened. May we receive the grace that comes from Christ through the Spirit. We pray this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.