Christians and the World | John 15:18-16:11
Brian Hedges | October 3, 2021
Let me invite you to turn in your Bibles this morning to John 15.
One of the oldest hymns of the church is called the Te Deum, or the Ambrosian hymn. It’s a hymn that we use on occasion, not singing, but we use it in our liturgy from time to time. It comes all the way from the fourth century, and it’s a hymn that reminds us of the high recognition that the early church placed on those who sealed their faith through the shedding of their blood. Some of the lines from the Te Deum go like this:
“The glorious company of the apostles praise you.
The goodly fellowship of the prophets praise you.
The noble army of martyrs praise you.”
The noble army of martyrs. It reminds us of how many people shed their blood for the sake of Christ in the early church.
The word “martyr,” of course, comes from the Greek word for “witness.” A martyr was someone who bore witness to Christ and those who went all the way to death. Maybe they were burned at the stake, or maybe they were thrown into an arena with lions, or maybe they were covered in tar or pitch and set ablaze to light Emperor Nero’s gardens. These were the Christians who sealed their witness through the shedding of blood.
It’s easy for us, in the relative ease and comfort of the Western world, to forget that this has often been the cost of following Jesus; that all of us are called to bear witness to Christ, should be willing to lay down our lives for Christ, and sometimes will be called upon to do so.
It is a fact that in the 20th century there were more Christian martyrs than in all of the 19 centuries preceding put together. There are still people in other parts of the world who have to shed their blood for the sake of Jesus Christ, and it’s important for us to remember that as we come to God’s word this morning and we look at Jesus’s instructions to his disciples, preparing them for what is to follow.
We’ve been looking at the upper room discourse in John 13-17. It is the night before Jesus is crucified, and he is giving his last will and testament, his final instructions to his disciples, and a big part of what he is doing is preparing them for what is to follow after his death and resurrection, when the Spirit is given on the Day of Pentecost and these disciples, these apostles will become the primary witnesses to Christ in the world. He’s giving them a mission, and he is equipping them for that mission.
In the passage we’re studying together, he is describing for them the kind of relationship they can expect to have with the world. We’re going to read a passage this morning from John 15:18-16:11, so it’s a little bit longer of a passage, but I think worth reading in full. If you want to follow along in your Bibles you can turn there; the text will also be on the screen, or if you’re using one of the pew Bibles it’s page 902. Let’s read the text, and then we’re going to notice three things that Jesus says about Christians and the world. John 15, beginning in verse 18.
“‘If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: “A servant is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: “They hated me without a cause.”
“‘But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.
“‘I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.
“‘I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, “Where are you going?” But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.’”
This is God’s word.
Now, this is a long passage of Scripture, and I’m not going to explain every verse we just read, but I want you to notice three things about a Christian’s relationship to the world. According to what Jesus says here, I think we can say this, that:
1. We do not belong to the world
2. We will be persecuted by the world
3. But we are also sent into the world
I think we have to keep all three of those things together if we are to have a right understanding of the kind of relationship we have with the world and the kind of mission to which Jesus has called us.
1. We do not belong to the world
Note, first of all, that we do not belong to the world. I draw this from verses 18-19, especially verse 19. Jesus says, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” We’ll come back to that in a minute. “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own, but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
Jesus says, “You are not of the world, but I have chosen out of the world, and that’s why the world hates you.” So the first thing to note here is that we are not of the world. We do not belong to the world. It can be rightly said that all of us at one time were of the world, but because of God’s saving grace, because of Jesus’ sovereign choice, we are chosen out of the world, we are rescued from the world. In fact, Paul in Galatians 1 says that Christ has rescued us from this present evil world. We are rescued from the world.
We have to ask the question, what does Jesus mean here by “world”? I think the simplest answer is that the world here isn’t referring to creation as such; it’s not referring to the globe, planet Earth; the world is, rather, the fallen world, it is humanity in opposition to God. That’s the basic definition many of the commentators give. F.F. Bruce: “The world is the godless world, the world organized in opposition to God, and therefore opposed to his people.” That’s the world.
Jesus says, “You don’t belong to this anymore. You are rescued out of this. I have chosen you out of this. Because you are not of the world, that’s why the world will hate you and persecute you.”
I think we can rightly say that Christians are people who are in the world but not of the world, or at least what should be true. We are in the world—that is, we’re still, in a sense, citizens who live in countries, in communities, we still live amongst everyone else—but we are not of the world. We don’t belong to the world.
In John 13:1, right at the beginning of this upper room section of John’s Gospel, it says that “when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” So we’re in the world, but not of the world.
You see the same emphasis in John 17, where Jesus prays for his disciples, that they would be kept from the evil one. Even though they are in the world, they are to be kept from the evil one, and they are to be not of the world, because he is not of the world.
So we don’t belong to the world; that’s the basic point here. But I think it’s important for us to apply this and understand what this means for us practically. If we do not belong to the world, what does that mean? How should we then live? Let me suggest a couple of applications.
(1) First of all, it means we should not be conformed to the world. You remember what Paul says in Romans 12:2? He says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Or in the old J.B. Phillips translation puts it, “Do not let the world squeeze you into its mold.”
Brothers and sisters, there’s always going to be pressure to be squeezed into the mold of the world. Perhaps some of you face this. Even though we live in the relative comfort and ease of the Western world, there’s always going to be pressure, at least on the ideological level, to conform our thinking to what the world thinks.
You may face this if you are, for example, in the academy, if you’re a student at college or even teaching in a university. There may be pressure on certain issues to conform to the world’s mentality, the world’s standards, rather than to the teaching of Jesus Christ. If you’re holding true to the exclusivity of Jesus Christ, that he is the way, the truth, and the life, he is the one way to the Father, you’re going to face pushback about that. Or if you hold to Christ’s standards and the countercultural way that Christ calls us to live in regards to money and power and sexuality, certainly the world is going to push back against that. Paul says, “Don’t be conformed to the world.”
You may face that at the workplace. If you are working in a business, an industry that sometimes encourages you to lie for the sake of the bottom line, to be dishonest in some way, and you say, “No, I’m not going to do that. I’m not comfortable doing that,” then you may face pushback because you’re not conforming to what is basically accepted by many other people.
These are the kinds of things we can expect if we refuse to be conformed to the world. This is the kind of pressure we come up against. But the calling is clear, “Do not be conformed to the world.” You’re not of the world, you don’t belong to the world, therefore you must be distinct, you must be different from the world.
(2) Secondly, if we do not belong to the world, we should not love the world. Listen to what the apostle John himself writes in 1 John 2:15-16. He says, “Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.”
You see what John is doing there? He’s saying, “Do not love the world,” and he essentially defines the world in terms of its consumer mentality; the desires of the eyes and the flesh and the pride of possessions. This is the temptation for every single one of us; it is the temptation to live for immediate gratification, to live as consumers, where we are basically thinking about our possessions, we’re thinking about our status, we’re thinking about our power, we’re thinking about our influence. We are trying to hold onto something that’s actually very, very temporary. John is saying, “Don’t do that. Don’t love the world; don’t live in that kind of way.”
I think that means for us, brothers and sisters, that there should be a certain degree of detachment from the world, the world as it currently is. We don’t belong to this world, we belong to the world to come. We don’t make our home in this world as it currently is; we are waiting for the return of our Savior, Jesus Christ, when he will come back to this world and he will make all things new, he will usher in a new heavens and new earth and new creation. That’s our home; that’s the world we’re waiting for.
St. Augustine put it like this in his wonderful book On Christian Doctrine. He described us, essentially, as pilgrims who are on a journey, and we are journeying through foreign lands, headed towards our native country, our native country being heaven or the new heavens and the new earth. As pilgrims on this journey, there are waystations along the way that are given for our rest, for our refreshment, and it’s appropriate to use them. There are natural goods that the Lord has given. We all need money to live, we all belong to families, we all have to live in a home, and so on. But Augustine says these are to be used, not loved. If we love them, if we start to settle in as if this is our home, it’s like the pilgrim who settles at the waystation and makes that his home, forgetting that he’s headed towards his actual homeland. So we must be somewhat detached. We don’t cling, we don’t hold onto these things that do not last.
Listen to the way Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 7:29-31. He says, “This is what I mean, brothers; the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none. . .” You think, What a strange thing to say! Why does he say that? “. . . and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.”
Those who have wives or husbands live as though you weren’t married, those who are mourning as though you aren’t mourning, those who are rejoicing as though you’re not rejoicing, those who have goods as though you don’t have goods. What in the world does he mean by that?
He certainly doesn’t mean that you should neglect your family, right, because in other places Paul says, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church,” or, “Wives, love your husbands,” and so on. He certainly doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t mourn with those who mourn or rejoice with those who rejoice. He tells us that in other places.
I think the key is that the present form of this world is passing away. He means there should be a certain degree of detachment, that we are not so wrapped up in this world as it currently is, even in good things such as family and career and home and possessions and so on, that we are not so attached, so wrapped up that that is the all-consuming mentality. Instead, we have this pilgrim mindset, and we are able to stay somewhat detached, remembering that our true identity and therefore our true worth and significance, our true joy and happiness, it’s all found in Christ and in the world to come.
You might think of it like this. If you’ve ever traveled abroad, if you’ve ever been to a foreign country, certainly you’ve done something like this. I’ve been to Africa about six times, and every time I go to Africa for a missions trip I have to exchange U.S. currency for, say, South African rand. I’m always just doing a limited amount of currency; enough to buy food while I’m there, enough to buy souvenirs for the kids, things like that; but not a lot. Not a lot of currency, because I’m going to be there for ten days or two weeks. Can you think of how crazy it would be for me to liquidate all of my assets, to sell the house, sell the car, empty the bank account, sell everything I own, exchange all of that currency into South African rand, for a two-week trip? That would be crazy, because that’s not my home! My home, naturally speaking, is here.
Well, Paul is taking that same principle and is applying it on a much larger level, and he’s saying, “Don’t live for this present age. Don’t love the world.”
Listen, brothers and sisters, everything that you have, apart from God and from Jesus, it will be taken away eventually. So don’t build your life on that which can be taken away; build your life on God’s love for you in Christ. You belong to another world.
That’s point number one; we do not belong to the world.
2. We will be persecuted by the world
Here’s point number two: we will be persecuted by the world. This follows from the first point. Again, verses 18-21: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own, but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.”
Essentially, what Jesus here is saying is that “if you do not belong to the world but you belong to me, then you can expect to be treated by the world in the same way that they treated me. If they hated me, they’re going to hate you. If they persecuted me, they’re going to persecute you.” If we don’t belong to the world and we live these countercultural lives, we can expect the same opposition that Jesus himself experienced.
If you’ve read Bunyan’s allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress, do you remember the place in that book where Christian and Faithful are on this journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City, and they pass through Vanity Fair? It’s a town that kind of represents this world and the basic worldly mentality. So Christian and Faithful come to Vanity Fair, and it’s full of all the kinds of things you would expect in a fair; there are all kinds of things to buy and all kinds of things to see and it’s very colorful and gaudy and so on.
They’re in Vanity Fair, but they’re not really attracted to what’s there, and the citizens of Vanity Fair oppose Christian and Faithful for three reasons: because they don’t talk the same way (they speak a different language), because they don’t dress the same way (they look different; they’re pilgrims, right, they’re not at home in Vanity Fair), and because they’re not really interested in all the commercy, the buying and the selling. They are so deeply opposed to Christian and Faithful that they actually arrest Faithful, and they put him on trial. The judge in this trial is Mr. Hategood, and sure enough, they find Faithful guilty, and he’s executed. So Faithful becomes a martyr and Christian escapes by the skin of his teeth.
Well, it is a picture of what many, many Christians experience in the world, hated and persecuted by the world. Again, we are somewhat shielded from this because of certain freedoms that we currently have in our society, but this has often been a Christian’s lot in life.
Now, how should we apply this in our own context? Let me suggest three things this time.
(1) Number one, don’t be surprised when you face opposition. Don’t be surprised! This is normal Christianity, to face opposition for being a Christian.
The apostle John in 1 John 3:13 says, “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.” The apostle Peter in 1 Peter 4:12-14 says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you, to test you, as though something strange were happening to you, but rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” Don’t be surprised when the world opposes you for your distinctively Christian way of life or your Christian beliefs, your Christian witness.
(2) Here’s the second application: we should also be sure that if the world does hate us, it’s for the right reason. Peter goes on to say, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.”
I think it’s important to say this, because there are times and occasions—probably all of us can think of examples of this—where Christians have faced some kind of opposition, not because of their distinctively Christian message but because of their distinctively un-Christian attitudes. Sometimes Christians can just be jerks in the way they hold to their religious beliefs or the way they hold to their values or the way they speak about other people.
That should not be the case. We should not be un-Christlike; we should be marked by humility and by love and by peacefulness. We should not speak evil of others. Paul in the book of Titus talked about treating people with “all courtesy.” These should be characteristic of us. When those things are not characteristic and then we are being opposed, we certainly should not say, “Oh, I’m being persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” That may not be the case at all. You may be persecuted because you’re just not being a very nice person. So let’s not let that be the case. Be sure that you are like Christ in attitude and in character as well as clinging to Christ in your beliefs and in your values.
(3) Thirdly, we should ask this question: If we are never opposed, never persecuted, misunderstood, slandered, or hated, we should ask ourselves whether we are being consistent and courageous in our Christianity.
In 2 Timothy 3:12 Paul says, “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”
I’m reminded of a story that John Piper tells in one of his books about Brother Andrew, who wrote that wonderful book God’s Smuggler. Brother Andrew was sitting in a pastors’ meeting in Budapest, Hungary. He was teaching them from the Bible, and in walked an old pastor from Romania who had just been released from prison. Brother Andrew knew this was the moment not to teach, not to speak, but to listen; sit at the feet of this man who had just suffered for Christ.
For a long time there was silence, and then the Romanian pastor asked a question. “Andrew, are there any pastors in prison in Holland?”
Andrew answered, “No.”
“Why not?” the pastor asked.
Andrew thought for a few minutes and said, “I think it must be because we do not take advantage of all the opportunities that God gives us.”
Then the Romanian pastor, fresh out of prison, said, “Andrew, what do you do with 2 Timothy 3:12?”
He opened his Bible, read this text I just read (“All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution”). Andrew closed his Bible slowly and said, “Brother, please forgive me. We do nothing with that verse.”
John Piper, from whom I got this story, says, “We have, I fear, domesticated the concept of godliness into such inoffensive, middle-class morality and law-keeping that 2 Timothy 3:12 has become unintelligible to us.”
We do need to ask ourselves the question: If we never face any kind of opposition, pushback, persecution, hatred, are we living godly lives?
Amy Carmichael, that great missionary to India, said these words:
“Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot or side or hand?
I hear thee sung throughout the land;
I hear them hail thy bright ascendant star.
Hast thou no scar?
“Hast thou no wound?
Yet I was wounded by the archers, spent,
Leaned me against a tree to die, and rent
By ravening beasts that compast me. I swooned.
Hast thou no wound?
“No wound, no scar?
Yet as the master shall the servant be,
And pierced are the feet that follow me.
But thine are whole; can he have followed far
Who has no wound, no scar?”
“If they persecuted me, they will persecute you.” The servant is not greater than his master. That’s what Jesus said.
3. We are sent into the world
If we do not belong to the world and we are following Jesus as we should, we should expect to be persecuted from the world; but, point number three (this is really important), we are also sent into the world.
Listen, don’t hear anything that I’m saying this morning as a call to isolation, to withdrawal, to a fortress mentality—to circle the wagons, to hole up. That is not the idea at all. Instead, we are sent into the world, and this is the pattern in the Gospel of John. There’s a pattern of sending.
When you trace the word “sent” in the Gospel of John, this is what you’re going to see; first of all, that the Father sent Jesus (chapter 16:5, 15:21, and many other places). The Father sent Jesus into the world. That’s the first sending.
Secondly, Jesus sends the Spirit. We read earlier chapter 16:17: “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” We’ll come back and look at the rest of that verse next week, but Jesus says, “I’m going to send the Helper, the Holy Spirit; I’m going to send him to you.”
The Father sends the Son, Jesus sends the Spirit, and then thirdly, Jesus sends the disciples. John 17:18, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” He’s praying to the Father. “You sent me, and as you sent me I’m sending them.”
Then when Jesus is raised from the dead and appears to his disciples in John 20, we read these words (John 20:19-22), “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”
There’s this pattern of sending. We are sent into the world. This is true especially of the disciples, who are the apostles of Jesus; they are the “sent ones,” they are sent as messengers into the world with the message of the gospel. But what is true of them is true by extension of the church, and true of us as well, that we are sent by Christ into the world, and we are sent with the power of the Holy Spirit.
I think we have to understand that sense of mission. In fact, the whole context of what Jesus says here is mission. New Testament scholar Bruce Milne argues that all of John 15 and 16 should be understood as missions. Even the vine and the branches, it’s not just about our personal relationship with Jesus Christ, but the fruit—we are called to go and to bear fruit, right, so that our Father will be glorified and our fruit will remain. That fruit includes the conversion of other people.
What Jesus here is doing is equipping his disciples, to send them out. He’s preparing them for the mission that will follow his death and resurrection.
The key words in our passage this morning, in chapter 15, are the words “bear witness.” Look at verses 26-27. He says, “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me, and you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.”
Do you see there that there is at the same time, concurrently, two parties bearing witness. The disciples are bearing witness and the Holy Spirit is bearing witness, and the Spirit is the key. The Spirit bearing witness is the key to the effectiveness of the disciples bearing witness. The Spirit is called here the Helper, the paraclete. As I’ve mentioned before in a previous message, that word is notoriously hard to translate accurately into English, to get all the nuances of the word, but at least one nuance of the word is a legal nuance, a legal connotation. Sometimes the word is “advocate” or “counselor,” and it’s really the legal connotation. Read 1 John 2, where Jesus is called our advocate with the Father.
What does an advocate do? An advocate pleads in court. Scholars point out that here in John 15-16 the Spirit is seen as an advocate. We could characterize him in two ways: as both a defense attorney and a prosecuting attorney. He comes alongside the disciples in their witness, and through his power he authenticates, and it is a defense of the authenticity and the validity of their witness.
At the same time, he comes as the prosecuting attorney to convict. We see that in chapter 16:7-11. Let me read this passage, briefly explain it, and then application, and we’re done.
John 16:7, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away. For if I do not go away the Helper [the paraclete, the Spirit] of truth will not come to you, but if I go I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment because the ruler of this world is judged.”
Jesus says the Spirit is going to come and convict. He’s going to come and convict the world. I think the best biblical example illustrating this is Acts 2, when Peter on the Day of Pentecost, ten days after Jesus ascended into heaven; the Spirit is given to the church, Peter preaches, and he preaches a very strong confrontational sermon in Jerusalem to the very people who are responsible for killing Jesus. This is what he says.
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was possible for him to be held by it.” And then a few verses later, in verse 37, we read that “the crowd, when they heard, were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’”
You know what’s happening? The Spirit, through the proclamation of the gospel, the death and the resurrection of Christ, is convicting the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. He’s convicting the world. They’re cut to the heart, and 3,000 people are saved.
The Spirit bears witness, and he is the one who empowers us as we bear witness, as he, as the prosecuting attorney for the gospel, convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment.
(1) First of all, ask this question: Has the Spirit pierced your heart? Have you experienced this convicting, heart-piercing work of the Spirit? Have you been cut to the heart so that you’ve seen the application of the gospel to you, to your own need? Have you been convicted of sin by the Spirit of God?
One of the most famous stories from the First Great Awakening comes from this Connecticut farmer named Nathan Cole, who went to hear the great evangelist George Whitefield preach. He wrote down in a journal what happened to him when he heard the sermon. He said, “My hearing him preach gave me a heart wound. By God’s blessing my old foundation was broken up, and I saw that my righteousness would not save me.”
Has that happened to you? Has your heart received a wound, and have you seen that your own righteousness will not save you, that you need the righteousness of another? We need the convicting work of the Spirit in our hearts; that’s where true conversion comes from. That’s the first application.
(2) Here’s the second. Are you bearing witness to Jesus? If you are a Christian, are you sharing your faith with others? Are you talking about Jesus? Are you having these conversations? You might say, “Well, evangelism is really difficult for me, personal evangelism.”
I know that there are like three people in the room for whom that’s very easy, because you are extroverted . . . you can talk to anybody, right? So it’s not really hard for some people to share their faith. But most of us—and I include myself among you—for most of us, having those conversations can be hard.
Brothers and sisters, I know—because I know in my own experience that there have been times when I shared my faith with knees literally shaking, hands trembling, palms, sweaty, voice quivering; where probably I got a sympathy hearing because the person I was talking to could just see, “He seems so nervous right now!” But you know what? Those conversations are the instruments that God uses to bring people into the kingdom.
If you’ve never done that, here’s a way to go about it. First of all, just start conversations. Just start conversations; get to know people. Ask them questions and get to know them. Befriend them. It starts there.
As you get to know them, ask deeper questions. Ask spiritual questions. “Do you believe in God? Do you have a church background? What are your religious beliefs?”
Then share with them why you find Jesus beautiful. Talk about what Jesus has done for you; talk about what Jesus has done in his death, burial, and resurrection. You don’t have to confront them about whatever sin they’re living in, you don’t have to have an argument about politics (please don’t do that); instead, talk about Jesus. Then pray for the Spirit to work.
I remember the very first time I shared my faith. I was about 17, 18 years old. One morning I just woke up, I felt this burden; I wanted to share my faith. I’d never really done it with someone that I didn’t know. I prayed, “Lord, would you give me an opportunity today?”
About 45 minutes into a conversation later that afternoon, I realized that the Lord hard just answered my prayer, and I’d been in a conversation with someone that had led to talking about Jesus.
Ask the Lord to work, because it’s the Spirit bearing witness that empowers your witness and makes it effective.
Brothers and sisters, as we conclude, we don’t belong to the world. Let’s let the reality of the kingdom we do belong to, let’s let that be reflected in our values, in our choices, in our lives. We can expect to face opposition and persecution; don’t be surprised when it happens, but be sure that when it happens it’s for the right reason, because you’re bearing witness to Christ.
Don’t be discouraged, because you have a mission, and that mission is to share Christ with others. That’s our vocation, that’s our calling. We are sent into the world, and the good news is that we’re not sent by ourselves, we’re sent with the Helper, with the Holy Spirit, who comes alongside and who makes the gospel effective for others. May the Lord work in us and through us as Redeemer Church, and may many come to know Christ. Let’s pray together.
Father, we thank you for the teaching of your Son, Jesus. We’ve covered a lot of ground this morning, but I pray that we would each walk away with a fresh sense of the calling that we have to be ambassadors for Jesus Christ. Lord, show us that the fields around us are white to harvest, and send us out as laborers to gather.
Lord, I pray that even this morning, if there’s anyone here who has never really committed themselves to Jesus Christ, but today has felt their heart cut, pierced, wounded, is aware of their own need for the gospel; I pray that today they would turn to Christ in saving faith, that you would give them the gifts of faith and repentance, give them a new heart, draw them to yourself.
As we come to the Lord’s table, we ask you, Lord, to draw near to us. May we use this time for reflection and self-examination, for confession, for repentance, and especially for drawing near to Christ, your Son, in faith. May we see in the emblems of the table, the bread and the juice, the broken body and the shed blood of Jesus, our Savior and our Redeemer. Thank you for the gospel, thank you for what he’s done for us. Draw near to us, we pray in Jesus’ name, amen.