The Privilege of Evangelism
Bible Text: 2 Corinthians 5:11 – 21 | Speaker: Clayton Fopp | Series: Foundations | 2 Corinthians 5:11-21
The Privilege of Evangelism
That privilege of what??!
Well I’m, really glad to see you here!
I mean, I’m always glad to see you, encouraged by your commitment to God’s people here, and to time meeting around God’s Word, but I think I’m extra pleased to see you this morning, knowing that the thought of spending 4 weeks thinking about evangelism hasn’t put you off completely!
Very few Christians I meet find evangelism easy.
There are some who do,
Some who love to talk to anyone they meet about Jesus.
And there are some here among our family, this is you, isn’t it?!
Or you might know a Christian like this.
You might be here today because of a Christian like this, telling you what they believe!
And again, I know there are some here for whom that’s exactly true.
But for most people who call themselves Christian, evangelism is something we might feel compelled to do,
Something we know we ought to do,
And certainly speaking with numbers here through this teaching series so far, that seems to be the general vibe among us.
And you might be new with us today, and you’re not a Christian, and you wonder, well why do Christians do it?
What’s the point of doing evangelism?,
What’s the point of talking about evangelism?,
Aren’t there better things we could be doing on a Sunday morning?
And probably there’s some here who have been on the receiving end of evangelism in a way that’s put you off.
And so when we come to our topic this morning, “The privilege of evangelism”, I suspect whether we’re a Christian or not, we perhaps hear those words, and we think that “the privilege of evangelism” is a phrase on par with, “The joy of root canal”
It seems completely at odds, doesn’t it?
Why would we call it that, when evangelism so often feels like a chore, not a privilege?
If we’re Christian, we might say, “Yeah, I’m convinced of the necessity of evangelism”,
I’ve experienced the “difficulty of evangelism.”
But a privilege?
We got invited round to some friends’ house for pizza and ice cream the other night.
That’s a privilege.
I got to take my family overseas on long service leave, that’s a privilege.
Isn’t a privilege something I look forward to?,
Something I anticipate?,
It’s not usually something that is difficult and disheartening.
And so let me say again, my goal in this short series, is absolutely not to make any of us feel guilty if we haven’t been active in evangelism.
I am very aware of the danger of sounding like I’m trying to pressure you to do evangelism, or to do more evangelism.
A friend was lamenting to me just last week about a church that his family are part of, where the approach to trying see people changed is just to layer up commands and pile on the guilt.
That is absolutely not my goal.
It is my goal, that in our time this morning, we’ll see evangelism the way God sees it, as part of his mission in the world,
His work, that he graciously draws us into,
And also, if you’re not a Christian, I hope that you’ll have some idea of why your Christian friends think it’s important that you hear about Jesus, and why maybe they’ve invited you along today.
And so I think 2 Corinthians 5 is a good place for us to be today, to help us see evangelism as a privilege.
There are 4 lessons about evangelism here, that we can learn.
If we’re to see evangelism as God sees it;, .
If we’re to think of sharing the gospel of Jesus with others as a privilege,
We need to understand the message of evangelism,
The motivation for evangelism,
The perspective for evangelism,
And the ministry of evangelism. And you’ll see those headings in your outline.
I’ve been praying all this week, that we will be changed, and encouraged, and equipped, for this great task set before us.
Last week, we looked at the proclamation of evangelism, what the message of Christian evangelism is.
The message of evangelism is the glory of God, seen most clearly at the cross (v 21)
So let me recap that briefly and see what Paul adds, in this section, to our understanding. What is the message that we can bring to people?
Well, we saw last week that Paul defended his own ministry in 2 Corinthians chapter 4, by saying Christian evangelism is speaking a message about God himself, made known in the person of Jesus.
He said that his evangelism was all making known God’s glory, and the glory of Christ, which, as we said, points us to the cross, where Jesus died in our place, and where Jesus says, both his glory, and his Father’s glory can be seen.
And I suggested that perhaps, if you’re like me, you, we perhaps need to find a better balance in the way we speak about “the gospel”, so we’re not emphasising the benefits that flow from knowing God, while, kind of overlooking the heart of the gospel;, a relationship;, knowing God in Christ Jesus.
So the good news of Christianity, includes forgiveness,
Peace with God,
But most of all, the ultimate good of the gospel, is that we, gain, Christ. We have relationship,
We can enjoy his presence.
And we see a similar statement about the message that Paul holds out to people, the message of Christian evangelism, at the end of this chapter. Look at verse 21 with me.
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, now, that’s great news, isn’t it?,
We’ve all ignored and rejected God,
We’ve taken God’s good gifts but wanted nothing to do with God,
We face the penalty for this sin and rebellion against God,
But Jesus steps into our place to take the debt of our sin away from us. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us
But of course that’s the means, not the end. So Paul continues, the gospel message continues, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
The good news we have, is the offer of a right relationship with God through Jesus.
No longer estranged and cut off from God,
No longer living as his enemies,
No longer facing the right and just punishment for ignoring God, and living with ourselves in charge,
But the righteousness of God, being welcomed into a right relationship with the creator of the universe.
We also saw last week, that the gospel message contains the news of Jesus as Lord.
And that wasn’t just an anomaly in chapter 4, we see it here as well. In verse 15. Speaking of Jesus, Paul says, And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for him who died for them and was raised again
The call to live for someone else and not for yourself,
The call to live under the rule of Jesus, whose pattern for life is always good for us, that’s part of the good news that we offer to people.
I think as a starting point, if we understand that as the message of evangelism, it goes some way to helping us see it as a bit more like a privilege, and a bit less like a chore.
Last week I was talking to some people who give out food to those who are homeless and hungry.
As they’re giving people what they most need,
As they bring into people’s lives things that are very good for them,
As they make it possible for lives to be changed and transformed, they don’t think of that as a chore or a burden, do they?
They told me themselves! They think it’s a great joy, and a privilege.
Well, I think there’s enough similarity that it’s possible to think about evangelism the same way.
The motivation for evangelism (v 11 – 15)
So having made sure we’re clear on the message, let’s think about our motivation.
What drives our evangelism?
I know some here are motivated to share the good news of Jesus because of your love for people,
Some are simply excited at the relationship with God that we enjoy.
There are sometimes less honourable motivations, aren’t there?
Maybe a sense of obligation. We’ve spoken about that already.
I think I’ve even managed to share the gospel with people for selfish reasons!
That’s how good I am at being selfish, I can turn something that’s all about God, into something that’s all about me!
That takes a special kind of talent!
But what about Paul, what’s his motivation for setting before people the glory of God in the face of Christ?
Paul’s first motivation – the reality of judgement
Well, look with me at verse 11, Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others.
And if you look up at verse 10, you’ll see what Paul’s thinking about, For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others.
Because we know, that each and every person is going to stand before Christ,
Because I know, that my neighbours will be called to give an account for their lives,
Because I don’t want my family and friends to face that day unprepared, we try to persuade them.
One of the many ways that our church gets to contribute to ministries that are wider than just here, is that I get to do some teaching and training, to help other churches prepare to plant new churches.
And every now and then I’ll be in a class, or working with a team of people talking about their planting plans, and someone will say “I’m just so hoping that our new church will be exactly like the New Testament Church! That’s what church should be like!”
And I think, have you read anything about the New Testament church?!
This church in Corinth, for example, who Paul’s writing to, they’re not really a church you’d want to model yourself on!
There were factions,
People trying to promote one leader over another,
Sexual immorality that even made the pagans blush.
The 1st Century church wasn’t always all it’s made out to be.
So in Corinth, there was a group of people who were opposed to Paul’s ministry,
They were trying to get people not to listen to Paul, and it seems that they liked to use this word “persuade” in a negative sense to describe how Paul went about spreading the gospel.
So they’d say, “We come with eloquence, with inspirational words that will lift your heart,
We’re humorous and dynamic, with an engaging style of preaching that endears us to a wide spectrum of viewers who tune in to our daily television program”. Actually I just copied that bit from the website of a famous TV preacher!
But it’s exactly what these other leaders were saying. We’re inspirational, motivational., Paul will just try and persuade you!”
And Paul says, “Absolutely!
Absolutely I try and persuade people! I know the Lord they’re going to face as judge, and so I’ll bring every fibre of my being to bear on trying to persuade people, to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others.
Verse 10 couldn’t be more clear in its scope, could it? Everyone will have to give account for their lives., Paul himself, the Corinthian Christians, you, . me, our friends and neighbours.
And that’s Paul’s motivation.
It spurs him into action, so that he can stand before Jesus with a clear conscience, and so that through him others might also stand confidently before Jesus.
We’ve got one more week in our little teaching series in evangelism, but imagine we said, “we’re going to skip next, and each one of us gets to choose to spend next Sunday, at whatever event or place, you think, will help you share the gospel of Jesus with your friends.”
Where do you go? Looking for motivation?
Maybe you go down to Bible College SA, and ask them to compress their Principles of Evangelism subject from a semester down to a single day, and you hit the books.
Maybe you fly to North Carolina, and sit at the feet of Dr Billy Graham, who’s preached the gospel to tens of millions of people.
Maybe you go to Sydney, make a time with John Dickson, who wrote Simply Christianity, that we’re running here in March. Say, “Hey, John, tell me everything I need to know!”
But do you know what I think would give us the greatest motivation for evangelism?
A day, spent, beside the judgment seat of Christ, as every person, Christian and non Christian is brought in, to give an account for every thing done in their life.
It’s not quite as fun sounding as those other ideas, but Paul says, that certainty is his motivation.
The fear of the Lord,
The certainty that evil is going to be punished,
That fact that even he, Paul the apostle, will have to give an account to Jesus for the way he’s lived his life, that’s the first part of his motivation for evangelism.Paul’s second motivation – the love of Jesus (v 14 – 15)
The second part of Paul’s motivation for evangelism, is the love that Jesus has for people.
Verse 14, For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.
15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again
When we set up here each morning, the sound guys put on some music, so they can test the speakers and make sure everything’s working.
But we don’t have much variety on the music player, so every week it’s Nathan Tasker. He’s a Christian musician based in Nashville, and some of you know Nathan.
And so we say it’s not a real Sunday until we hear Nathan singing!
And one of his songs is called “Your Love Changes Me.”
The Apostle Paul would say, “that’s the story of my life”. The love of Christ has just, overtaken him, overwhelmed all of his life.
It’s because of Christ’s great love,
His love for us,
His love for Paul,
His love for everyone who was living as his enemy, such that he would die for them as Paul says,
This love has so transformed him, that he now risks his life over and over to talk to people about Jesus!
The love of Christ can be seen in the way he lay down his live so that we could enjoy God forever. And Paul says he is compelled, he can do no other, than overflow with the good news of this love, for the benefit of others.
You might be familiar with the hymn by Charles Wesley, Amazing love, how can it be, that thou my God, should die for me?
Well how does this amazing love shape our evangelism?
Well I think most of us would agree with Paul’s summary of the events of Easter there in verse 14, that Christ’s love drove him to the cross in our place, and in place of our friends and family and neighbours, one, died, for, all.
On my day off this week I took my kids down to Victor, planning to see some of the Tour Down Under, and we drove past where that terrible accident was last week, on the road out of Strath.
The evidence was all still there on the road, and because I was thinking about this passage, I was reminded of awful accident in Melbourne a few years ago, when 5 teenagers were killed.
But in the last seconds before the car was torn to pieces around a tree, one of the passengers, a young man, chose not to try saving himself, but he wrapped his body around his 15 year-old sister who was next to him in the car, saving her life.
She escaped with a broken arm, some cuts. Everyone else in the car died.
Her name is Elissa. Imagine if, no one told her what her brother had done for her. Giving up any hope of preparing for the impact himself, in order to save her.
But imagine also that Elissa found out anyway.
She’d be pretty cross, wouldn’t she? “Why have you been keeping this from me?”
If somebody died for me, I’d want to know about it. And if I knew that someone died for my friend, I’d want my friend to know about it.
John Stott was a pastor in England for many years, wrote lots of terrific books, and in his autobiography, he writes about a friend he had as a young man, who heard the good news of Jesus from another mutual friend, who told him, “oh, John Stott is a Christian also.”
To which his friend replied, No, that can’t be true!
John Stott can’t be a Christian, because he’s my friend, and if he believed this about sin, and Christ, and forgiveness, he would have told me. That’s what friends do.
Challenging words, aren’t they?
If I truly grasp Paul’s motivation for evangelism here, a right fear of Christ’s just judgment of sin on one hand, and an overwhelming sense of his love on the other, it gets me a long way towards thinking that evangelism may actually be something I want to be part of.
It is a privilege to be part of the process by which others can stand before Jesus with a clear conscience.
Imagine on that last day and one of your friends is called before Jesus, and they say to the judge of the world, “I have looked forward to this day with confident assurance, since I responded to the gospel, after I finally let me friend explain it to me.”
And equally, what a privilege to respond to Christ’s life-changing love, in a way that means more people know, understand, and enjoy that love.
It seems to me also, that knowing Christ’s love for us, can give us great confidence in evangelism. It doesn’t matter what kind of response we get, what people say about us, because those are not the relationships where we find our significance.
It doesn’t matter if people hate me, really. Look at how dearly we are loved. The cross of Christ shouts that to us.
How can we have a right perspective on evangelism? (v 16 – 17)
So thirdly, if we’re to think of evangelism as a privilege, perhaps we need a new perspective.
Look at Paul’s words from verse 16, So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
Can I get you to think for a moment about your friends, your family, neighbours, people you work with?
When you think of people like that, what sorts of categories do they fall into in your head?
Do you sort of put people into boxes?,
People you get on with, people you don’t get on with.
People who are like you, Everyone else who’s a bit weird!
We easily divide people up into categories, don’t we?
And Paul says he was exactly the same;, he used to look at people the way pretty much everybody else looks at people, what he calls a worldly point of view. That is, just the way the world does it.
But something changed.
Because, he says, we know that one day everyone will give an account for the way they’ve lived,
Because we’ve experienced the depths of Christ’s love,
Because we know that Christ died for all,
All those human, selfish, unspiritual categories go out the window, and there are only 2 different ways in which we can now see people:
Those who have been reconciled to God,
And those who have not.
Now, of course the danger whenever we start talking about people in categories is that we start thinking one category is more valuable,
More worthwhile, than the other.
There’s none of that on view here, though. We’re not supposed to think that people who are reconciled to God are somehow better than those who are not.
Actually Paul chooses to spend most his time with the ones who aren’t rather than the ones who are!
But if we ignore all the different ways the world around us categorises people, that’s how we’ll see them, because that’s the way God sees people, there’s no other category and no middle ground.
It’s like when the Crows and Port play in a showdown. Everyone is barracking either for one team, or the other? No one sits on the fence. Even if you’re only going for one team because you can’t stand the other!
People are reconciled to God, or dead in their sins.
Again, you can see how that perspective might sharpen up our evangelism can’t you?
When I see my neighbour, not as a successful businessman who seems to have everything he could possibly need, but as dead in his sins, I’m far more likely to tell him that Jesus paid the price for his sins.
If I look at the young couple down the road who have just had their 4th child, and are absolutely flat out, if I think, what they really need is a day off ! Then whatever I do for them will be about trying to give them a break, but if I think “they need to be reconciled to God”, well, I know the message reconciliation, so that can be part of what I do for them.
Remember those magic eye puzzles that were all the rage in the 90s? You stared and stared at the page, which just seemed like a splodge of colour, you got more and more annoyed because you couldn’t see anything, and then when you happen to look at it just right, suddenly, the picture jumps out at you. And what happens every time you look at it after that? You can’t help but see the image.
A right perspective can make all the difference.
Do we see people as God does?
Evangelism is a ministry given by Christ to all Christians (v 18 – 20)
Finally we come to the ministry of evangelism. A ministry that Paul says is our ministry.
Look at verse 18, All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:
Drop down a bit,
he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul speaks about people who have the gift of mercy, but of course he doesn’t absolve all other Christians from the responsibility of showing mercy.
He talks about the gift of faith, but all of us are called to have faith.
Similarly, although some Christians are evangelists, all of us have this ministry of evangelism
The fact that there are some who are especially gifted for evangelism doesn’t mean the rest of us don’t need to think about it.
Look with me at the 3 statements that Paul makes about this ministry of evangelism in verses 18 – 20.
Firstly, God acts for reconciliation.
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself
The good news that we share, is news about what God has done, in order for us to be in right relationship with him,
Of course when we’re dead in our sin, and running away from God, we can’t reconcile ourselves to God, so that has to be God’s work.
Secondly, God acts for reconciliation, in Christ. God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.
The relationship with God for eternity offered to us in the gospel is only open to us, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
God acts for reconciliation in Christ. In Christ’s substitution for us.
And thirdly, God acts for reconciliation in Christ, through us! he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us
God acts for reconciliation and relationship through those he has already reconciled into relationship with himself!
We are Christ’s ambassadors.
It’s always good when one of the themes in the passage you’re preaching on makes it into the news that week! And you may have head that the US ambassador to Panama resigned last week, because he no longer felt that his priorities, and the priorities of his government were in alignment.
Because the ambassador doesn’t speak for themselves! They’re not appointed to share their own opinions, they present the message of the ruler or government they represent.
The role of an ambassador as we know it, were formalised at the Congress of Vienna in 1815. And in those days, the most powerful and influential kings, had extraordinarily powerful and influential ambassadors.
So in that light, who could possibly represent Christ, as his ambassador?
Surely that’s a role reserved for the spiritual high-achievers.
Well, no. Jesus says to you, and to me, “you are my ambassador, when you speak the good news, you speak, for me.”
Even to the point that when you call on someone to consider Christ, it is as though God himself was making that appeal through you,
When you speak in an evangelistic conversation, God considers that he has just personally extended an invitation for relationship.
Of course, let me just say at this point, if you’re here today and you’re not a Christian, but maybe a friend’s brought you along, and perhaps that same friend has explained the good news of Jesus to you at some point.
When they did that,
When they told you what they believe about God,
What the Bible says about sin and separation from God,
About Jesus dying to take the punishment we deserve,
Whey they’ve told you that you can know God, and have a relationship with him through Jesus,
That was God speaking to you,
Oh, let me correct myself,
Verse 20, that was God appealing, to you.
Please don’t make any mistake about what happened, when your friend, husband, wife, whoever, spoke to you of the good news of Jesus.
Lots of people I meet tell me they want an encounter with God.
Maybe that’s you,
Maybe you know people who wish for that.
Well, here’s how it can happen.
Through someone speaking the gospel.
This is how God makes his direct appeal to us.
There’s sometimes a temptation to think, “I don’t have the right to tell people what I believe,
We don’t have that kind of relationship,
I’d have to invest and invest and invest in making my friendship secure, before I can even think about telling someone what God has done for them.
But if you’re a Christian, you already have that right. You are Christ’s ambassador.
You do his business.
You speak his message.
Does anyone here feel comfortable telling Jesus he hasn’t earned the right to talk about what he’s done for people?
God, gave us the ministry of reconciliation:
Yes, we want to be gentle,
We share the good news of Jesus with people because we love them!
But if we see people as God sees them,
If we understand Christ’s great love for us,
If we understand that evangelism is where Christ does his work through us, God, making his appeal through us, I think we’ll be a little closer to thinking about evangelism as a privilege.
In 1912 a Scottish Baptist pastor named John Harper left England for the US to preach at the Moody Church in Chicago.
The ship he was travelling on was a brand new one, called the RMS Titanic.
Well, we all know what happened to the ship.
But those who survived the tragedy, and John Harper wasn’t one of them, they spoke of him sharing the good news of Jesus with many many people as he clung to wreckage in the freezing waters of the Atlantic.
He had the right perspective, didn’t he?
He understood people’s predicament,
He didn’t think he has to work his way up to a particular type of relationship,
Or earn the right to open his mouth.
Friends, most here are Christians, what, in the world, could be a greater privilege, than sharing in God’s own ministry, the work that God has been about since before the creation of the world!
He says to you and he says to me, “I’m sharing this with you”
You’ve got a part to play in my work.
I’m convinced, if we understand these rightly, we’ll be much closer to looking at evangelism the way God does.
What a privilege.