This past Sunday we talked about what it means to be a follower of Christ by slowly unpacking Matthew 16:24-25 which reads:
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”
In this passage we focused on words like “desires” and “deny himself” and “take up his cross” in order to try to know exactly what following Jesus actually meant for His disciples then, and what it means for us today. We then spent some time in Matthew 10 going over the costs of following Jesus and the one specific aspect of discipleship He emphasized. And that, unfortunately for many in the church today, is evangelism.
I don’t know about you, but one of my biggest regrets as a Christian is the fact my prayer life is not what I know it could be. Statements like “pray without ceasing” (1 Tim. 5:17) have often led to guilt and self-condemnation because of my lack of doing just that. But my biggest blind spot as a Believer is probably my lack of witnessing or evangelism. In fact, almost everyone that I talk to wishes they had led more people to Christ. Do you feel the same?
The Scary World of Evangelism
Then we are faced with what Jesus said in Matthew 10:27 and the verses that follow. He said, “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops.” Ouch. This is a clear command from our Lord to tell others about Him or to practice evangelism. Even though we may claim, “Hey, that’s not my gift!” — Paul told Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5) even though Timothy may not have been called to be an evangelist. Timothy’s calling may have been to be a pastor or a teacher (Eph. 4:11), but Paul said in spite of his innate limitations, he was to perform the function of an evangelist to fulfill his ministry to the Lord. After all, God gave each of us the Holy Spirit in order to change us from who we think we are into what He knows we can be. And that also applies to our fear of telling others about Him.
The verse we are using to focus our prayer today is Ephesians 3:1-2, which reads:
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you – Ephesians 3:1-2.
And the word we want to focus on is, heard. Think about that for a moment.
To hear something is to be on the receiving end of a “giving and receiving” transaction. Someone must proclaim a message in order for someone else to hear that message. There’s both a pitching and a catching, to use a baseball analogy. In this passage, Paul is speaking to the Gentiles who “have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to Paul for them” which means, by definition, someone must have spoken that truth in order for them to have “heard” the same truth. Someone must have gone out of their way, taken an interest in their lives, possibly suffered, as a Jew, some sort of societal sanction for talking to an unclean Gentile in order to tell them about the grace of God.
We see in the book of Romans, right after it says “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13), there is a clear sequence in evangelism that demands a verbal proclamation of His truth. It follows, “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10:14). Did you catch the second sentence in this verse and the pointed question it asks of each follower of Christ? How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And who is to tell them about Jesus? Not just the hired holy man. Not just the paid professional. Not just the pastor, preacher or priest. No, the command is to each of us to “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops” (Matt. 10:27).
For me, since we are just a few days away from the end of a decade and the beginning of a new year, and since this is the customary accepted time for making resolutions, I can’t think of a better time to commit to the Lord that we can be counted among the ones who proudly proclaim His message so others can be blessed to hear. Which means, as uncomfortable as it may seem, we will commit to Him to open our mouths and actually be bold and overt when it comes to telling others about the love we have in Christ. This is not designed to bring guilt, but to help us fulfill the Great Commission and become faithful followers of Him.
The problem with much of the church today, and maybe even with you and me, is our love for Christ is not to the point where it naturally bubbles to the surface and we are irresistibly compelled to talk about Jesus. Maybe that’s because our relationship with Him is at arm’s length, more stoic than passionate. Or maybe it’s more like a work associate than an intimate family relationship with someone we love. And if so, that needs to change.
The truth is, what we love, what’s in our heart, what is the center of our being, what brings us passion and love and joy, whatever that may be, we will naturally speak about. We can’t help it. It just bubbles to the top of every conversation. Evangelism should be the same way. It’s not to be something based on duty, it should be something that springs forth from love.
Time to Pray
As we begin praying today, ask yourself how many people have heard about the love of Christ from your lips. If that number is embarrassing or shameful, or something you’re not satisfied with, now is the time to ask the Holy Spirit to create in you a hunger to tell people about Him. Jesus prayed for you regarding that very desire. He said, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matt. 9:37-38). You and I can pray the same. Right now. Today. We can ask Him to help us become His laborers to bring in those He has chosen for harvest. And in doing so, we can bring glory to His name and do what a true follower of Jesus is called to do.
Pray this along with me and let’s see what amazing things our Lord can do in our lives and in the lives of others in the days to come.