Thursday, October 05, 2006

don't steal our sun

This is roughly the talk i gave at an international training thing's not totally what i said, but more or less. Also, you *might* recognise parts of it from somewhere else!

Why do evangelism at all? Even more so with people from different countries. Why share the Gospel with the people you’ve made friends with? Because Jesus commands it. In Matt 28: 18-19, often called The Great Commission He says all authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to Me…therefore go and make disciples of all nations. Jesus has been given all authority over heaven and earth, he has total sovereignty over anywhere and everywhere we go and over anywhere and everywhere people come to Surrey from. So we are safe in Him no matter where people are from and no matter where we go. He is in control and we have nothing to fear. Ok? So, in light of that, we are to go. We are to go and teach and baptise and spread to Kingdom of God, because Jesus tells us to, and because He has all the authority, and because of that we have no excuse. Isn’t that an amazing gift we have been given? An amazing privilege and responsibility? Jesus could do it all on His own, I am convinced of that. He doesn’t actually need us, He could do it without us in a second. And yet He tells us to do it. Lets us get involved in the great joy of spreading the Gospel around all the earth. Isn’t that great? Perhaps the best thing about this afternoon is that I’m not even trying to convince you to actually go somewhere. To go to China, or Japan or Africa or anywhere, Christians should go to those places, they should go to dangerous places to share the Gospel, but in His wisdom and authority Jesus has sent people from all nations here. They’re right on our doorstep, in our lectures, in our courts, eating with us in Roots. So we can fulfil part of the Great Commission for the two, three of four years it is right here in Surrey.

But what if you’re still not convinced? Well, look at Matthew 24:14: this Gospel will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Nations here means people groups, ethnic divisions, as well as actual nations. We can, I think, be sure that before Jesus returns there will be a sustainable witness in every single tribe, tongue and ethnicity there is. How can we be sure of that? Because Jesus doesn’t lie. ‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away’. And Jesus said it, not me or anybody else. There’s no ‘fence sitting’ here. There are two options available to us, we can either take part and enjoy the victory of the spread of the Gospel over all the world, or we can cop out and waste our lives. Jesus doesn’t lie. Again, there are people from all over the world right here in Guildford, so what is being asked here isn’t that big a task…I’m just trying to show you the Biblical mandate for it. So why else should we feel confident and motivated in evangelism? Because the ransom for these people has already been paid. Revelation 5:9 ‘worthy are you to open the scrolls, and open it’s seals for you were slain and by your blood ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.’ So the price for these people who come to café form all over the world has been paid by Jesus on the cross. He’s done all that needs doing to effect their salvation, God’s not going to go back on that…we need to tell people about it. One more reason that there is a definite, definite, burning reason to do evangelism, particularly to people from different cultures is this. The glory of God is at stake. Romans 15:9: ‘Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness…and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy.’ So. The second person of the trinity was incarnated so that all peoples might praise God. Sure these verses mention Jews and Gentiles only, but when Paul wrote this that’s the only divide there was. Jews, and Gentiles. That’s everyone now anyway isn’t it? Jews, and people that’re not Jews. It’s like saying British people, and people that aren’t British. It’s everyone. So the glory of God is at stake. This is why Jesus came, so that people from all over the world would glorify God. Trust me. Actually, DON’T trust me, read it in the Bible. Read it in the Bible and play your part. Bring glory to God through sharing the Gospel with everyone…but especially in this context people at café.

So there we go. That’s the why. That’s why we do evangelism. It’s not, as one author puts it ‘something you wouldn’t do to your dog’…it’s great. The promise is sure because Jesus tells us to do it, the price has been paid, and God’s glory is at stake. And there’s much much more I could say, but we need to move on.

So how? How are we to go about sharing the Gospel. Well, as I said the ransom has been paid on the cross, so one answer to that question is ‘we share it indiscriminately’. But how? And also, we’re just people, how can we change anyone’s minds? The answer to that question… is that we can’t. But there is some very good news on its way…come with me to 2 Corinthians 4:4-6.

2 Corinthians 4:4-6.
Ok, I want you to break into 2s and answer some questions: 1. what’s the problem that unbelievers have? 2. what can we do about that? 3. what does God do about that?

So the God of this world. The devil, has blinded people to seeing the glory of God in the face of Christ. So what we do is tell them the gospel, the actual gospel as verse 2 shows the importance of not messing around with it. And it’s only the gospel which will save people, not our version of the gospel, not what we want people to believe… we can’t trick people, we need to tell them what the Gospel says. Then God will work to open their minds, as in Acts 16:14, when Paul preached the gospel, and the Lord opened Lydia’s heart. And then God, who said let light shine out of darkness will shine in their hearts to show the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. Isn’t that what happens when people get saved…when WE got saved? That we saw the glory of God in the face of Christ and believed. This is how people will become Christians. So we need to share the gospel with people if they are to be saved. And that can equally well be done in proclamations sense like in church on a Sunday or in the course of a friendship. So that’s what we’re going to explore now, in pairs, just take a minute each to share the Gospel…go!

So there you go. Just a minute to share the Gospel isn’t all that easy is it? I remember being asked to share the gospel in a minute at something similar to this…and I just couldn’t do it! And it’s my job essentially! There are so many things to think about when sharing the Gospel. Where do I start? What sort of angle do I use? What words express the same things as justification and sin that a non Christian, let alone a non Christian from a foreign country will understand? And the other thing is that there’s almost no chance you’ll get as long as a minute to say what you want. You might get thirty seconds…you might get ten seconds before the conversation moves on, or you lose their attention, or they just don’t want to know any more. And if you’re anything like me those 10 seconds will be 6 seconds of thinking followed by 3 and a half of spluttering. And that version of the Gospel isn’t going to challenge anyone, let alone save anyone. So what can we do? Well there are many simplified ways to remember the gospel, to get it across in a few easy to remember points. Obviously none of these are perfect, and none can be shared in as little as ten seconds, but at least if you’ve got it in your mind then you’ll be readier if the opportunity comes.

It’s called two ways to live.
So two ways to live is this.
1. The world was created and it was perfect under God’s Lordship
2. but man wanted to be king, and so rebelled and made himself king
3. so man was dead and separated from God, with no chance of bridging the gap
4. But God sent His Son, Jesus to die on a cross and bridge the gap between man and God.
5. so man can now live in the truth of a relationship with God the Father, as long as they submit to the Kingship of God the Son, Jesus
6. so there are two ways to live. One that will end in death and one that will never end!

So that’s a simple way of sharing the gospel with people in a conversational context…so now have a go in your pairs…

Now I hope that seemed a bit easier, that you at least had somewhere to start, and that you’ll feel a bit more confident now if someone asks you why you’re a Christian, or if you can explain the Gospel…that’s what I hope anyway!

I want to finish with some real encouragement from the Bible. In Isaiah 55:11 it says

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

God’s word does God’s work. The words that leave His mouth, that is, what we’ve got in the Bible…God’s word, will not return to Him empty. He sends out His word with a purpose, and that purpose is the salvation of sinners, as it tells us in 2 Timothy 3:15. God’s word does God’s work. It will not return to Him empty, but will return to Him with results, with success, with glory for God. Isn’t that good news? That we have all the tools we need to bring people to God, wherever they’re from. The Gospel is equally effective in bringing someone to Christ who is from China, or Saudi Arabia, someone who has never heard of Jesus, never read the Bible, or someone who thinks they’ve heard it all before and knows inside out where they’re not a Christian…because, as I may have already said a couple of times…God’s word does God’s work. All we have to do, as we saw earlier from the passage in 2 Corinthians, if we speak the Gospel, faithfully and relying on God, people will be saved.

And with international students this is such an important opportunity. International students are open to what we’ve got to say to them in ways that most home students just aren’t. They’ve come here to learn about Britain and our culture and our way of life, and they see Christianity as another part of that. I mean, obviously, that’s a wrong view of what Christianity is, but God brings us people in His own ways in His own time. And we must use this time that God has given us for the benefit of these people, and for the glory of His name. Also, this is potentially the only time in the lives of many of these guys where they will come into contact with Christians openly, and where Christians are able to speak to them freely about their beliefs. This is an awesome privilege that we’ve got to share the gospel with people from foreign countries, from different cultures. And its one we must take, and take seriously. So go. And seek out and make friends with international students. Be culturally sensitive, but not so sensitive you end up denying the Gospel. Be their friend, and be honest about what you believe and how much it means. And remember, and trust in the power of the Gospel.

1 comment:

Anna said...

Dude-thankyou. As an international student myself (LOL) I am trying to evangelise to other international students and it can be tough. But these words have encouraged me and i'm sure it did the same to the others who heard the talk in person.