Contagious Christianity

Becoming a contagious Christian – Being a “real” witness

BEING A “REAL” WITNESS

 

Matthew 5:13-16; 9:35-38; 1 Peter 3:8-17.

 

INTRODUCTION

 

In the first three sermons on “What It Means To Be A Contagious Christian” we have looked at God’s mandate – the biblical injunction that we are witnesses and that we as Christians do have a responsibility to be part of God’s work in the world of spreading the good news about Jesus and the salvation that is on offer.

 

We have talked about the kind of society we live in and how we can best understand this society of which we are a part and connect with it – in order to communicate the gospel which we believe is God’s ultimate answer to the world’s problems.

 

When it comes to “Being A Witness” or to “Evangelism” [lit. telling the good news] I believe that there are a number of misconceptions that hinder our effectiveness and often cause us to feel “It is not MY task” or to create in us a false sense of guilt.

 

1. SOME COMMON DIFFICULTIES.

 

Preoccupation with methods

We hear about what has happened to other people and in other places {Churches} – that God has blessed a particular effort and people have become Christians. We can then make the mistake of thinking that if we employ the same method in our church we will have the same results –

~ a particular style of worship service

~ door-to-door ministry

~ visiting evangelists

~ street preaching

~ Evangelism Explosion Courses …………… etc.

 

We can often focus on the results and the methods but fail to look at many other factors. e.g. the ground work, prayer, social conditions etc …. BUT also a theological point is that God is not a ‘puppet on a string’ and that if we pull the right strings God will perform — of course, we know that is not true yet by our actions we can be guilty of this.

 

This does not mean that we can’t learn from others – BUT we can’t copy-cat!

 

Faulty theology

If we can just get the “Gospel” to people any old how then the gospel will do its work. To back this up we piously quote

Isaiah 55:11      11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty,[void] but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (NIV)

 

Now, I don’t doubt that God’s word is powerful and that God will accomplish what he sets out to do. BUT if we think we can dish out little verses of scripture and trite tracts and that in so doing we are fulfilling the Great commission then we had better think again.

The 4 spiritual laws may be perfectly true but I question the effectiveness when stuffed through a letterbox or handed to every shopper in the High Street on a Saturday morning.

 

Some of you are going to say “Well I know of someone you became a Christian through such a tract.” I don’t deny that – BUT I question it, not because it is wrong BUT because it is often used as a cop out from personal involvement in the lives of people…..

ALSO simply because someone comes to Christ through a particular method it doesn’t therefore follow that the method is a good use of the gifts and resources God has given us NOR that God necessarily approves the method – often God works in spite of us!

 

Bad Personal Experiences.

This is an areas in which many / most of us have difficulty. We have tried to reach friends/ colleagues/ family by witnessing. Often we have associated being a witness with a “verbal gospel presentation” – we have done this because we feel guilty because we haven’t “borne any fruit” by which we mean “souls saved” [as if people were disembodied spirits.

When we have tried this we have faced opposition, antagonism, ridicule, indifference, rejection, embarrassment ……. As a consequence we feel a sense of failure which adds to the guilt we already feel for not being successful.  Sound familiar to anyone!!!

 

The reasons for these experiences can be many and varied and I don’t want to offer simplistic answers to complex situations.

Of course, we must expect adverse reaction to the gospel – Jesus did promise that we would have it

However the Devil is only too pleased if we become discouraged and give up trying –

 

 

2. THERE ARE COSTS AND REWARDS.

 

There are costs in being a witness / disciples – Jesus never promised otherwise and if we offer a comfortable easy Christianity then we are not offering a Biblical one.

HOWEVER, in business, when we embark on a project we count the costs and the rewards – and when it comes to the gospel there are costs but there are great rewards – there are eternal rewards BUT there are also some now!

Seeing someone come to faith through your efforts is very rewarding — it is exciting being used by God in this way — it will do wonders for your spiritual growth / confidence / and enthusiasm.

Seeing broken relationship start to be put back together, damaged lives being mended — some of you have see God do this in your own lives  — when we see God do it for others it strengthens our own faith  ….. But I can’t pretend to you that there isn’t a price tag!!

 

3. What does it take to be a Contagious Christian?

 

Do you have the “disease”?

In medical terms you can’t be contagious if you are not infected with the disease.

If I am going to pass on to others the gospel then it presupposes that I have it!!

 

There is another very important aspect to being contagious – again in medical terms if doctors want to prevent the spread of a contagious disease they put the person in isolation.  The point is obvious, if we are to be contagious Christians, firstly we need to have the disease and secondly, we need to be in contact with people.

This is clear from NT teaching – no more so than in

Matthew 5:13-16

13 “You are the salt of the earth….

14 “You are the light of the world……., let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (NIV)

 

3.1.Authenticity

Christians can often have a very poor reputation in the world.

Some of the Criticisms –

– Christians are so uptight and narrow

– they are isolated – they keep to themselves – they live in their own world.

– “They are so self-righteous – I always feel as if I am being condemned”

– “They are so simplistic – quoting trite Bible verses for very complex                          problems”

– “They are a bunch of hypocrites”

Often the criticism is unjustified BUT sadly it is also often true.

This is a very important area [authenticity] because often the view people have of Christians will have a profound affect on how they view God.

 

A human problem, that effects Christians as much as anyone, is trying to create impressions that aren’t true/ authentic. We try to impress!

 

ILLUS.: A newly promoted colonel was moved into a makeshift office during the Gulf war – he was just getting organised when he saw a private coming towards him carrying a tool box — wanting to seem important he spun around and picked up his phone ….

“Yes, Gen. Schwarzkopf, yes, yes, of course. I think that is an excellent plan .. you’ve got my support on it. Let’s touch base again soon, Norm” he hung up briskly ..

To the Private “What can I do for you?”

“Aah, I’ve just come to hook up your phone came.”  came the sheepish reply.

 

It is always a temptation for us to pretend to be something we are not –

 

BE REAL.

 

BUT what gets through to people is not pretension – but being real. Not hiding behind a mask but letting people see that we too, struggle with things, that we have bad days, that we get hurt, sad, irritable, ….

 

God has made you what you are – you are not perfect, and no one expects you to be – you have gifts and personality and God can use you in a unique way to reach out to people that maybe no one else can reach out to.

If we wait until we have got it all together before we witness we will never do it.

 

BE HONEST ABOUT YOUR FAILURES AND STRUGGLES.

 

Often we are afraid to tell each others, and esp. our non-believing friends, about our struggles and failures because we think they will despise us and reject us BUT usually it is exactly the opposite {I am not talking about hanging out your dirty washing}

 

ILLUS. When we first came to England in 1990 we stay in a house with a young guy, Andy – it was a big house and we shared part of it – at the time his girlfriend was living with him – it was an extremely difficult period for us – over the months we were there we shared together – mainly our struggles – we couldn’t hid them – His girlfriends moved back to Australia – we eventually moved out – some time later he came to the Lord through others friends – and we went to his baptismal service. He felt our witness had been a key factor in his spiritual life – it was at one of the lowest spiritual times in our lives!!!

 

We think that if we have all the right answers and project a super-saint image that we will draw people to Jesus – but it is very often in our weakness and failure and struggle that God is doing his greatest work ….

 

ILLUS. from “Contagious Christian” by Bill Hybels p.79 – 80

 

What made this new believers life so contagious – His polish gospel presentation?? — his well rehearsed testimony?? NO! just an honest admission of wrong and a willingness to make it right!!

In a world where no one willingly admits wrong – where people try to cover their tracks and employ smart solicitors to get them off the hook – a humble admission of failure is very powerful!

People watching us – and they do – are not fooled by masks, they are too streetwise for that – they want to see humility, honesty  –  i.e. be real!!

 

3.2. Compassion.

 

Jesus’ ministry was characterised by compassion –

We read on numerous occasions that he ‘was moved with compassion’ – {Mt.9:35f – which was read to us}

 

Compassion is the key ingredient of the Christian faith – The parable of the Good Samaritan is a classic illustration – costly, selfless compassion.

 

James 1:27 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (NIV)

 

Deuteronomy 15:11 11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be open-handed towards your brothers and towards the poor and needy in your land. (NIV)

 

It is to be seen in our actions towards unbelievers and towards our fellow Christians

 

John 13:34-35

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men [people] will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (NIV)

 

Nothing opens people’s hearts to the gospel more than genuine compassion given with no-strings attached — Uncluttered, ‘no-hidden-agenda’ compassion.

 

NO COMPASSION TO GIVE.

BUT it is not easy – maybe you are a person who hasn’t experience much compassion – you have been hurt deeply [maybe as a child or in a broken relationship or your work situation is unbelievably stressful]  Contempt breeds contempt. Hatred breeds hatred. Abuse results in non-stop nightmares …. If this describes you it might help talking to a wise Christian friend or counselor who can pray with you help you through – I can’t offer you a ‘quick-fix’ but I can say God care for you very deeply and he can help you to change – it might not be easy BUT it is possible. Maybe there are some positive steps you can take to ease your situation.

 

TOO BUSY FOR COMPASSION

The average person works about 6 hours per week longer than 10-20 years ago.

Are you running on crisis mode – do you just not have time for people.

Maybe you are locked into a situation  BUT just maybe their are some practical steps you can take. Maybe it will mean radical change –

 

HAVE YOU RUN OUT OF COMPASSION?

Maybe you have overdosed on giving compassion!!

Give and give and then suddenly resentment begins to creep in – you are caring for everyone else but who is caring for you – you feel empty, angry, confused – you give and give and give and no-one gives back!!

We need to be compassion BUT there needs to be time for yourself – to lie back – put your feet up, laugh, enjoy life, and through God’s goodness let your compassion reserves be refilled.

 

HAVE WE LOST SIGHT OF THE COMPASSION WE HAVE RECEIVED?

Remember the parable Jesus told about the man forgive a huge debt by his Master and then went out and demanded a few pennies from a fellow servant!!

 

He forgot to pass on the compassion – His master was very angry!!

Christian let us not forget our salvation, our forgiveness, our new life in Christ — the answers to prayer, the miraculous provision for something in our lives!!

We are the recipient of amazing grace!! Let us not become so accustomed to grace that we take God’s kindness for granted. AND fail to pass it on!!

 

3.3 Sacrifice.

It is difficult to conceive of compassion without cost!

Sacrifice in little things and big things – in time – effort and resources!

Today caring for No.1 is high on the agenda so when we take time out for people it has an impact!

# Maybe time in the pub with a friend rather than watch your favourite TV program –

# helping a friends practically when you would rather be pursuing your own hobbies –

# the ways of helping – sharing – caring are endless and doing so in a kind compassionate way with no strings attached – being a friend for friendship sake; helping because someone has need  – always ready to give a reason for why you are a Christian and believe what you do ~~ always praying that your friend will become a Christian ~~ letting them know that that is your deep desire BUT also letting them know that if they don’t believe you will still be a friend!!

 

ILLUS. In RSA – fitted Jalal’s kitchen – a devout Muslim – when the Imam came to visit and objected to my Christian Missionary presence – he threw the Imam out his house.

 

ILLUS. My sister-in-laws Mother died recently  in Canada – Visiting from RSA Leigh and Irene – Leigh borrowed Irene’s dad’s car to go visit family – while their car trouble – a Christian friend repaired it – towed it 11 miles, spent 3-4 hours working on it, replaced some parts  and then refused to accept payment from Irene’s father who had spent his life in the motor-trade and knew the costs [approx C$ 500-600]. The impact this had on a man who has been antagonistic to the gospel was profound!!

 

ILLUS.: READ Contagious Christian p.113-114.

 

Someone said to me some time ago that what we need is to employ an evangelist – I am sure that would be helpful – BUT more effective than ONE evangelist will  be 80 – 100 of us living as Contagious Christians.

 

3.4. Endurance.

There are many people who are very cynical and suspicious about Christianity –

They are hard nuts to crack spiritually speaking – if Christians are going to have an impact it will take consistent, godly living. NOT perfection BUT just AUTHENTIC, COMPASSIONATE, SACRIFICIAL living day-in and day-out, week-in and week-out, year-in and year-out!

God isn’t asking you to be Billy Graham – he is asking you to be you – me to be me –

It is easy to opt for a cosy, comfortable, effortless Christianity BUT then you will miss out on the adventure, the excitement, the fulfilment and the rewards of contagious Christianity.

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