Becoming a contagious Christian – Making the most of every opportunity

“MAKING THE MOST OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY”

 

Matthew 9:9-13

 

INTRODUCTION

 

For many of us who have been Christians for many years –  church, the Bible, religious talk is very familiar. We use vocabulary that often seems strange to outsiders. Terms that we understand and take for granted can be very confusing to people — e.g. grace [something said at meals – not many do so any more – but this is not what is meant in church usually] anointing, the blood of the lamb, redemption, justification, sanctification ……. they are endless. To the unchurched Christians are strange creatures very often!

 

If we are going to be effective witnesses we need to be aware of this and sensitive to it – we are not trying to con people into joining a secret society – we are simply endeavouring to present to people the good news about Jesus Christ – who he is , what he has done and what he offers to all people. Even if we wished to, we cannot make someone a Christian – that is the work of the Holy Spirit.

 

We need to look for and create opportunities where we can demonstrate and communicate the gospel to people in an honest and clear way – with no hidden agenda.

 

Try to put yourself in the position of a person who is unchurched

 

  1. Imagine you are enjoying a quiet evening at home in front of the TV – there is a knock at the door and two people are standing there – they want to discuss with you your religious beliefs – you are a person who is interested in spiritual things – BUT how do you react???

 

Are you delighted to see them? Do you welcome them with in open arms? Are you going to open your heart and talk about your deepest feelings with a perfect stranger??? I very much doubt it!!

 

Now we do hear stories about Christians who meet strangers on trains, planes and buses etc. and who God uses in these encounters to have a dramatic spiritual impact on someone’s life! These are opportunities God brings our way and we need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s prompting and leading.

 

If we have an attitude of looking for opportunities to share a the good news we will find them – as we travel, at the shop, restaurant, supermarket checkout, garage …….. — as we encounter people on a day to day basis and are aware of them as people and not simply someone to serve our needs I believe we will be able to be more effective witnesses.

 

It is in these situations that the use of tracts is most effective – you can’t have an in depth conversation at a supermarket checkout but you can give an appropriate tract if the opportunity presents itself.

 

However, generally speaking, we confide in and talk about deep personal matters with friends we trust.  This is generally true of all people – while it is true that there are unplanned encounters with people that can be spiritually significant they are the exception — that is usually why we hear about them — they are out of the ordinary! The danger is that we often tend to make the exception the norm!!

 

It is human nature to want to find a shortcut – to do it the easy way!!

Another mistake we make is thinking that we must simply wait for God to bring people into our lives who need the Gospel! BUT that is not how I read my Bible!

 

Jesus didn’t tell us to relax in holy huddles waiting for unbelievers to come to us –  When he was on earth training his disciples he sent them out!! Before he left the earth he gave strict instruction that his followers were to gointo all the world.

 

The onus is on us to TAKE and MAKE opportunities!

 

1. CREATING OPPORTUNITIES.

 

We can make the mistake of looking at the NT through rose-coloured spectacles!

Jesus did not spend most of his time with the religious people of his day – he spent most of it with sinners!

If we are going to be in the business of building friendships of integrity with unchurched people it will take time, effort, and probably a certain amount of discomfort.

 

In most cases we need to win the right to be heard and when we try the shortcut we can be guilty of derailing their spiritual progress – many people have been put off Church, the gospel and ultimately of Jesus Christ because of over-zealous, insensitive, arrogant Christians. I am not saying that there is no room for challenging people but we need to establish meaningful contact – and as we saw last week – it will cost!!

 

HOW to establish contact!!

Invite them round to tea/ meal/ BBQ/ meet them at the pub/ go to a football game with them, go rambling, .. etc…..

 

Some of you will have lots of friends and colleagues who are not believers and the difficulty will be that you can’t develop these friendships with all – trust God to lead in this!!

BUT some of you may be saying “I don’t have any friends who are not Christians – all my friends are in the Church!” You may need to look for way to make contact – What are your interests? Hobbies? Sports? Join a club  — ramblers, gardening, photography, invite your neighbours over for tea, ……..

 

1 Corinthians 9:22-23 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. (NIV)

 

ILLUS.: Before I became pastor of this church I ran a carpentry business – I met many unchurched people – I worked in their homes – I had many opportunities to develop conversation!

 

When I became a pastor that dried up – because I am a pastor it is very difficult to make these contacts and friendships – people are suspicious of clergy!!

But I have been able to maintain some of my friends who are not Christians, firstly, because I enjoy their company, and secondly because I desire that they come to know Christ!

 

  1. Besides those friends I try when I have the time to make other contacts – e.g. I play golf – sometimes on my own – I hang about the first tee waiting for someone to go round with – I don’t force the gospel on them BUT look for opportunity to witness is some way, trying very hard not to tell them what I do for a living because as soon as I do I can see a wall go up!

 

WARNING! We do need to bear in mind, however, that we are to be holy, in the world but not of it … THEREFORE we need to ensure that we are being salt affecting others and NOT becoming contaminated salt and thus being render useless!

 

HOW? – by keeping in close fellowship with God and with God’s people – gathering with God’s people to worship, fellowship, learn, prayer, and share — we gather for these things – to be strengthened and encouraged and then we scatter into the world to be salt and light!! {“Out of the Saltshaker” by Rebecca Manley Pippert}

BUT if we are going to scatter into the world and invite people into the kingdom of God – THEN we need a strong base – a strong spiritual family where there is love and support and encouragement  – REMEMBER Jesus’ words

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 will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (NIV)

 

When we behave as a family  – and love each other deeply from the heart – then we will attract attention – BUT when we become disgruntled because things aren’t going as we would like, when we take unnecessary offend because we don’t like this or that – – when we have an unforgiving spirit – -when we seek our own selfish agendas rather than the good of the whole Body then we will not bring glory to God and our witness will be ineffective, or non-existent or both.

 

What is your relationship with your brothers and sisters in Christ?? Are you bitter, angry, holding a grudge? IF you are then you are hindering the effectiveness of the Church, you are damaging your own spiritual life and you are making God very unhappy! The World in which we live makes ME No.1  — in the world it is bad enough BUT in the Church it is dishonouring to God. Whatever happened to servanthood ? – to putting the needs of others and the good of the body first?

Philippians 2:3 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. (NIV)

 

If we as a Gathered Church can’t reflect the character of Christ in our love and care for each other how on earth do we expect to reflect that same character of Christ to a watching world??

And we will not get to know and love each other unless we spend time with each other – NOT only with the people we like and get along with and agree with BUT also with those who we differ with!!

 

ILLUS.> Some of you have said to me “I don’t know so-and-so …. Or I never get invited out to tea/meal!”  HAVE you made an effort to get to know people, invite them to tea, made an effort to speak to them after the service ?????

 

Paul tells us …

Galatians 6:10 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (NIV)

if we don’t do it to each other how can we do it to others???

Just as we need to make an effort to love fellow Christians so too non-Christians.

 

 

A LESSON FROM MATTHEW

Matthew 9:9-13

9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”

12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (NIV)

 

Matthew got converted and he invited his friends for dinner AND he invited Jesus!! Why not have a Matthew Party  – invite all your unbelieving friends AND Jesus!!

 

2. USING OPPORTUNITIES

 

We often make a mistake of thinking we must all do evangelism {a word that frightens many}  in the same way. There are many different approaches and style.

A confrontational style  {Peter} might suit one and not another – it might hinder some unbelievers – it puts them off.

An Intellectual approach  {Paul}- discussion and philosophical argument.

A testimonial approach – {the blind man} – simply telling what Jesus means to you / has done for you.

An Interpersonal approach {Matthew} —

An invitational Approach { the Samaritan woman at the well}

A service Approach {Dorcas}

A conversational Approach {Jesus with the woman at the well}

… one might be more like you – maybe you have ability to use different ones at different times.

 

ILLUS.: extract from “Out of the Saltshaker” by Rebecca Pippert. p.127/8.

 

What this illustrates is that we need to be aware of opportunities to witness and BE READY to do so when such situations arise ….

 

1 Peter 3:15 15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, (NIV)

 

While the Christian life is a Spiritual one we can be guilty of over-spiritualising at times! How do we know what to say in certain situation — of course we need to be led by the Spirit BUT the more we prepare an practice the more effective and skilled we will be.

3. “Talking” OPPORTUNITIES.

 

What do we say when there is an opportunity to speak?

Of course there is no ONE right way!

It helps to have done some thinking / preparation in advance!

  • TESTIMONY – think through, maybe even write down, what you would say if someone asks you why you beam a Christian!

 

  • DIRECT QUESTIONS – “Contagious Christian” by Bill Hybels p.180. Often we are too eager to unload on people what we think they need – instead of drawing them out and letting questions arise in them.    Francis Schaeffer use to say they you had to get people lost before they could be found.

All too often we are trying to answer questions people are not asking!!

 

  • SIMPLE GOSPEL EXPLANATION – sometimes we are guilty of trying to be complicated and sophisticated in our explanations of the gospel.

ILLUS.: Like the little boy who asked his mum where the rain came from. She replied, “Ask daddy when he comes home.” “Oh”, said the boy, “I don’t want to know that much.”

 

If someone asks the time don’t tell them how to make a clock!!”

 

ILLUS.: Religion = D-O : Christianity = D-O-N-E.  Go on to explain that true spiritual life is not by doing good deeds but by faith in what Jesus has done on the cross.

 

ILLUS. The Bridge diagram — see OHP’s

 

ILLUS.: Aeroplane example – difference between believing certain facts and placing one’s faith in a person – You can have a PhD. in Aerodynamics BUT knowledge alone won’t take you anywhere. You have to act on what you know, climb aboard the plane trusting it to take you where you want to go!

Knowing certain facts about God is not the same as being a Christian – you must act on what you know!

You have to climb aboard the plane – walk across the bridge!!

 

Above all – maintain your own spiritual life – and pray – pray and pray again!!

 

{Next Sunday Evening – wrap up and discussion – Q’s & A’s }

 

 

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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.

Becoming a contagious Christian – Connecting with our world

CONNECTING WITH OUR WORLD!

 

 

ILLUST.: When I was at Theological College my lecturer in preaching class used a very good illustration. A train leaving the station needs to ensue that the coaches are attached – there is no point steaming away from the platform with great power and speed while leaving the coaches stationary.

What he meant was that you need to connect with people – if they are left standing then you may have said a lot but you havean 1 MB.  This limitation does not occur under Windows 3.1.

Installation

You should use the Word Setup program to install these graphic filters. If you want to add filters after installing Word, start Setup and select the Custom Installation option. Clear all the check boxes except for Text Conversions/Graphics Filters.

If you do not install the filters using the Setup program, you must copy and decompress the filters manually. For more information, see Microsoft Word Getting Started.

In addition, note that each filter must be listed in the Windows WIN.INI file. You can add listings with the Options command on the Tools menu. Select the WIN.INI category, and in the Application box, select MS Graphic Import/Export Filters. When adding filters to this section of the WIN.INI file, use the syntax in the following list for the filter you want to install. If necessary, replace the path “C:\WINDOWS\MSAPPS\GRPHFLT” with the appropriate path to the filter.

[MS Graphic Import Filters]

Windows Metafile(.WMF)=C:\WINDOWS\MSAPPS\GRPHFLT\WMFIMP.FLT,WMF

DrawPerfect(.WPG)=C:\WINDOWS\MSAPPS\GRPHFLT\WPGIMP.FLT,WPG

Micrografx Designer/Draw(.DRW)=C:\WINDOWS\MSAPPS\GRPHFLT\DRWIMP.FLT,DRW

HP Graphic Language(.HGL)=C:\WINDOWS\MSAPPS\GRPHFLT\HPGLIMP.FLT,HGL

Computer Graphics Metafile(.CGM)=C:\WINDOWS\MSAPPS\GRPHFLT\CGMIMP.FLT,CGM

Encapsulated PostScript(.EPS)=C:\WINDOWS\MSAPPS\GRPHFLT\EPSIMP.FLT,EPS

Tagged Image Format(.TIF)=C:\WINDOWS\MSAPPS\GRPHFLT\TIFFIMP.FLT a dilemma because it becomes an exchange of subjective opinion – we end up talking past each other because we have no common ground.

 

ILLUS.: Africa  – talking to an African – discussion how to fend of evil spirits –  Westerner responds – “I don’t believe evil spirits exist” — The gap between the African’s and the Westerner’s worldview is too great to discuss demon counter measures.

 

First there need to be a link up between the engine and the coaches!!

 

What can we learn from the Apostle Paul??

 

1. PAUL CONNECTED WITH PEOPLE WHERE THEY WERE.

 

Acts 17 in Thessalonica .. Berea .. Athens Paul goes into the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks (Proselytes – Gentiles who had converted to Judaism) – He reasons with them from the scriptures [v.2] – this is the OT. He begins where they are and with what they accept.

When he comes to Athens and he wants to engage with the Epicureans and stoics and other philosophers he doesn’t sit in the synagogue and wait for them to come to him he goes to the marketplace and to Mars Hill (Areopagus) – to where the people are.

NOTE that he doesn’t begin with the scriptures – (because he suddenly doesn’t believe in them?? – not for a minute!) – Can you imagine Paul saying “Well the Jewish scriptures say …” ~~ The response would have been “We don’t care what the Jewish scriptures say!!” Paul begins where they are in their thinking and leads on to the good news about Jesus!

Becoming a contagious Christian – Understanding our world

UNDERSTANDING OUR WORLD!

 

Acts 17.

 

ILLUS.: Conversations with various people – office – friends –  family etc

  • co-habiting vs. marriage “What’s wrong – they are happy and they aren’t unhurting anyone!”
  • Gay/lesbian couple adopting a child – Xn> “It is not right! Not what God intented”  Response> “Well you may believe in a God like that but I don’t — you shouldn’t be so narrow minded after all no one can be dogmatic about these things!”
  • You pluck up courage to “witness” — Response > “I am glad for you; if it makes you happy that’s great!”
  • After some discussion – the closing remark is “Well of course it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere

 

We can tut-tut, shake our heads or climb on our soapbox/pulpit and pronounce that these people “need the gospel” [whatever we mean by that]!

We can become very sanctimonious and disassociate ourselves from such people!

 

We can proclaim our message more strongly!

ILLUS.: – foreign students of English – we speak more slowly and shout! “You understand? no?”

Not an effective way to teach English nor to witness!

ILLUS.: or like the preacher who wrote a note to himself  in the margin of his notes “Weak point – Shout!”

 

We live in a society that can be very confusing at times – if not all the time!

Post-Christian; post-modern; pluralism; relativism; syncretism; materialism;  New Age …     the terminoly is confusing enough let alone the content of all these philosophies.

 

Your response to all this may be – “We don’t need to know about all this – we should just be preaching the simple Gospel.”

 

I don’t for one minute doubt the power of the Gospel. Nor do I doubt that on occasions a brief and simple message about Jesus can have a life changing effect on an individual.

Can we just go around quoting the 4 spiritual laws – or dishing out tracts expecting people to fall on their knees in the street … it would be great if that were so and it was so effortless!!

 

Sometime we can be guilty of reading the Bible to superficially – Paul went here preached, people were saved and a church was started– then he went somewhare ealse and the same thing happened.

It must have been great to be a Christian in those days,  it was so easy!!!          NO WAY!!

 

1. LEARNING FROM PAUL’S MODEL.

 

ILLUS.: story of Epimenides – 6thC BC – Athens – during plague in the city – Epimendies a Cretan asked to help – had sheep released on hill side – where they lay (Presumably morning as sheep don’t usually lie down then but eat) altars where built to Agnosto Theo – the unknown god – the plague lifted –

from  “Eternity in their hearts” – Don Richardson

 

Did Paul know this – v.28 he quotes from their own poets

In Titus 1:12 12 Even one of their own prophets has said, “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” (NIV)

According to Encyclopedia Britannica this poet was Epimenides [D Richardson]

 

In v.18 Paul is debating with Stoic and Epicurean philosophers – then he goes to the Areopagus – Mars Hill Philosophical Society – he spends time there talking with these men ………… I don’t think that what we have recorded here by Luke is all that Paul said — this is the bear bones.

 

Paul could not have debated with these men NOR quoted from their poets if he didn’t know something about them and their beliefs! Paul must, at some time , have taken the time to study and read what these philosophies taught!

 

ILLUS: Today when christians go as missionaries to other countries and cultures the study language and culture – WHY? to be able to relate the gospel message effectly.

** Janet & I amongst the Muslims – studies Islam – started learning Arabic – etc. — to be effective communicators of the Gospel –

 

Such we not all then in trying to be Christ’s witnesses in our own culture try to understand as best we can the culture in which we live? Do we not have a responsibility in this area?

We are not all philosophers – we can’t all spend years studying trends in society BUT we should all to a greater or lesser degree try to understand the things that influence the thinking of our society –

For two reasons:- 1) we can’t think that because we are christians we are not deeply influenced by the society we live in 2) it helps us to understand the thinking of the people we are endeavouring to tell about Christ – in a meaningful, sensitive and appropriate way. One of the accusations levelled against Christians is that we are sometimes trying to give answer to q’s that no one is asking.

 

Paul’s model is a good one to follow – when he spoke to the Jews his launch pad was the OT – when to the Greeks it was their philosophies  BUT he goal and ultimate message was the same – Jesus Christ – the son of God, crucified, risen, the saviour of ALL who believe in Him!

 

2. LEARNING ABOUT OUR SOCIETY.

 

What makes 20th C people think the way they do??

 

We talk about living in a Post-Modern society? What is it? How did we get here?

 

[Can’t deal with this in detail and will come back to it in future]

 

EUROPEAN RENAISSANCE – 14/15C

A whole new world of learning during this time in art, philosophy,science and above all humanism. Mankind, not God became the measure of all things and this world not the next became the centre of attention.

No longer was the Christian worldview the only one on offer..

The Reformation in the 16thC began to see the fragmentaion of the church there was a rise in the prominence of the sciences with men like Capernicus and Galileo. It was not all bad by any means as there was a liberation from some of the unbiblical Church dogma… BUT this was a beginning of a move away from God..

 

THE ENLIGHTENMENT {The Age of Reason} 18th C

Hume, Locke and Descartes ..[I think therefore I am]

Beginning with himself and explicitly excluding any need for God or revelation, the Enlightenment systematically built a worldview from reason alone!

This thinking became known as MODERNISM – the idea that man is autonomous.

It pushed God to one side and put human reason in his place — this reason would unveil a natural religion common to all humanity — there would be a universal morality that would seek the highest good for the greatest number of people — human rights would be the universal possession of all people — society would be held together by social contract [ replace the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of humankind].

These Enlightenment thinkers were very optimistic – they believed that essentially everyone is good and that we would keep on progressing and become better and better [Darwin’s theroy of evolution fitted right in with this kind of thinking- thus it became widely accepted]

Religion could not be proved and it caused social division SO it was sidelined and this world became all important ~~~ Expansionist-Capitalism and Communism both grew out of this they seem to be opposing systems [in some respects are] but at the heart of both is “Humans have the power to solve their own problems

 

Christians have never believed that reason and technological advance would solve all our social problems – and now , over the past 20 odd years our society is recognising that they haven’t!

 

MODERNISM rejected Christianity because it was claimed to be unscientific and therefore untrue! Postmodernism rejects Christianity simply because it claims to be true!

 

POSTMODERNISM means we have moved beyond Modernism – BUT what is it? – we find it difficult to define {like trying to sculpture warm jelly} And difficult to understand BUT it effects us all!!

 

CRJ {Christian Reseach Journal} Fall 1996 p.35 –  #1

-1- challenging the truth claims of another is arrogant

-2- personal choice alone makes my spiritual choice valid

 

Key words for Postmodernism — ‘tolerance’ which rejects all moral absolutes AND ~ ‘openness’ which does not have the restraints of reason ~ ‘individual choice’ (ever heard that in the political arena)

 

Never criticise, always be tolerant, WHY? because we can’t know absolute truth when it come to the spiritual and the moral.

You can never say “This belief is right and that belief is wrong” becasue it is all relative. What does relativism mean? It is true for you but not for me! There is no objective/absolute truth – there is no truth outside the human realm ~~ according to Pm we determine what is true!

 

According to Postmodernists a thing is true because I believe it, I do not believe it because it is true” [CRJ p.36]

 

NOT everything in Pm is bad – it has brought back an opennes to ‘the spiritual realm’ – BUT it is a kind of spirituality that is basically anti-christian.

WHY? because Biblical Christianity believes that there is such a thing as absolute/ objective truth – The Jesus is “THE TRUTH” and John’s Gospel says.

 

The Bible insists on historical revelation

1 Corinthians 15:13-15 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. (NIV)

Jesus was a historical figure – our faith is based on historical revelation.

 

The Bible declares statements of truth:-

Romans 10:9 9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (NIV)

 

The Bible teaches that God reveals himself in nature:-

Romans 1:18-20

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (NIV)

 

The Bible presumes that there is such a thing as objective Truth!! Some things are relative but some things are absolute!

This places Christianity in direct opposistion to Pm thinking.

 

3. HOW DO WE RESPOND TO OUR SOCIETY?

 

It is easy to feel intimidated by modern attitudes – we want to be seen as loving and kind and sensitive to people yet we are being accused of being ‘intolerant’ ~ ‘arrogant’ ~ ‘narrowminded’ ~  ‘judgemental’.

 

How do we respond?

 

-1-  Pm thinking (society’s way of thinking) is not on a solid foundation – there are cracks ~~~~~  Told that truth is relative – almost indecent to say something is ‘true’ or ‘false’  — perfectly happy to apply ‘tue’ or ‘false to the world of public facts – e.g. battle of Hastings in 1066 – Major is Prime Minister – Wales beat Scotlanf 34 – 19 at rugby yesterday!! WHY squirm when these are applied to values and ideas??

ILLUS.: a friend tells you “All truth is relative; you must not make absolute claims for it.”  This statement is absolute!! While claiming that ALL truth is relative he is making an absolute statement! YET on the basis of his belief that is impossible!

 

ILLUS.: Story of Swiss worher respobsible for ringing Factory siren at 16h00 – each morning set watch by clock in watchmakers window – until one day watchmaker told him that clock was unreliable and he [the watchmaker] reset the clock everyday by the factory siren at 16h00.

The logical extension of Pmodern thinking leads down a blind alley!!

 

It is what Anne Atkins calls “intellectual sogginess” ~~ Anne Atkins – acticle ‘The Daily Telegraph’ Sat. 28/12/96  READ marked section!!

 

-2- We need to think carefully about how we witness!

We want to recommend the gospel – persuade people it is true – lines of argument use 20-30 years ago are less effective today – NOT because the gospel has changed but society has changed and so our starting point needs to be different,

 

READ CRJ p.38 #1 ——-

 

Starting point must be different — in the past we assumed we all shared the same world view – no longer!!

PRACTICE

VALUES (attitudes)

BELIEFS

WORLDVIEW

 

Can no longer talk about beliefs until we have talked about worldview –

 

ILLUS.: Africa  – to a person – discussion how to fend of evil spirits –  Westerner responds – “I don’t believe evil spirits exist” — The gap between the African and Westerners worldview is too great to discuss demon counter measures.

 

So for us – we can’t begin discussing Truth claims about Jesus until we have established the possibility that TRUTH  exists.

 

-3- A warning and an encouragement.

Can’t think that merely discussing Objective truth is enough in witnessing — NO!

Witnessing is much more than intellectual debate!! {next few weeks messages}

If I have confused you this morning I am sorry – don’t be discouraged – this is one aspect of witnessing — more to come!!

 

Few people are won to Jesus only by intellectual argument – Relationships with people are vital ~~ even more so in our Pm world where communities are falling apart, and families are breaking down!!

 

People need to experience Christian love, to see Christlike lives, to experience the power of God. When this is the witness that is SEEN then people will be willing to listen to the claims of the gospel.

 

 

 

Becoming a contagious Christian – “What’s my part anyway?”

SERIES: Becoming a Contagious Christian.

 

#1 – “What’s my part anyway?”

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Life can be quite complicated sometimes – May very complicated a lot of the time!

It would be nice if life could be neatly packaged and clearly labelled – it might be rather boring that way though!

Sometimes it is difficult to know what to do – what is the right decision. What subjects should I take for GCSE / A-levels / which University / which job / who should I date / who should I marry??

Last week we talked about the will of God – it is not easy – in terms of God’s will for my life I find it gets more difficult to know the specifics rather than getting easier!

 

This is first in a series of messages on being a witness or – “Becoming a Contagious Christian”

 

Can be very confusing?

– firstly, all the jargon that is banned about {OHP} What does it all mean?

– secondly, how does all this fit in with God’s agenda for his creation?

– thirdly, in the present day and age in which we live is it not an

impertinent interference into the lives of people to be telling them they

should believe in Jesus?

 

How do we begin to put all this into perspective and make sense of it?

It is sometimes helpful to step back and look at the big picture!

 

 

1. GOD’S RESCUE PLAN.

 

ILLUS.: this week [25/04/2014] we saw the rescue of Tony Bullimore – Brotish yachtsman who capsized in the Southern Ocean – rescued by the Australian navy.

Things went wrong and he was in deep trouble {Literally}

he had no long term resources to survive {chocolate – water – air = all limited}

No means of rescuing himself.

 

 

If Tony Bullimore’s life was going to be saved he needed outside intervention.

The Australian Navy with great effort and at great cost did save Tony Bullimore and a Frenchman Thierry {?} .

 

This is a very vivid picture of our plight – spiritually.

If you are a Christian – God has, with great effort and at great cost to himself, rescued  you from your pitiful plight – BUT it is not just MY salvation – as important as that is to me and those close to me – I need to see my salvation as part of a much bigger picture – God’s great rescue plan for humankind.

 

 

  • Creation – good perfect
  • Eden – a perfect world – with perfect people – [Adam and Eve] – in perfect freedom.
  • Sin – attempted dethroning of God through disobedience – a damaged world resulted including the people
  • Flood – in time people so far from God that he destroys all except Noah and Co. [8 people is all] and some animals
  • BUT its people with a disobedient streak – they didn’t learn!!
  • Babel – make a name for ourselves – God steps in and comfuses their languages – [he was preventing they from ultimately destroying themselves]
  • Abram – [Gen. 12:1-3]

Genesis 12:1-3

1 The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. 2 “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (NIV)

  • Abraham chosen BUT ALL peoples the target of God’s rescue plan!
  • David and Solomon  — Psalm 67 – salvation to all the earth — Solomon at dedication of temple  …. God of the earth/nations …
  • God’s chosen people – reduces to God’s chosen ONE – CHRIST [Messiah]
  • Christ inaugurates the kingdom of God – Through his incarnation – crucifixion – resurrection and ascension Jesus makes it possible for individuals to be reconciled to God –
  • Damage done in EDEN now repaired – Jesus invites all to come to him – by coming and accepting him as Saviour and Creator  – sin is forgiven and a relationship with God is begun –
  • Those Jesus called and who responded and followed him entered into his kingdom –
  • After he ascended back into heaven the Holy Spirit came and the Church was born  — since then every person who come to God through Christ comes into the Church —  REAL CHURCH [universal church] made up of people who have personal relationship with Jesus [not talking about denominations or local congregation with lists of members]

BUT local congregations are expressions of the Universal Church.

 

2. GOD’S RESCUE PLAN HAS A WORLD-WIDE FOCUS.

 

From the beginning God’s target has always been all peoples – not just the Jews {Yes they were chosen – but remember it was for a purpose}

 

Genesis 12:1-3

1 The LORD had said to Abram, ……       2 “I will make you into a great nation

and I will bless you; …… and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (NIV)

 

Isaiah 42:6-7

6 “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand.

I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people

and a light for the Gentiles, 7 to open eyes that are blind,

to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

 

Isaiah 49:6

6 he says:

“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant

to restore …. Israel ….

I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,

that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” (NIV)

 

God chose the Jews to be his witnesses – representative – to the world – to tell the world about their great Jehovah God.

 

When we come to the NT – What do we see?

We see Jesus choosing / calling people to be part of his kingdom – [these become the first members of the church – Acts 2]

What does Jesus tell them??

 

Mark 16:15-16

15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (NIV)

 

Luke 24:47-48 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. (NIV)

 

John 20:21

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (NIV)

 

 

Acts 1:8 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (NIV)

 

OHP

Matthew 28:19-20 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)

 

It doesn’t matter which way you look at it – it is abundantly clear that it is the Church’s responsiblity to tell the world about Jesus.

 

3. GOD’S CHURCH & GOD’S WORLD ARE MADE UP OF

 

God rescues/saves individuals  – these are brought into the Church {Universal} — these individuals gather together in local congregations – which are part of greater Church [OHP]

 

We gather together for fellowship and worship and prayer and teaching and to a degree our gathering together can be a witness BUT then we SCATTER into the community [world] to be witnesses.

 

Hear the Church talked about as a nebulous organisation.

“The Church does this or that –or the Church should do such and such!”

Even here at Binscombe “Why doesn’t the Church …?”

We are the Church! Those who know Jesus personally!

If you are a Christian then it is because God rescued you – WHY? because he is interested in you as an individual! People are important to God!

 

Are people important to you and me?

  • IF we believe that salvation is attainable only in this life and that if a person dies without knowing Christ they go to HELL –WHAT  are we doing to share it??
  • Do we enjoy God’s forgiveness YET keep it to ourselves?
  • NT tells us we are Christ’s ambassadors [representatives] YET we fail to go.
  • We declare that the Bible is God’s inspired word YET we disobey it.

 

We agree that salvation is only through Jesus and that he calls us to be his agents to communicate and demonstrate this to others – he doesn’t just want us to agree that this is true  – What he wants is not just agreement but commitment ….

 

You see ….. He doesn’t ask to just put in a word for him now and again!

In Acts 1 Jesus said the following … 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”…

 

Notice that Jesus doesn’t say “I want you to put in a word for me from time to time!”

 

ILLUS.: Image standing on the foot bridge at Farncombe station – hear the train coming – look down to see it pass – as you look over you see a man push a lady in front of the Express and he runs off – you see it happen and you get a clear view of the murderer! YOU ARE A WITNESS!!

 

You may choose not to tell anyone BUT you are a witness!

 

If you are a Christian – you are a witness – the question is what kind of a witness are you??   God’s heart/ his passion is for people –

John 3:16   “.. God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (NIV)

 

4. HOW TO GO ABOUT THIS TASK.

 

The big question now is how?

  • Do we hire Blly Graham to set up a tent on Longbourne Green?
  • Do we put adverts in the local press?
  • Do we link up via satelite to world famous Evangelists?
  • Do we print Bible verses on leaflets and push them through all the letterboxes in the area?
  • Do we provide community facilities to get people into the Church building?
  • Do we organise community fun-days?

 

ILLUS.: The Gospel Blimp – man wanted to tell he neighbour about Jesus. Organised a big Rally – printed leaflets – hired a Blimp to drop them all over town.

His neighbour didn’t come – while picking up the leaflets in his garden – chatted to his neighbour over the fence doing the same – CONTACT!!

 

In the end it comes down to person to person conversation.

BUT even then How?

The world we live in has changed radically in the past generation – people’s outlook in life is very different to what it was 30-40 years ago.

Young people are growing up in a different world – NOT just drugs and sex – that was there in the 1960’s and before … It is a different worldview! In many cases people don’t even have a worldview! Or if they do they are often not sure what it is! [a Worldview is not necessarily what you believe but rather what you base your beliefs upon!]

 

How do we understand our society?

How do we reach a world like this? Clearly the methods of the 1950’s will not work today – The message has not changed – Jesus is the same as yesterday and his gospel is the same – BUT how we communicate it may need to be different!!

 

It is quite clear that every Christian has apart to play in God’s plan –

It is easy to talk in generalities – {AD last Sunday} – be more committed!! How? Specifically what? ……

 

You may be thinking “I can see God’s plan and that I have a role as a Christian BUT WHAT?  Gray you haven’t told me how?” YES I know — come back next week!!

Hope over next few weeks we will begin to understand more clearly our role –

That God will challenge us to act in specific ways!

 

 

What is absolutely clear is that God uses His People to communicate to those who have not yet believed in Jesus.

 

Peter in writing  a circular letter to a number of Church tells them this

 

1 Peter 2:9

9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (NIV)

 

In the Message

You are the one chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, ti tell other of the night-and-day difference he made for you – from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.”