Just a few reflections on ‘Reaching Wider,’ the topic of our spilling over sermon last
Sunday. First of all, Mark Brown did a fantastic job of uncovering the Scripture where Paul declares that we are called to be Christ’s ambassadors. (2 Corinthians 5:16 -21) I loved Mark’s creativity, his sincerity, and his obvious preparation as his thoughts flowed in a logical and compelling manner. But what I loved most is that he spoke on evangelism in a way that placed tremendous value on the lost person. Of course this is what Jesus did. He used the word ‘lost’ in an endearing way – a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son – all of them worth whatever cost and effort to seek and to find. Jesus said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10, NIV) Mark also placed the emphasis on God’s work not my work – and that is the key that just recently opened the door to this calling on my life. If I had to measure my effectiveness as Christ’s ambassador in my 31 years as a Christ follower, I would rate myself very low. Having grown up in the church my whole life you’d think I’d get it, but I wasn’t really trained to think this way. The emphasis from my parents at home and my leaders and teachers at church seemed to be more on being holy, set apart, dfferent. Keeping myself unstained by the world. All of these things are biblical, but somehow the Great Commission stayed in the background. I heard about it often, but the focus was heavily on foreign missions and going away to do evangelism rather than doing it right where God had placed me. I heard a preacher once that stated that churches who focused all their evangelism efforts oversees and weren’t doing anything in their own communities were ‘damn cowards.’ It was a strong statement that woke me up. I was convicted of my own sin when it comes to shying away from speaking God’s message. Fear. But underlying that fear is perhaps an even more foundational problem – the lack of a sincere love for the lost. My selfish nature takes the blessing of salvation, life in Christ and his family, and keeps it to myself. The Christian life is about my comfort.
I’ve bought into that lie – it’s very American, and it pervades our church and my life. If I really loved the lost, I would do whatever it takes to bring Christ to them and them to Christ. Love requires sacrifice – it will require great discomfort. Certainly it requires us to face our fears and trust God. And so about 2 years ago I discovered the path toward effectively being Christ’s ambassador. I began to pray not just for people who were lost, but more so for myself. “Lord, give me a love for the lost. Break my heart in the same way that yours is broken when people are separated from you.” I’ve got a long way to go, but I can see God answering that prayer, softening my heart and even breaking it for those who are lost. A goal and prayer for 2007 is that I would have the privilege of leading one person to the Lord. I’ve never been one-on-one with a friend the moment that they have given their life over to Christ – ‘prayed the prayer’ so to speak. Perhaps I’ve been influential in the process that Christ has used to draw someone to himself. I’m okay with that position because it clearly brings the glory to God and his work, not my clever ability to persuade someone to believe. But I want to speak clearly as Christ’s ambassador. I don’t want to make excuses for my fear of speaking the message of Christ. When the opportunity comes and I get the opportunity to join in on God’s work, I want to be counted faithful to carry the message of the cross and encourage someone to give their life to Christ. In this way, I was very encouraged with Mark’s first point of his sermon – God is always at work, reconciling the world to himself. My job is to join him. The work is his work, not mine. The pressure is off. Thus I discover that God is spilling over through me as I fulfill my role as Christ’s ambassador. It is the work of the Holy Spirit and it is the first fruit of the Spirit that begins the process.
“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 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.” (2Cor. 5:14-15, NIV)
I can’t wait to learn how to ‘speak clearly’ next week. Until next week . . .