Faithlife Sermons

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! Introduction
            We are now 2 weeks into the power to change campaign.
What has happened?
How has God been at work?
As of Thursday, there were over 500 calls to the call center, and 12 people have prayed to receive Christ.
What has happened to individuals is, of course, something we don’t know.
In one of the first few calls that came in a 20 year old girl was answering the phone for the first time.
She talked to a man who only had short answers to her questions, but when she asked if he was interested in spiritual things his response was “sure.”
After sharing the gospel with him, she asked if he would like to pray to receive Christ, to her surprise he responded that he would like to accept Christ and she prayed with him.
She wept with joy to know that God had used her to lead someone to Himself.
Several weeks ago, we examined the great privilege it is for us to be able to share good news with others.
We noted that it is the realization of Christ’s great love for us that moves us to tell others of his love, we noted that the message we have is a message of the power of God to change lives and we also were reminded that we have a commission from God himself to do this work.
Power to Change is one strategy in what ought to be a lifestyle of helping others get to know Jesus.
I do not think it would be overstating the case to say that helping others get to know Jesus is our reason for living.
What kind of opportunities have you had to make his name known this week?
Have any of you spoken to others about the Power to Change campaign?
Have any of you had a chance to hand out any of the Power to Change literature?
Last week, someone mentioned that they had every intention of getting involved and were trained and prepared to use the opportunity that power to change was giving them.
But as they began to get involved, they suddenly had difficulty.
They admitted that it wasn’t as easy as the resolve made in a worship service or a training session.
This morning, I want to share with you a few more things which I hope will help you to get involved and to actually live a life of faith sharing.
!
I. Intimidation Factor
            In the book, “Reinventing Evangelism” Don Posterski tells about a time when Christians in Calgary had organized a Christian festival.
They rented the old corral which is next door to the Saddledome.
As the event drew near, they realized that they would be competing with hockey.
It seems the Calgary Flames had made it to the Stanley Cup finals.
It was a jarring contrast for them as a capacity crowd of 17,000 people filled the Saddledome, while next door, at the Christian festival, 2500 people looked lost in the 7000 seat arena.
He writes, “I had a strong sense that God was not winning in this world.”
When Moses sent Joshua, Caleb and the other 10 spies to look at the promised land, they came back and reported about how wonderful the land was.
They told about the amazing produce in the land and that it was definitely a place that would be a great place to live.
But, 10 of the spies, also told about the great difficulty of taking the land.
They told about the giants who lived there.
In Numbers 13:33 we read their report, “We saw the Nephilim there … We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”
They were intimidated by the enemy and by the situation that seemed so much out of proportion to their ability to meet it.
When Peter was standing around the fire warming himself at the time of Jesus’ arrest, a servant girl asked him if he had been with Jesus.
The fearful events of the moment so overwhelmed him that he denied knowing Jesus.
He too was intimidated by the events that were taking place around him.
We can identify with the spies of Israel and with Peter.
As we go out to tell others about Jesus, we too feel like grasshoppers and are afraid to identify with Jesus.
We recognize that God is not winning in this world and we are not sure we want to be identified with what looks like a losing cause.
Posterski writes, “The social pressures and values of our modern times trigger spiritual intimidation, and many of God’s good people become casualties.”
It is easy to be intimidated because we hold the minority opinion.
When we come with a message which says that people need God and tell that message to a world that is largely self sufficient, we wonder, who is listening anyway.
Posterski says, “Being open about needing God to help cope with the pressures of life is in poor taste.
Our culture programs us for self-reliance.”
We look around and see people who have everything they need, they are healthy and seem completely whole and seem to have no need of God, how do we communicate God’s solution to that kind of a culture?
In the book, The Closing Of The American Mind, Allan Bloom writes “There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative.”
“There are no absolutes, freedom is absolute.”
“How do we communicate that God’s good news is more than a lifestyle option?
How do we communicate that God’s revelation of his son is ultimate truth…?”
We are intimidated by the majority culture.
We are also intimidated by unfamiliarity.
You know how sometimes when you meet new people, you are shy and find it hard to be open with them?
Then, when you come to know them, you are quite free.
Some of our intimidation comes because we are unfamiliar with unbelievers and don’t know how they think and so find it hard to share with them.
We may also be intimidated by not knowing what to say.
We understand our own salvation to a degree, but do not have answers to all the potential questions that might come up and so we are afraid to speak, in case we say the wrong things or someone may ask us questions which we can’t answer..
On top of that and in the midst of all of that is the reality that we are in a spiritual battle with an enemy who is determined to destroy the witness about Christ in any way that he can.
No wonder we are intimidated!
And yet the same Peter who denied knowing Jesus, just a few  weeks later boldly proclaimed Jesus in the face of opposition and arrest.
What can we do about it?
When Joshua and Caleb listened to the fear filled report of the other 10 spies, they responded, in Numbers 14:8,9, “If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us.
Only do not rebel against the LORD.
And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up.
Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us.
Do not be afraid of them.”
The way to face intimidation is to remind ourselves, as Joshua and Caleb remind us, that “the Lord is with us.”
Acts 1:8 assures us of this power, “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.”
One writer said, “The people God can use are not those who claim to be strong and invincible.”
He uses those who know that they need Him.
As we take courage and rely on the God who has all power, let me share with you several more things which I hope will help you share your faith.
!
II.
The Right Time
            Although I am not a mechanic, I have learned a few things about cars.
I once worked on rebuilding a Volkswagen engine and one of the things that had to be done after it was all together was to make sure that the timing was right.
If the fuel mixture does not arrive at just the right time for the spark to ignite it and then to exhaust it, the engine does not run right.
In order for an engine to run smoothly, the timing has to be just right.
Right timing is also an important factor in helping people come to know Jesus.
If we ask a person who does not know anything about God or understand anything about what who Jesus is or what he did if they want Jesus in their heart, they will not be in a position to accept Him.
A few years ago, I found a chart which has helped me a lot in understanding two important things about timing.
One is that we need to understand where a person is at in their spiritual pilgrimage and we need to do activities and say things that are appropriate to that stage of their journey.
The second is that understanding their pilgrimage is important so that we know when is the right time to invite them to accept Christ.
As we think about timing, however, we need to recognize that timing does not override the work of the Holy Spirit.
When the Holy Spirit prompts us to get going, we need to obey the voice of the Spirit.
However, as a general rule, it is very helpful to be aware of timing.
Let me share this chart with you.
As you can see, there are three stages of readiness for the gospel.
The first stage is cultivation.
At this stage, people do not even know that there is good news from God.
They need to become aware of the gospel first of all and aware that the gospel makes a difference in a person’s life and that the Bible has relevance for life.
At this stage, the strategy for gospel proclamation is presence.
There needs to be a focus on caring and on being Christ to them.
The strategy of building bridges of friendship is very important at this stage.
What we need to understand is that this act of making friends and moving people from one part of this stage to another by simple acts of kindness and by living with integrity, joy, freedom and peace are as much the work of evangelism as the final stage of helping them accept Christ.
And so, I want to encourage you to be involved deliberately in this stage of evangelism for the unbelievers in your life.
The second stage is the sowing stage.
At this stage, people have already gotten to the place where they are aware of the gospel messenger and realize that it is God who has made a difference in their life.
The second stage is the stage at which it becomes important to find ways of helping people understand the basics of the gospel and the implications of the gospel.
At this stage, it is time to speak, but the speaking that must take place is not an invitation to receive Christ.
The speaking is the speaking of dialogue in which we share our faith story with them and in which we tell them the truth of the gospel and how it has impacted our life.
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