13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
14 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? 15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”
16 But not everyone welcomes the Good News, for Isaiah the prophet said, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.
Dear Friends in Christ,
Sometime ago I read this book. It’s one of the best and definitely one of the most challenging books I’ve ever read. It’s entitled “One Thing You Can’t Do in Heaven.” As I thought about that title before I read the book, I thought of a number of things that we won’t be able to do in heaven. For example, in heaven we won’t be able to sin anymore. And won’t that be great! Our wills will become perfectly aligned with God’s will and never again will we have a sinful or hateful or lustful thought. Never again will we carry out an act of disobedience or rebellion. Never again will we lie, curse, cheat, covet, or steal. We will be perfect just as God is perfect.
Another thing we won’t be able to do in heaven – and you’re going to love this one – is we won’t be able to get sick or experience pain or die because all of those things are consequences of sin. And since there will be no sin in heaven, there will be none of its consequences there that we so often struggle with here on this earth.
But today I want to talk to you about something else that we won’t be able to do in heaven and that this book is all about. And that is in heaven we won’t be able to witness to an unbeliever because everyone there will be a believer. Since that is true, don’t you think that one of our highest priorities in life should be to reach as many people as possible with the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ?
But in order to do that, we need to develop a genuine passion for the lost, the kind of passion that the great British preacher Charles Spurgeon had. He carried out his dynamic and far-reaching ministry in the mid to late 1800’s. In the book I alluded to earlier, every chapter begins with a quote from Spurgeon. And while I appreciated every one of those quotes, I especially liked the one on p. 93 where this fiery preacher of old proclaims: “If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned or unprayed for.”
That’s powerful stuff, isn’t it? You see, Spurgeon saw witnessing as more than just a Christian duty or obligation. He saw it as a privilege. And I believe if we developed that same mind-set, it would make all the difference in the world when it comes to this area of the Christian life that we all know we’re supposed to do, but that – let’s be honest with ourselves – most of us shy away from doing. In fact, this way of thinking can completely revolutionize our entire Christian walk if we allow it to.
For example, do you ever wake up on a Sunday morning, maybe tired from being out late the night before, thinking to yourself, “I guess I’ve got to get up and go to church”? That is such a wrong way of thinking. Instead of looking at going to church as something that you’ve got to do, think of it as something that you get to do. It’s a privilege to gather with fellow believers and worship our great God and Savior. Makes me think of something that one of our now deceased members, Adolph Krug, told me years ago. He said that there were some Sundays that he would wake up and just didn’t feel like going to church, not that he didn’t want to be here, he most certainly did, but it just took such physical effort for him to get ready so that he could be here, sometimes as much as a couple of hours. I remember him saying once: “Pastor it takes an act of Congress just for me to get my socks on.” But on those days, he told me that he would have a little talk with himself and he would say, “Now Adolph, you get up and go because you don’t know how long it will be before you can’t go.” He saw worship not as a task or a duty or an obligation, but rather as a great privilege and opportunity.
Recently I read that in China there are believers who literally walk 6 hours to go to church and then after they spend a lot more than just one hour thoroughly worshiping the Lord, they walk another 6 hours back home. Sadly, many church members today consider it a great sacrifice if they have to drive to church in the rain in their climate-controlled car. So we need to develop the mind-set that those Chinese Christians have, not that we’ve got to go to church, but that we get to go to church.
You can use that same way of thinking with every other area of the Christian life that you might find a bit difficult. For example, it’s not that you’ve got to read the Bible each day, but that you get to read the Bible each day. It’s not that you’ve got to spend time in prayer with the Lord, but that you get to spend time in prayer with him. It’s not that you’ve got to give your offerings to the Lord, but that you get to give your offerings to him and thus participate in the work of his kingdom. And for our purposes today, it’s not that you’ve got to witness to your faith, but that you get to witness to your faith and thus make an eternal difference in the lives of other people.
Now one thing I’ve learned over 35 years of ministry is that whenever the subject of witnessing comes up, Christians have all kinds of excuses as to why they don’t do it. So that’s what I want to spend the rest of my time talking about and answering this morning.
EXCUSE #1: Fear of being rejected. And you know what? That is a distinct possibility. But I love what the author of our book, Mark Cahill, says about that. He writes: “Are you worried more about what people think of you, or about what God thinks of you? Too many times believers worry what others think. However, when we are witnessing to people, what is the worst thing they can do to us? They can kill us and send us to Heaven.” That’s looking at the bright side of things, isn’t it? Of course in all likelihood that’s not going to happen. But still there is that possibility of being rejected or ridiculed or ostracized or labeled as a Christian fanatic. Well, next week I’m going to have more to say about that as I demonstrate to you that every time we share our faith, it is a winning situation. So kind of tuck that thought in the back of your mind.
EXCUSE #2: “I don’t know how to witness.” I understand that excuse all too well because I once found myself in the same boat. In fact, you might find this hard to believe about your pastor, but until I went on vicarage, I was absolutely terrified to talk to anyone about Christ. I think it stemmed from my days in high school where everyone knew I was the preacher’s kid and I felt they felt I should have all the answers to any religious questions that might come up. Well, I knew I didn’t have all the answers. And if the subject of God did come up, I would get sweaty palms and my face would turn red and I’d become very anxious that someone might ask me a question I couldn’t answer.
But then on vicarage, I shadowed my supervising pastor the first month I was there. And he had an uncanny ability to bring the Lord into any conversation. As I observed him in action, I saw how easily and naturally it could be done. So when I started making calls on my own, I decided to give it a try. And granted, it might have felt a little awkward at first. But the more I did it, the more comfortable I became with it. And that’s why next week I’m going to give you some real practical ways to witness that will take the fear and uncertainty out of it for you and make it much more of a natural thing you do.
EXCUSE #3: Fear of losing a friend. This is the primary reason cited by young people as to why they don’t share their faith. But let me ask you this. What kind of friendship do you really have if you know you’re going to heaven when you die because you know Jesus Christ as your Savior, but your friend is going to hell because he or she doesn’t? If you are friends for 10, 20, 30 years or more here but are then separated at death for all eternity, what kind of friend were you really to that other person? There’s a great poem in this book that strikes a chord with what we’re talking about here. It’s appropriately entitled “My Friend.” (on p. 52 of the book)
EXCUSE #4: “They’ve already heard.” This isn’t a good excuse because experts tell us that repetition is very important when it comes to witnessing, that it takes an average of 7.6 times for people to hear the Gospel before they commit their life to Christ. The Apostle Paul alludes to this in I Cor. 3:6 where he says: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” Some of us plant seeds, some water the seeds, and some see the end result or the fruit of those efforts. The key is simply to be faithful and leave the results up to God.
EXCUSE #5: “I guess I’m just lazy.” I know it’s hard to believe, but some people have actually given this excuse on surveys. Now how do you think it makes God feel when we say we’re just lazy while multitudes of people that Jesus died for go to hell every single day? According to one survey I came across, 97% of church members have “no involvement in any sort of evangelism.” Another survey conducted by the conservative magazine Christianity Today found that only 1% of their readership had witnessed to someone “recently.” Does anything strike you as being wrong with that picture? Does that sound like the people we read about in the New Testament who had so much zeal for winning the lost to Christ that they were willing to leave their families, travel great distances, and even die for him?
Let me ask you another question. If God gave you a thousand dollars every time you shared your faith in Jesus Christ, would you do it? Let’s be honest! Many of us would quit our jobs and become full-time evangelists, right? And for that, we should be ashamed, that we would share our Jesus for a measly thousand dollars instead of sharing him because of the priceless treasures of heaven that he makes possible for us and those to whom we witness. Please understand, we can never repay Jesus for what he did for us on the cross, but what a fantastic thank-you we can give him each time we step out of our comfort zone and share our faith in him with those who don’t know him as we do!
EXCUSE #6: Friendship evangelism. Friendship evangelism simply means living in such a Christ-like way that people will see something different in you – how you handle anger, how you respond to troubles or adversity, how you talk, how you act, how you work at your job – that eventually they’ll want to know what makes you the way you are. While I am certainly a big advocate of living that way, I’ve come to realize that it usually takes more than that for people to come into a life-changing relationship with Christ. We can’t just expect that because we live as though we love Jesus, they will infer that they need to do the same. They need to be told about Jesus. Like our text says: “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?”
Well, next week we’ll continue our look at this vital and important privilege that we’ve been talking about today, this one thing that we won’t be able to do in heaven. Until then, keep your eyes open for witnessing opportunities and begin to test the waters. You just might be amazed at how eager people are to talk about spiritual things and to hear about this one named Jesus who can not only give them hope for this life, but especially for the life to come.