MORE ABOUT JESUS PART 10 — PRAY, READ, THEN SHARE
by Pastor Mike Fortune
May 16, 2007
Previously, we’ve compared to prayer to breathing and Bible reading to eating bread. But the third leg of the More About Jesus stool is sharing and I’d like to compare it to exercise. Something essential to maintaining or beginning good spiritual health. But the cool thing about it is witnessing not only improves your spiritual health, but benefits others and God as well. So that’s what we’re going to talk about today.
How many of you have broken a bone? Did you have to have it put in a cast? And when you had the cast removed, what happened to the muscles that had been inactive? I broke one of my fingers in college. I didn’t even know it was broken. I thought it was just jammed. So I kept on playing football. When we were done, I noticed the top of my finger was not only swollen, but also now leaning to the side a little bit. I decided I needed to go to the hospital to see what I should do about that. This was in England. While I was attending Newbold College. So I waited in this British Emergency Room while others who came before and after me went in to see the doctor. They were bleeding. Crying. You name it. The American with the bent finger would be seen last. Well, there was finally no one else to be seen in the Emergency Room, so they told me to come back. They X-rayed my finger and concluded it was broken the top knuckle. They said I had 2 options. I could let them break it again and put a pin in there to straighten it out. Or I could just ice it and hope when the swelling going down it would still be pretty straight. Well, I chose option number 2. And today you can hardly tell it was broken. But in order for it to become useful again, I had to give it special attention. I had to ice it. I had to tape it to the other finger to keep it straight. And I had to keep bending it to get its flexibility back. I’m not sure there are muscles in your fingers. But whatever is in there needed to be exercised in order to regain it’s health.
It’s the same way with Christian witness or sharing. It order to stay healthy, Jesus invited us to pray, read, and share. How do we know? Mark 16:15 (NKJV) says, “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.’” It’s a invitation. It’s a command. But it’s more than that. Mark 8:35 (NKJV) says, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it.” What did he mean by this? If my primary purpose for being a Christian is to get myself to heaven, I probably won’t be there. But if my primary purpose for being a Christian is to share the Good News, then we can both be there. That’s the way it works. Are any of you uncomfortable with that conclusion? I used to be. Because I was scared of not knowing what to say. Or when to say it. Or how to say it. But I’m not anymore. Because witnessing has a whole lot less to do with sharing information the right or wrong way than it does with simply telling others what Jesus has done for you. But how do I do that? Should I tell them what my church believes? Should I keep a pile of tracts to hand out? Is more information all people need to hear?
Psalm 66:16 (NIV) says, “Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me.” Sharing is not primarily about what your church believes, although that may occur. Sharing is not about keeping a pile of tracts to hand out, although they can be helpful at times. Sharing is not about giving people more information, although that may occur. Psalm 66:16 suggests that sharing is simply telling others what God has done for you. Which is why we talked about how to listen to God in prayer and read the Bible for relationship first because if you don’t understand those other things, you more than likely don’t have anything to say about what God has done for you.
Could that be why our church has relied on satellites and well known evangelists to do our sharing for us? Because too many Christians, like all 10 bridesmaids of Matthew 25, fall asleep. They all lack a relationship with Jesus day by day. Consequently, the church has had to resort to bad methods of trying to get the church to work. Such as fear. Through guilt. Or faulty definitions of evangelism. But that’s not how the prophet Daniel did it.
Daniel 4:2 (NIV) says, “It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me.” Rightly understood, sharing is not complicated and burdensome, it’s a pleasure. There’s a great book on my shelf at home called, “I Hate Witnessing.” It’s based on the assumption many Christians mistakenly have that sharing has to be complicated and burdensome. That you have to be professional minister to be able to do it. Which is simply not true on any level. Because rightly understood, it is a pleasure to tell about what Jesus has done for you. It feels good. So, reaching out because of Jesus in our own lives is a real privilege and I am the loser if I don’t get involved in that. God invites us to participate in sharing the Good News about Jesus because He knows that once we know it’s who you know, the best way to grow after that is by sharing that with others! If we sit back and write checks to evangelists so they can do amazing things, we’re the losers! Our spiritual health suffers. And sometimes, spiritually anyway, we die. Like a useless broken finger.
I have discovered that there are many people that have been converted, genuinely converted, and then lost it not long after they became Christians. Why? Because they did not get involved in witness and sharing and outreach. Which is why I think it is so important for everyone, but especially newly baptized members, to get involved in ministry somewhere in the church. The point is, if my Bible is boring, and if my prayer life is blah, even though I have been converted at one point, it is probably because I didn’t get involved in the one thing that God designed to keep us on our knees with a Bible by our bed. Daniel 4:2 says it is a pleasure to tell others what a wonderful friend we have found in Jesus. If you’re doing it for any other reason, even if the things you’re sharing are true, you’re probably doing it for the wrong reason. And people will eventually see right through that. But not if you’re sharing more about Jesus.
Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:11 (NKJV) says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen.” Sharing therefore is primarily telling others who you know, not what you do or what they should do. It has to be an experiential thing. Not a theological thing to be effective. Don’t talk to me about the history of the change of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday unless the change in day has made a difference to you. Don’t talk to me about the immanent return of Jesus if you’re like there’s no tomorrow. You see what I mean?
So if you aren’t spending specific and special time with Jesus, looking to live, reading for relationship and practicing the presence of God though prayer, you’re going to be very frustrated in your sharing and your Christianity is going to be a bore. Because your Manna will be stale. Or rotten. And stinky. But if you rehearse God’s mighty acts in your life at the beginning of each new day and He gives you something new or reminds you of something old, you’ll always have something to share. And it will be easy because it will be about Jesus.
Acts 4:20 (NIV) says it this way. “For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” I love this one. You see, sharing is not premeditative. Rarely, do you plan to go up to someone and say at such a such a time on such a such a day we’re going to have a fascinating experience talking about the Sabbath or the Second Coming. Now, that does happen with some arranged Bible studies. But even then, those don’t always work out the way you thought. I had one recently that was going so well. We had just finished talking about how Jesus is Lord of our lives and our time which is why we worship on Sabbath. And then the next time we talked about how Jesus is Lord of our lives and our temples, our bodies, and that Jesus has a plan for your body in life and in death. He liked the life part, but not the death part. And the entire arranged study ended.
So I’m convinced the most effective witnessing is not premeditative or already set up. It’s natural. The only thing premeditative thing about it is this line: Jesus is Lord of my life and my BLANK. If you just remember that line, whatever anyone asks you, and you say that filling in the blank with whatever they’re asking you about, it will allow you and them time to think about it and, like the Samaritan villagers, they’ll ask you more questions. Which is when you can honestly say, “I have no idea. Or, “I’m not entirely sure. So let’s look into it together.”
You don’t have to know it all. I’m the pastor and I don’t. If I did, I wouldn’t need God! I used to hate sharing because I thought I needed to know it all. That if I couldn’t answer every possible question and scenario someone might bring up, that I wouldn’t do any good. So I’d carry around those evangelist’s books with all the answers to the most commonly asked questions and try to memorize them so I’d have all the answers when I needed them. But now I don’t. Because people don’t mind if you don’t know it all. The sincere ones enjoy time spent looking into God’s Word—especially with someone else. Sometimes, I do know the answer to the question they’re asking, at least a part of it, and I will still say, “I’m not entirely sure. Let’s look into it together.” Because when we do so, together we’re learning to share what God reveals to them. And what they personally experience and understand, they’ll more readily share. Which is the point Acts 4:20 is stressing.
Long story short: If I have a life worth living, focused on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, if I’m looking to live and by beholding I’m becoming changed, those changes must be a God thing. And if they’re a God thing, they must be a good thing. So our job is to connect the God things with the good things so people see the experiential correlation between the two.
Jackie meets with all the moms in the neighborhood once a month. They know she’s a SDA Christian. She was telling me at one of their meetings, just last week, one of the newer moms in the neighborhood asked Jackie why she was a SDA Christian. And before Jackie could respond, one of the other moms in the group said, “She’s an Adventist because she honors the Sabbath like Jesus did.” And that new mom was impressed. But not as impressed as Jackie. Because so unoffensive was her sharing previously to the other moms, that when it came time to explain Jesus being Lord of her life and her time, she didn’t even have to before the other mothers explained it for her! It never hurts to tell other people what a wonderful friend you’ve found in Jesus. And the difference HE makes YOUR life. Maybe that’s what Bono, the lead singer of the Irish rock band U2 meant when he said, “I’m tired of religion. But I’m fascinated by Jesus.”
And he’s not the only one. I believe there are many people, some inside our own families, children and grandchildren, but also many others outside our families where we live and work and play and study that are tired of religion, but fascinated by Jesus. So when we talk to them about why we do what we do, we should talk in terms of what Jesus means to us. Jesus is Lord of our lives and our BLANK. It’s much less divisive. So there is a difference between sharing information and sharing an experience. And there is a reason why sharing experiences are much more effective. Why? Because they happened to you! It’s not 2000 years old. It’s 21 st century Christianity with flesh and bone on it. And if it happened to you, nobody can argue with it.
1 John 1:1-3 (NIV) says this. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”
But personal experiences and benefits aren’t the only reasons God gave us the Great Commission. Another reason he invites us to participate in sharing the Good News is because some of what we say and do benefits God. He trusts us to help Him clarify His character. Matthew 5:16 (NKJV) says this, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Luke 18:43 (NIV) adds, “Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.” Sometimes watching some of these preachers on TV, I get the impression that sharing for them is about giving them the glory. You see the MasterCard and Visa logo appear more often at the bottom of the screen than Scripture! But rightly understood, witnessing and sharing not only strengthens one’s personal spiritual health, it clarifies the character of God.
John 15:8 (NKJV) says, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” 1 Peter 2:9 (NKJV) adds, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
Rightly understood, genuine sharing always gives God not the church or the denomination the glory. And all of us are called to bring Him glory. All of us according to 1 Peter 2:9 are ministers. All of us have the same job—to bring glory to God—even if we get paid for doing a different occupation. And it’s a good thing sharing isn’t limited to the paid professionals. Because there is a whole lot of confusion today regarding the character of the Father. And we need as many people clarifying His character as possible. That Jesus is love. But that the Father is too. A neighbor once asked me if the Father really loves us like Jesus does. And I tried to explain to Him, it was the Father’s idea to send Jesus according to John 3:16. It was the Father who chose the harder job in salvation too. For watching someone you love, suffer and die, especially on a cross of all things, is much harder than just taking His place and doing it yourself. Am I right? How many of you parents would trade places with your son or daughter in a heartbeat to save them from suffering and pain? Everybody, but even us Christians, have a lot to understand about the amazing love of the Father. He deserves all the glory He can get, because the world has given Him a bad reputation.
But what is the value of your testimony to others? Here we have an interesting statement in Mark 5:19 (NKJV) that Jesus said to the healed demoniacs on the other side of the lake. “‘Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.’” The demoniacs had been delivered from a terrible demonic possession from among the tombs. And now they were clothed. Jesus had clothed them. And in their right minds. And they wanted to go with Jesus. I mean honestly, who wouldn’t? It’s the natural, normal, response of the converted heart. It’s a pleasure to serve Him. But Jesus didn’t let them come with Him. Instead, He said, “Go home to your friends and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you.” Luke 8:39 adds, “And he went his way and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.”
Why would Jesus send a person to share with people they already know? Could it be that the first goal of sharing is not even to share what Jesus has done for you, but just to get to know them first? Their names? Where they live? Their needs? Their hopes? Their joys? Their doubts? Their questions? But how do you get to know all that? By hanging out where they are. By being with them. By just taking an interest in what they’re interested in. By being their friend first. With no strings attached. But this takes time. And patience. And we’re not good at making friends with people. Especially with people who are different than us. We want them to clean up first. Act right. Put on a suit. Whatever. And then we’ll be interested in them. But only if they show an interest in our theological worldview.
But Jesus took the opposite approach. So much so that He was often accused of being a friend of sinners. Who hung out with gluttons and thieves and prostitutes. Who came home with smoke on his clothes. Jesus incarnated Himself. That means He met them where they were instead of waiting for them to come to Him. And because He was reading Scripture for relationship and practicing the presence of God through constant prayer, listening twice as much as He talked, He didn’t abandon His mission or compromise God’s perfect will and timing and teachings. And if we’re in relationship with Him, we won’t either.
John 1:36-37 (NIV) says, “When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God!’ When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.” So what is the value of your testimony to others? One, other people will follow Jesus. Not because they’re sure He is the Truth and the Life yet. But simply because they’re fascinated enough by Him to learn more about the Way.
John 1:40-41 (NIV) adds, “Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (that is, the Christ).” So a second value of your testimony to others is you can reach people for Jesus that no one else can reach. Why? Because you’re close to them. Maybe they’re related to you. Maybe they work with you. Maybe you go to school with them. They’re in your sphere of influence. The value of your experience over mine is you already have a relationship with them! Therefore, your witness will be more effective for Jesus than mine.
John 4:42 (NKJV) says, “Then they said to the woman, ‘Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.” I love this one. It’s from the story of the woman at the well. It’s describing how the woman went back to her Samaritan village and told everyone about her experience with Jesus. Her words were fascinating. But that’s not why the others believed. Verse 40 says they believed because after she shared her experience with Jesus, they were so fascinated, they asked follow up questions of Jesus Himself. It says they asked Jesus to stay with them for 2 days while they listened. You see, your words, even with those closest to you, in your family or sphere of influence, will be influential mostly in the beginning. But in order for their experience with Jesus to remain fascinating, they need to hear or read it from Him. They need an experience. And they need to know what they know makes a difference to God. They said, “We ourselves have heard Him.” So your testimony opens the door for them to hear more from Jesus not you. Maybe not in person, but through His living Word. What does John 5:39 say? “These are they that testify of Me?”
John 12:32 (NKJV) concludes, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” Your testimony and witness and sharing about your experience with Jesus provides a window of opportunity for the Holy Spirit to start or rekindle a relationship with Jesus in them. For Scripture says if we talk more and more about Jesus, Jesus will draw anyone listening closer and closer to Him. That’s how it works. That’s why sharing your experiences with Jesus in the beginning is more eternally significant than sharing what your church believes.
But sometimes people get worried about choking other people with their religion. They don’t want to do that. And I don’t like that either. As a pastor, I get letters and phone calls all the time from people I’ve never met or talked to asking me to go visit a friend or family member, but don’t tell them I sent you. What am I supposed to do? Go out there and tell them I am visiting everybody on this street? That I am taking random addresses from the phone book to go and visit and yours just so happened to be one of the ones I chose? What am I supposed to do?
They’re afraid of choking others with their beliefs, but they don’t mind if I do? I tell these folks, I don’t do those types of visits. If you don’t mind me naming names, I’ll go. But if I have to be all James Bond on them, forget it. It’s outside of the scope of Corinthians 13. But we need not worry about that if we are telling them about what a wonderful friend you have in Jesus. If you are there trying to choke them with your church beliefs that’s another story. And you better wait on that. But if you’re there to tell them what a wonderful friend you’ve found in Jesus, I have never heard of anyone yet who said they were jamming religion down their throats when using that approach. In fact, most people are impressed by it. So if that’s what we do, what will be the results? Scripture describes at least 3 good things that happen when you share your experience with Jesus.
Number one, we see the power of God at work which is exciting. Romans 1:16 (NKJV) says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” So we can plan on God’s power at work if we become involved in Christian witness and sharing. Number two, a joyful experience is another thing that happens. Psalm 126:5-6 (NKJV) says, “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing His sheaves with Him.” So, we are going to have a joyful experience of results in terms of people responding to the Lord. If you hate witnessing and none of it brings joy, something is wrong with you or how you’re doing it. And the final thing that happens is Jesus stands up for us. Matthew 10:32 (NKJV) says, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.” Jesus says if we witness for Him, He will witness for us. Isn’t that a tremendous thing to think about? If we’re not ashamed of Him, He is not ashamed of us.
A man went into a gas station one day. The owner comes out and says, “How is Jesus treating you today?” And the man shivered and didn’t know what to say. But he decided that was a good question. That forced him to think about Jesus like he hadn’t that day. And when you do become fascinated by Jesus, you’re more likely to join Him on the Way. Which makes all the difference in the world. You not only learn Truth, but you get also get a life. And that life is fun, enjoyable, satisfying, and worth living.