Growing in Christ — Part IV — Evangelism
Growing in Christ – Part IV
Now we come to the second horizontal arm of the Disciple’s Cross. Part I of this essay dealt with the center of the cross which is Jesus Christ. A close, personal relationship with Jesus Christ always is the center of a growing Christian’s life. Parts I and II also testified to the importance of prayer and Bible study. Part III examined fellowship with other Christians.
This fourth and final part analyzes evangelism. This activity is different from the others. Parts I through III identified essential activities required for Christian growth. These activities include Abiding in Christ (in the center of the cross), Prayer, Bible Study, and Fellowship with other Christians. Acts 2: 42 refers to these activities
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (NAS)
Acts 2:42 does not mention evangelism. But evangelism is so important that it is part of the Disciple’s Cross. Why is evangelism so important? Why do we evangelize?
I. To Obey Christ’s Command
On the day when Jesus returned to heaven, He met with His disciples one last time on earth. What were His final words to them? He gave them a command. The gospel of Matthew reports this in Matthew 28: 18-20:
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (NAS)
The writer of the Acts of the Apostles records another exhortation from Jesus in Acts 1: 8:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (NAS)
After giving these commands to His followers, Jesus was taken up before them into heaven. Leaders often save their most important comments for last—just before the depart from their followers. This makes their final comments and commands easy to remember. Christ’s charge to evangelize must be one of His most important commands.
If you are not familiar with the word “evangelism,” you might wonder “What is evangelism?” According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word derives from two Greek words: εὐ (eu), meaning “good” and ἀγγέλειν (angelein), meaning “announce.” Thus, the word literally means “good announcement” or “good news.” Evangelism is spreading the good news of Jesus Christ through preaching, teaching, or any other appropriate method.
Jesus mandates that we take His good news to the world. What is the good news? What is its central message? In I Corinthians 15: 3-5 the apostle Paul summarizes the central message of the good news—the message of Christ’s death and resurrection.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas [Peter], then to the twelve. (NAS)
The message of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is “of first importance,” according to Scripture. This is the good news—the gospel. Why is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ considered good news? Why do we need to spread the word (evangelize)? We need evangelism . . .
II. To Announce God’s Solution to Sin
Why did Jesus come to die? The answer to that question goes back to the very beginning of the Bible. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (see Genesis 1:1). Then God created all of the animals that live on the earth or fly in the skies or swim in the seas. Finally, God created the man and the woman.
Men and women are special in God’s sight. God made us in His image. The Bible says in Genesis 1: 27, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (NAS)
God also gave men the responsibility to tend the earth—to rule over it and subdue it. According to Genesis 1: 26, 28,
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” . . . God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (NAS)
God placed the man and the woman in the beautiful Garden of Eden. Man was responsible for tending and caring for the Garden (see Genesis 2: 15). Man was given one rule that he must obey. The Bible says in Genesis 2: 16-17,
The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” (NAS)
We all know what happened next. The serpent tempted the man and the woman. They broke God’s only command, eating fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They sinned. Soon they were separated from God. Separation from God results in spiritual death. Adam and Eve died spiritually that day. Eventually they also died physically.
Their sin affected all of humanity. Romans 5: 12 states, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (NAS)
Right now you might be thinking, “That’s a cute story but I don’t believe in Adam and Eve. I don’t believe that I’m a sinner because of something they did thousands of years ago. That is, if they ever existed.”
When we start talking about your sin, we don’t have to refer to Adam and Eve. Each one of us has sinned at one time or another. Not one of us has kept all of God’s laws all the time.
Have you ever failed to put God first in your life? Were you ever angry with your parents? Did you ever tell a lie—this includes little fibs? If so, you broke one or more of God’s laws. Breaking one of God’s laws only one time makes you a sinner.
Romans 3: 23 says, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (NAS) “All have sinned”—this includes you and me. Each of us proves that Romans 3: 23 is correct. We don’t have to blame Adam and Eve for our sin. Each of us is a sinner. Each of us is to blame for his/her own sin.
The result of this sin is revealed in Romans 6: 23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (NAS) All have sinned. Sin results in death.
But if God really loves us, why does He leave us to die in our sin? Well, He does not leave us to die in sin. Remember, the wages of sin is death but, according to Romans 5: 8, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (NAS)
God makes the offer of forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ. No other religion offers forgiveness of sins. No other religion offers “a free gift of eternal life” (Romans 6: 23). No other religion identifies God as love (I John 4: 8). No other religion promises that we can have free and complete access to God through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2: 6-7).
What a crazy offer! No one could dream up such an offer. That’s what Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard wrote in his book Sickness Unto Death.
To be so near to God as Christianity teaches that man can come to Him, and dare come to Him, and shall come to Him in Christ, has never entered into any man’s head. If this then is to be understood bluntly, just as a matter of course, without the least reservation, to be taken quite unconcernedly and flippantly . . . [then] Christianity might be the invention of a crazy god; such a doctrine could only occur to a god who had lost his wits — so a man must judge who had kept his wits.
Of course, God is not crazy. However, He often supplies totally unexpected solutions to common problems. Matthew 17: 24-27 provides one example: Peter was concerned because he did not have the money to pay the temple tax for himself and for Jesus. He spoke with Jesus about the problem. Jesus said,
“Go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and Me.” (NAS)
What an unexpected solution! Did God have to provide the money by such an unusual means? No. Several rich people followed Jesus at this time. They gladly would have given Peter the money for the tax. Why would God provide such an unusual solution to a simple problem? Perhaps God wanted Peter to have faith in God’s ability to provide.
Kierkegaard did not think God was crazy. He was trying to make a point. No other religion offers salvation totally by faith. Other religions depend on works. Other religions present God as either uninvolved or unconcerned with man’s salvation. But Christian salvation requires intense personal involvement by God—such complete involvement that God the Son must die for man’s sin.
What sort of God would take such extreme measures to secure man’s salvation? What sort of God would resort to such a gift of sacrificial love? Are we really that important to God? The answer is, “Yes.” (see Psalm 8)
God’s offer of eternal life in heaven relies on faith in Christ. According to Romans 10: 9, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (NAS)
This is God’s solution to the problem of sin. It seems totally crazy by human standards. The Bible agrees that God’s means of salvation is foolishness according to the world.
For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. . . . Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. (I Corinthians 1: 18, 20-21, NAS)
That’s why evangelism is needed. We must announce God’s “foolish” solution to man’s greatest problem—man’s sinfulness and separation from God. God’s message is so unusual and so unexpected. This is not a message a person could figure out without help. He must be told that God loves him and provides salvation through Jesus Christ. Evangelism is the telling of God’s solution to man’s sin.
When a person’s sin is forgiven, that person is able to begin a new relationship with God. What is this relationship like? What can I expect from this relationship with God? God tells us what to expect. He makes promises to us about our future. What are these promises? How can we find them? This is another function of evangelism . . .
III. To Declare God’s Most Precious Promises
The Bible is filled with promises from God to those who love and follow Him. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus enlightens us regarding God’s watchful care over the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. In Matthew 6: 31, 33, He extends God’s watchful care to us saying,
“Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ . . . But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (NAS)
Not only will God provide for the physical needs of those who seek Him first but God also promises to guide them. According to Proverbs 3: 5-6
Trust in the LORD with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight. (NAS)
This chapter also contains a promise similar to that of Matthew 6:33. Note Proverbs 3: 9-10
Honor the LORD from your wealth
And from the first of all your produce;
So your barns will be filled with plenty
And your vats will overflow with new wine. (NAS)
These promises apply to those who actively follow God’s guidance in their lives. Such people try to obey God’s law in the Old Testament as well as the words of Jesus in the New Testament.
But what about people who do not know or seek God? What promises does God have for them? First, God promises forgiveness for those who repent and return to God. The apostle Peter said in Acts 3: 19-20
“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you.” (NAS)
Forgiveness of sins comes through Jesus Christ on the cross. Jesus said the following words to His disciples shortly before His return to heaven, according to Luke 24: 46-47:
[Jesus] said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (NAS)
God’s promise of forgiveness is offered to everyone. We did not earn it. We do not deserve it. Forgiveness of sins is the result of God’s grace.
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight. (Ephesians 1: 7-8, NAS)
How, then, can we be saved? Repent, turn from your sins, receive God’s forgiveness, and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. The Bible says in Romans 10: 9-10, 13
“if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. . . . for ‘Whoever will call on the name of the LORD will be saved.’” (NAS)
To many people that sounds like the end of the process of salvation. Actually, it’s only the beginning of a personal relationship with God. God does something special to establish and maintain this relationship. He sends the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1: 13-14 states:
In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. (NAS)
Can God make this new relationship any better? Remember Ephesians 1: 7 tells us of the grace “which God lavished on us.” How does God lavish His grace upon us? He adds promise after promise, resulting in amazing blessings.
One example is that we become part of God’s forever family. We become God’s adopted children. The Bible states this in Romans 8: 14-17.
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. (NAS)
In addition to all of these other promises, God promises eternal life to those who believe in Jesus Christ. That’s right, eternal life. The Bible says in John 3: 16,
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (NAS)
All of these incredible promises are given to those who love God. As it is written in I Corinthians 2: 9:
Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard,
And which have not entered the heart of man,
All that God has prepared for those who love Him. (NAS)
Why are Christians commanded to evangelize? To make known to the world the incredible promises God gives to those who love Him.
However, this message does not preach itself. We must carry this message the whole world. So, again I ask, “Why do we evangelize?” The answer:
IV. To Take God’s Message to the Whole World
How can people be saved if they do not hear the message of God’s salvation? God’s message is so contrary to our worldly thinking. God conquered sin and death through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. God loves us in spite of our apathy and even open hostility. We do not expect God to respond with love to our spiteful attitude.
God’s response is so unexpected. He wants to call us out of this world of sin. He longs to invite us into His heaven. But how can we know of God’s salvation unless we are told? Romans 10: 14-15 addresses this problem.
“How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!’” (NAS)
Who are the ones being sent? God calls some Christians to be pastors, some to be evangelists, and some to be teachers (see Ephesians 4: 11-12). Christian leaders, especially evangelists, are called to share the message of salvation with others.
However, that does not let regular Christians “off the hook.” God calls all Christians to speak of the hope that is within them. The Bible says in I Peter 3: 15,
“but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” (NAS)
Why is evangelism so important? If we do not evangelize, God’s message remains hidden. If we fail to spread the word, people will die without God. God does not use angels to spread the good news. That responsibility lies with us. According to II Corinthians 5: 19-20,
He [God] has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (NAS)
Jesus Christ, Himself, commissioned us to evangelize and to make disciples. Now perhaps we can understand why our involvement in evangelism is so important. Let’s read again the exhortation of Jesus in Matthew 29: 18-20:
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (NAS)
These are the last recorded words of Jesus’ earthly ministry. He left us with the commission to take God’s message of love, forgiveness, and redemption to the entire world.
These are the five practices in a disciples’ life. They form the foundation upon which a life of discipleship can begin. But there is much more to discipleship than these five practices. You can maintain these practices and become very skillful at them without ever becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Discipleship requires a will and a heart that seeks first the Kingdom of God. A good summary verse for discipleship is Luke 9:23 where Jesus says, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (NAS)
Jesus also said in Luke 14:27, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” (NAS)
However, any Christian desiring to grow must begin by practicing the disciplines found in the Disciples’ Cross.