(143) Engaging Culture 4_Prepared to Share

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Engaging Culture IV: Clearly Christian

1 Peter 3:15-16; Romans 10:9

January 23, 2011



·         140, 141, 142

·         Facebook

Scripture reading: Matt 5:13-16


Thank you to all of you who kept the Seahawks score secret, though it was not worth the wait.


engaging culture

We are in the final week of our 4 week series on evangelism, reaching out and sharing the Gospel and bringing people into God’s kingdom.

·         This is to launch The Gathering’s emphasis on “Engaging Culture” in 2011.

Here is the MOdel for effectively engaging our culture: S+C+X=EC

·         S: Striving –We live a Gospel Perspective; acutely aware of our desperate need for God’s grace, humble and confident.

·         C: Community Develop relationships with non-Christians so you can share the Gospel in the context of relationship.

·         X (abbr. for Christ) – This sermon has one goal: Help you to clearly express your CHRISTIANITY.  

Not the only show in town

·         Turn to 1 Peter 3...

Evangelism in the NW today is more like it was in the early church than 50 years ago. Then Christianity was the main show in town and everyone went to church making it hard to know who actually followed Jesus.

·         But now there are many options, and “none of the above” and “all of the above” are the most popular.

This was pretty much the situation when the NT was written. There were at least as many religious choices then as now.

1 Peter 3:15-16  15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

Q   Why is this command so frequently ignored?

I know I frequently knock “Chick Tracts” but it is because they so blatantly ignore this. They are anything but gentle and are insulating (and they insult a non-Christian’s intelligence).

16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Our “good behavior” is non-negotiable element of our message, “...let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven.” (Matthew 5:16).

·         “Preach the Gospel at all times; use words when necessary” (incorrectly attributed to St. Francis).

I appreciate the sentiment, especially in light of all the hypocrisy (my old pastor used to say, “If you need to tell people you are a Christian, please don’t.”)

·         But at the same time, words are very necessary.

first aid evangelism

The driving point of this passage is “Be ready.”

When it comes to evangelism, some churches take the approach that it is your job to get them in the church and ours to share the Gospel with them – we are the specialist.

·         I respectfully disagree.

While we are always here to help, I don’t see that as a Biblical model (cf. Acts 18:24-28), and it’s not what Peter says here.

·         I think that, with a little training, every one of you capable of sharing the basics of your faith.

It’s like this: Say you are walking in the mall and someone collapses in front of you. You look around waiting for someone to step it, no one does.

Q   Would you know what to do?

If you have taken first aid and CPR, you would. Not everyone can be a doctor or medic, but anyone can take first aid. Everyone one of you can know enough to save a life.

·         And even infinitely more important, everyone of you can know enough to save a soul.

Don’t need to be an expert

Not all of you need to be experts. You don’t need to be able to answer every question, that’s what I am here for.

·         If some asks, “Isn’t the Bible unreliable, copies of copies?” talk to me (BTW: No, it’s the most reliable ancient book.)

But every one of you must be prepared to “give an answer for reason for the hope inside of you.”

·         Also like CPR, this takes ongoing preparation – your card is supposed to be renewed annually.

Don’t worry before hand?

Now before we start getting ready, I need to complicate thing just a little – doesn’t all this contradict what Jesus said?

Mark 13:11   11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

I have to admit, growing up Pentecostal, I’ve had an uncomfortable relationship with this verse – it’s been used to justify (and spiritualize) failing to prepare.

·         I knew of one pastor who wouldn’t prepare a sermon, just read the Bible and “listen for the Holy Spirit.”

Here’s the context: The disciples are common folk; they have their GEDs or high school diplomas. Jesus is tells them they’ll have to debate the atheist Richard Dawkins (author of “The God Delusion”) on The Daily Show.

·         They are a little intimidated (BTW: That’s a true equivalent to what they were facing). 

Jesus is saying, you’ve spent that last three years leaning from me, I have been teaching you. When the time comes, the Holy Spirit will take what I have taught you and direct it.

Spirit-guided conversations

Q   Have you felt the Holy Spirit guide conversation?

It’s not like takes over. He takes what I learned and studied and directs it, arranges them just right. It’s really cool.

You must be preparing yourself, as Peter said, and then live a life of dependence on God and the Holy Spirit as Jesus said, and he will direct you in ways you can’t imagine.

Years ago, Cecil said something to me that radically impacted my life. The funny thing is didn’t realize the Holy Spirit was speaking through him; he doesn’t even remember saying it.

·         He didn’t have an agenda or worry beforehand, but the Spirit prepared me, the situation, and directed the conversation. 

I say all that to say this: When you obey God and make yourself available to share the Gospel with others, you have no idea what situations he might bring your way.

·         Don’t worry about it, prepare, and trust the Holy Spirit.

But give him more that John 3:16 to work with, which is the point of this sermon.

Also, you may only be called to plant, or water. You need to be listening to what the Spirit is calling you to do at that point.

Our Message

So let’s get to preparing. There are two things you need to know: The Great Story of the Gospel and Your Story of how the Gospel has worked in you.

·         I will first summarize the Great Story of the Gospel with a short version and then the very short version.

I am sure you would prefer just the “very short version,” but each has its place. The short version answers more of the whys and the very short version the personal experience.

·         The Spirit will direct you to use each one at different times.

This will be a lot of info, so I have also printed it on the back of the sermon notes. There will be a quiz at your community group and you can’t eat if you don’t get a passing grade.

The Great Story – the short version (four parts)

1. God created everything and it was good.

Genesis 1:1, 31   In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth...God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.

The key points here are 1) God created everything and is therefore its rightful master, and 2) he created it good (he is the source goodness), and this current mess is not his design.  

Here’s something I hesitate to bring this up for fear that it might derail some of you, so hang on: The key point is not how God made the universe, nor how old it is.

·         God-fearing and Bible-believing Christians disagree on these things, so don’t make them an unnecessary obstacle.

2. Each of you is rebellious, sinful, and broken, you can’t fix yourself.

When we hear “sinful and broken,” our mind goes to the office philandering alcoholic, but it equally applies to Mr. Nice Guy.

Romans 3:23 ...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God...

I talked a lot about this when I preached on the Gospel Perspective (1/9/11). Most people agree that evil exists but much fewer think that they are sinful and broken.

Q   How do we convince Mr. Nice Guy that he is sinful and broken?  

I am not sure that is your job:

John 16:8  8 When [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment...

You can answer questions, follow conversations were they lead, gently and respectfully share your beliefs, but I don’t think we can make them see their need for God.

Q   Did you make a list of 3 non-Christians to pray for?

This is one of the biggest part of my prayer for mine: “Spirit show them how broken they are, how corrupt their worldview is.”

You can’t fix yourself

Once you clearly see your sin and brokenness, you may try to fix it and be perfectly good in deeds and attitude, but you’ll fail daily. You can’t fix yourself, which takes humility to admit.

·         This is so contrary to our assumptions; which is why Christianity is the only religion based on grace.

As they were filming “Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” they got to the scene where Aslan turns Eustace from a dragon back into a boy. The director wanted to write in a challenge he had to do to earn it – something those who knew the story prevented.

·         He wasn’t anti-Christian, he didn’t understand. 

Parts 3 and 4 are straight from Romans 10:9, the most succinct description of salvation. I don’t have to give you some special “sinner’s prayer” to lead people through, this passage is it.

It’s an “If/then” statement:

3. If “you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead...

1. IF: You believe in the historical reality of the Jesus’ death and resurrection...

Scripture makes it clear his death and resurrection as a historical reality are central to our faith. And they have good historical evidence (cf. “The Case for Christ”).

·         Common attack on Christianity: Why believe it instead of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? Because it has historical evidence.

But believing doesn’t just mean to mentally agree, it means your entire life is reordered by it. For Paul, finding out about the resurrection changed everything.

2. IF: You confess Jesus is Lord, and he must genuinely be your Lord.

This is the hardest part, submitting your entire life back to his rule. In the oft quoted words of Lewis:

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. The Great Divorce

·         It is my observation that the appeal of atheism is “I have no master but myself.”

From the human side, the entire question boils down to “my will or thy will.” But once you are willing to submit to his will...

4. Then “you will be saved.” 

Then he will move Heaven and earth to save you, and in fact he did. Behind this short phrase is a massive, cosmic plan God had to put into place to save us.

·         God’s dilemma was how to be just and loving:

On one hand, God could not ignore sin and still be just and good. When a judge lets a murder off we call it injustice, not goodness; if God were to ignore sin, he would not be good.

But on the other, he deeply loves us and doesn’t want to punish us, for the punishment and the consequence of sin is death. That may not seem fair to us, but I assume I lack perspective.

·         God’s solution was brilliant – he himself would pay the penalty himself. (Rom. 3:25-26)

More than fire insurance

And salvation doesn’t simply mean “not going to Hell.” It is restoring relationship with us. It is healing the ravages of sin. It is returning to us to the life God meant for us.

John 10:10   10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

That’s the short version:

1. God created everything and it was good.

2. Each of you is rebellious, sinful, and broken, you can’t fix yourself.

3. If “you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead...

4. Then “you will be saved.” 

The really short version

Here is the really short version:

“We humbly come to Jesus as our Lord and Savior, broken and sinful, unable to fix ourselves. He loves, forgives, and restores us.” 

Ultimately, we do not come to a doctrine, but to a person, Jesus Christ, God in flesh who showed his love to us by dwelling with sinful, broken people and gave himself for us.

·         The Bible may confuse me, but Jesus amazes and draws me.

Last year I listened to a Catholic priest taking to some atheists. After a point, he refused to answer their questions, and simply said, “I have come to the person of Jesus.”

·         It was not that he didn’t know the answers, but he knew they were pointless to those who didn’t want to believe.

Your Story

Finally, there is your story. Revelation speaks of the saints overcoming by “the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony” (12:11).

·         You have both the general story message of Gospel and the specific story of how the Gospel is changing you.

You are the expert on this topic. The goal isn’t to have the most impressive testimony; it is to demonstrate the power of God in your life.

·         Each testimony will be helpful to different people.

Take time to consider what he has done and prepare to share it:

Q   How have you seen your brokenness?

Q   How is God healing you?

Q   What has Jesus meant to you in your life?

Communication Card

Here are some practical next steps I want you to challenge you to (on the back of the Communication Card):

·         Memorize the Short and Shorter version

·         Write out your testimony (share at CG)

·         Pray for opportunities

·         Get info about an upcoming “Foundations of Faith and Practice

Call to action

That’s it, the basic ideas are [S+C+X=EC]:

1. EC: It’s our privilege and responsibility to share the love and hope in Christ to a world that needs him.

2. S: We do this by having our lives changed,

3. C: Building relationships

a. Pray for them

b. Look for opportunities

4. X: Being able to clearly communicate the Gospel.  

Like stars in the night

This was a short series, meant to kick things off. All I can do now is plead with you – take this seriously. Don’t forget about this because the series is over; this must be our way of life.

In the words of Paul, may you be

...children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe  as you hold out the word of life... (Philippians 2:15-16)   

We have the words of life, streams of living water that should be pouring out of us.

·         There are many out there who are so parched that they are drinking from a toilet.

This is not a game, and it is not one option among many. You live in a world dying in pride, selfishness, bitterness, rebellion, and you have the word of life.

Q & A


Main Point(s) of sermon:

·         Sharing the Great Story (Clearly teach the basics)

·         Sharing your story (how it has changed you/testimony)

·         Call to action

Objectives of sermon:

·         Prepare them to “give an answer for the hope that lies within.”

Facebook: A challenge for the Biblically astute (esp. my fellow LIFE grads): Express the Gospel in the clearest, shortest way.

Communication card:

·         Memorize the Short and Shorter version

·         Write out your testimony (share at CG)

·         Pray for opportunities

·         Get info about an upcoming “Foundations of Faith and Practice”

Memorize the Short and Shorter version

Write out your testimony (share at CG)

Pray for opportunities

Get info about an upcoming “Foundations of Faith and Practice”

See the rest →
See the rest →