A New Year’s Resolution To Keep
I saw a recent article that listed the five most popular resolutions made most every year. The 5th was to take up a new hobby, the 4th was to make more money, the 3rd most popular resolution was to improve relationships, the 2nd was to stop smoking, and the most popular New Years resolution, you guessed it, losing weight.
A woman walked into her bathroom at home. As she did, she saw her husband weighing himself on the bathroom scales, sucking in his stomach. The woman thought to herself, "He thinks that he will weigh less by sucking in his stomach." So, the woman rather sarcastically said to her husband, "That’s not going to help." Her husband said, "Sure it will. It’s the only way I can see the numbers."
Often this time of year, after the overindulgence of the holidays we make resolutions to change our habits and our way of life. A new year gives us an opportunity to start fresh and better ourselves. But come the middle of January we somehow forget our resolutions and go back to our old ways.
I heard about a man who moved into a retirement community to spend the rest of his life there. It wasn’t long until he had made a number of friends among the other residents. There was one lady he was especially attracted to, & she was attracted to him, also. So they spent a lot of time together. Finally one evening he proposed, asking her to marry him.
The next morning he woke up remembering his proposal, but he couldn’t remember her answer. So he went to her & said, "I’m really embarrassed. I proposed to you last night but I can’t remember if you said `Yes’ or `No."’ "Oh, thank goodness!" she replied. "I remembered saying `Yes’ but I couldn’t remember who asked me."
It is so easy to forget the commitments and resolutions we make at New Year’s. There is, however, one resolution we cannot forget. And that is the resolution we as a church made to be passionate about telling people about God’s grace through his son Jesus Christ. This church makes no bones about the fact that we are actively trying to share the good news of Jesus Christ with others.
Now we aren’t dogmatic fundamentalists who are trying to force our religious views down people’s throats. Instead we merely desire to tell people about the good news of God. That Jesus Christ can offer them freedom from guilt, a hope for eternity and the power to deal with present circumstances. And we desire to tell them that all of this is not gained through good works but it is a gift from God.
I. THE NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION TO KEEP
So here’s the New Year’s resolution I want to encourage Orion Baptist Church to make for 2003. LET’S RESOLVE TO SHARE JESUS CHRIST WITH PEOPLE. Jesus said in Matthew 28:19, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Jesus Christ wants us to resolve to share our faith and go into the world and teach people about him.
In order to fulfill this resolution we need to develop some convincing ways to persuade the people in our lives: our friends, our co-workers, our family members of their need for Jesus. When you enthusiastically tell them what you’ve discovered in Jesus Christ, they think it’s too good to be true; and they suspect that there’s a catch. But there’s not.
II. WHAT WE NEED TO FULFILL THE RESOLUTION!
Let me share with you some character traits that we can develop as Christians to share our faith tactfully with those around us. First, if we are going to share Christ people must see in us a NOTICEABLE SINCERITY. James 3:17 says, “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”
What people need to see in us as Christians more than anything else is that we are sincere about our faith. Acts chapter 2 tells about the first church and how it grew and won so many people to Christ. And you know what Acts 2:46 says of the first church? “They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.”
There is nothing that turns people off to the gospel more than phony Christians. A major temptation for us is to try to cover up, to be deceptive, to act pious and religious, to pretend we are holy.
Reader’s Digest carried a story about a woman who traveled fifty miles to visit a friend. When she went to the car to go home, she discovered she had locked the keys in the car. She didn’t know what else to do, so she telephoned her husband long distance. He was exasperated with her, but he said, “You just stay there and I’ll drive out and bring my keys to you.” The woman went back to her car and found that actually one of the back doors was open. She raced back into the house and telephoned her husband, but he had already left.
“What are you going to do when your husband arrives?” her friend asked. “He’s going to be mad when he find out he came out here for no reason.” And the woman said, “I’m going to do what any red-blooded American wife would do.” And she went out and locked the door and slammed it shut!
It is hard to try not to cover up our imperfections. We are used to putting on masks that make others think we are better than we really are. But no one is perfect and we will attract the world by simply being open about who we are. The way to influence your friends who don’t know Christ is not by leaving the impression that you never fall. That you never stumble.
Rick Warren suggests that there are four ways that Christians can treat people. First he says you can treat them like, "I’m okay, you’re okay." The second ways is, "I’m okay, but you’re not okay." The third way is, "I’m not okay, but you’re okay." The final approach he suggests is this, "I’m not okay, and you’re not okay." Rick concludes, "The New Testament teaches that: I’m not okay, You’re not okay. But because of Jesus that’s okay."
If we are going to influence this community for Christ we need to be honest with ourselves and honest with the world and openly admit we are no better than anybody else. This church is a place full of imperfect people. And if you are here today and you’re new to this church, I want to tell you that you are not sitting amongst a bunch of religious people who think they are better than anyone else. In fact, most of us will admit that if it wasn’t for Jesus Christ, we’d be in pretty big trouble.
In order to fulfill our resolution to share our faith with others we must also have a PASSIONATE CONVICTION. Someone once said, “that one man with conviction is worth more than 99 with opinions.” Dictionary.com defines a conviction as a strong belief. I would say conviction is a strong belief that elicits a deep emotion.
In Acts 17 we read that the apostle Paul entered the city of Athens. And it says “while Paul was waiting for Timothy and Silas to join him, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols.” Athens was a city that had some 30,000 statues made in honor of 30,000 gods. Paul probably took a tour of Athens to see what the city was like and as he walked around it sickened him to see all the pagan worship going on. He was distressed. In fact, that word distressed means, “violent emotion.”
I get distressed that pagan gods are filling the spiritual void in people’s lives and they are being led astray. And it gives me a deep conviction that makes me want to share Jesus Christ with people.
I understand that the purchasing department in a major grocery store has a sign that reads, “Salesman, before you try to sell your product, be so convinced of its superiority that when you’re finished, people will be more anxious to buy that you are to sell.”
If you don’t believe what you are saying then people will know you are a fake. Your belief in Jesus has to be passionate in order to be contagious. It has to be something that comes deep out of your soul. There was an old song that we used to sing in church: “It’s bubbling, it’s bubbling, it’s bubbling in my soul. There’s singing and laughing since Jesus made me whole. Folks, don’t understand it, but I can’t keep it quiet. It’s bubbling day and night.” Jesus Christ has got to be a passion in your soul that just bubbles out of every pore of your body.
In Jeremiah 20 the prophet Jeremiah described the words of God as a fire in heart. He wrote, “His word is in my heart a fire a fire shut up in my bones, I am weary of holding it in, indeed I cannot.” (Jeremiah 20:9).
That is the kind of conviction we need to motivate us to share Jesus Christ. Jesus is in our hearts and it’s a fire that won’t stop burning. Remember that Pointer Sisters song, “I’m so excited, I just can’t hide it, I’m about to lose control and I think I like it.” That’s how Christians should be about Jesus. Enthusiasm often goes a long way in convincing someone about Jesus.
In order to fulfill our resolution we need to have a SPIRITUAL RELIANCE. If we are going to share Jesus with people we must not do it by human effort alone. We need spiritual assistance to help us win people to Jesus Christ. That is why each of us must value prayer if we desire to speak to our friends about our faith. Before we speak to people about Jesus we need God to work on their hearts. Jesus said in John 15:26 that it is the Holy Spirit that testifies to the world about Him.
U2 singer Bono, in a private meeting in June 2001 on the Hill in Washington, D.C., said, “I believe that the Kingdom of Heaven is taken by force. God doesn’t mind if we bang on the door to heaven sometimes, asking him to listen to what we have to say.” He’s right, God wants us to pray that the kingdom of heaven will expand on earth. In John 4:14 Jesus said, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” If we ask for souls to be won, we will receive it.
Let me ask you some questions.
Question #1: Are you praying for the lost people that you know, to be healed and out of the devils bondage? (Acts 3:16, Acts 10: 34-38, James 5: 13- 16, 1 John 5:16-17.)
Question #2: Are you praying for that person or those people to be saved? (Acts 3:16, James 5:20, 1 John 5: 16-17).
Question #3: Did you know that only JESUS can change a person and it is our duty to pray for them and to be a Christian influence? (John 3:21, John 6:44-47, John 13:8, 1 Cor 3: 5- 9, Phil 2:21, Heb. 5:2, 1 John 3: 16-20, 1 John 4: 12).
If we are going to see people won to Jesus Christ we are going to have to begin to pray for them. Often the most effective thing you can do to see a person come to Christ is to pray for them. Don’t say a word to them, just pray deeply and passionately for them for sometime.
Can I ask you to choose one person in your life that you know needs Jesus and pray for them for the next six months. And then after you have prepared their heart with prayer then perhaps speak with them. Do you have someone in mind?
This past summer the thing that impressed me the most about the Billy Graham Mission in Cincinnati was their focus on praying for the lost to come to Christ. Did you know that the volunteers of the Mission went throughout Paul Brown Stadium and kneeled over every single seat (some 60,000 seats) and prayed for the person who would sit in that seat? I remember seeing all those people come forward and filling the field and it reminded me what happens when God’s people pray for the lost!
Martin Luther, “As it is the business of tailors to make clothes and of cobblers to mend shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray.”
In order to fulfill our resolution to share Christ we also need an APPEALING URGENCY. Often we are too passive about sharing our faith. There’s a level of aggressiveness that repels people but I don’t think that is our problem. We have such a casual nonchalant spirit about sharing Christ that people don’t even know we are Christians. A recent church study revealed that 95% of evangelical Christians admitted that they had never led anyone to the Lord. You know what that is a sign of? It shows that we are too passive about lost people?
Paul said, “We implore you on Christ’s behalf, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 5:20). We implore you, sounds urgent doesn’t it.
Let’s never leave the impression that it doesn’t matter whether or not someone comes to Christ. Let’s acknowledge that time is passing and that today is the day of salvation. We need to be urgent about people who are lost. Romans 10:15 reads, “How then can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them.”
John Harper was born into a Christian family May 29, 1872. He became a Christian 13 years later and had already started preaching by age 17. He received training at the Baptist Pioneer Mission in London, and in 1896 he founded a church, now known as Harper Memorial Church, which began with 25 worshipers but had grown to 500 members by the time he left 13 years later.
In 1912 Harper, the newly called pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, was traveling on the Titanic with his 6-year-old daughter. After the ship struck an iceberg and began to sink, he got Nana into a lifeboat but apparently made no effort to follow her. Instead, he ran through the ship yelling, "Women, children, and unsaved into the lifeboats!" Survivors report that he then began witnessing to anyone who would listen. He continued preaching even after he had jumped into the water and was clinging to a piece of wreckage (he’d already given his lifejacket to another man).
Harper’s final moments were recounted four years later at a meeting in Hamilton, Ontario, by a man who said:
I am a survivor of the Titanic. When I was drifting alone on a spar that awful night, the tide brought Mr. Harper of Glasgow, also on a piece of wreck, near me. "Man," he said, "are you saved?" "No," I said, "I am not." He replied, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved."
The waves bore him away, but, strange to say, brought him back a little later, and he said, "Are you saved now?" "No," I said, "I cannot honestly say that I am." He said again, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," and shortly after he went down; and there, alone in the night, and with two miles of water under me, I believed. I am John Harper’s last convert.
He was also one of only six people picked out the water by the lifeboats; the other 1,522, including Harper, were left to die.
Folks, let’s make it our New Year’s resolution to be as urgent about souls as John Harper was. So much that our last moments are used to win the lost to Christ. George Whitfield a preacher once said, “O Lord give me souls, or take my soul!” I hope we too can say that.