1 Peter 3:15
All Women: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.
All Men: Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
All Youth: But do this with gentleness and respect.”
I thought it was time for a check-up sermon on “The Year of Invitation.” How is it going with those on your guest list? Who have you talked to about the Lord? Who have you invited to church? How much time have you spent in prayer for the people God has laid on your heart? I believe this passage in I Peter gives us great instruction as to how to go about sharing our faith in an effective way. First, I see a way to:
GET READY. We do that by “Setting apart Christ as Lord.”
I believe the Lordship of Jesus Christ in your life means allowing Him to occupy the position in your life that God has already given to Him. For we read in Philippians 2:9-11, “9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
As I said a moment ago, we don’t make Jesus, Lord. God the Father has already done that. God the Father has exalted Christ to the absolute highest place. The question I want to ask is, “Does Christ occupy the same position in your life?” Is your focus dedicated to seeing Christ exalted in your home, in your job, in your decisions, in your marriage, in your relationships in general, in your future plans, in your free time, in your finances and all of your pursuits?
The Bible says that the exaltation of Christ is something that will be seen by everyone, even if they don’t see it now. So, the exaltation of Christ is something that can be witnessed. Is anyone witnessing the exaltation of Jesus in your life? Is anyone bowing to Christ and confessing He is Lord because of the exaltation of Christ in your own life?
Also tucked in this passage is reference to the name of Jesus. How often this past week did you use the name of Jesus (rightly) in any kind of demonstration that Christ is Lord of your life? If we aren’t talking about Him, how will anyone know He is exalted in our lives? Talking about Jesus will keep us from talking about things we shouldn’t, amen? What I am trying to say is that the Lordship of Christ in our lives is something that should be able to be seen and heard by other people.
I think too many Christians think they can just add Jesus to their lives like they add an exercise class or a sports commitment. Jesus isn’t an “add on.” He is to be our “all in all!” We don’t just add Him to a list of other activities and relationships, we adore Him and our whole life revolves around Him!
A.W. Tozer says that people who are crucified with Christ have three distinct marks:
1. They are facing only one direction,
2. They can never turn back, and
3. They no longer have plans of their own.
(Tim Hansel, Holy Sweat, 1987, Word Books Publisher, p. 187.)
Think of following Christ as enlisting in the military. After all, we are the “Army of the Lord.” When we accept Christ as Lord, He is our “Commanding Officer.” We don’t have an agenda except to say “Yes” to the Commanding Officer. We don’t have a schedule to keep except what is laid out by the Commanding Officer. We don’t decide what duties to perform. We do what the Commanding Officer outlines. And we don’t do it when we feel like it or when we think we are ready for it. We never take “leave” of our commitment to do what our Commanding Officer asks. When Christ is Lord, we don’t make plans and then ask God to bless them. We ask God what He will bless and that’s what we do.
Shortly after joining the Navy, the new recruit asked his officer for a pass so he could attend a wedding. The officer gave him the pass, but informed the young man he would have to be back by 7 p.m. Sunday. “You don’t understand, sir,” said the recruit. “I’m in the wedding.” “No, you don’t understand,” the officer shot back. “You’re in the Navy!” (Source Unknown.)
When we sign up for salvation, we enlist in the ranks of the Army of the Lord not as privates or cadets, but as disciples. Our role is to not only follow the agenda of our Commanding Officer, but to also promote Him as Lord to the rest of the world.
I bought my first beer this past week. J Yes, it’s true. Do you know how hard it is to buy beer when you have never bought it before? I had to go to three stores before I had any success. I’m not kidding. My sister shared a recipe with me for chicken tortilla soup that called for 12 ounces of beer. (Yes, Dan and Joyce, the soup we shared with you was laced with Budweiser!) Me trying to buy beer is about is funny as me trying to buy parts for equipment at the John Amos power plant. I don’t know anything about buying beer!
I walked into Kroger and successfully found the beer aisle. I felt my heart racing and my breathing getting pretty fast and shallow! I started studying the shelves and then quickly found myself looking over my shoulder to make sure no one I knew was around. I mean, really, the Pastor of a holiness church, in the beer aisle! I could see that in the Metro Putnam section of the paper, right? And since I didn’t know what I was doing I had to stand there and read and try to figure out what in the world would be best to buy. Who knew there were so many choices? Finally, another woman came up the same aisle. I said, “Excuse me, but do you drink alcohol?” She said she did and I started explaining why I needed 12 ounces of beer. I held up a big can of something that didn’t say anything on it and said, “Is this beer?” Seriously! I told her I didn’t want to buy 22 ounces of beer because the recipe only called for 12 and I wasn’t about to pay for beer that I wasn’t going to use! J She told me to go to a convenience store because she thought I could buy a smaller can there.
I happened to be in Foodland the next day, so I searched there for my soup ingredient. Again, I was looking over my shoulder, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. Finally, I had to ask a worker, “Do you sell alcohol?” Well, of course they didn’t, but now I couldn’t leave there with the person thinking I wanted to buy some to drink, so I had to go into the whole story again about explaining that I needed one can of beer for a recipe and not to drink. It was hilarious!
I finally went to Speedway, one of the main places where I always try to witness and invite people to church. I thought to myself, “This ought to be good.” I felt my pulse racing. I knew I usually run into one or more people I know there, and knew I had better be ready with a quick explanation. So I went in and my friend, Leann who works there, was on break in the back. I peeked my head into the stockroom and asked her to come out. I explained to her that I needed beer for a recipe, and I needed her help. She showed me where the beer was, and then I told her I needed her to walk up to the register with me and vouch for me that I was buying this beer for a recipe and not to drink. Knowing when someone walked in that they might see me, I just started shouting, “It’s for a recipe!” whenever anyone walked in. J Leann and the cashier were cracking up! The cashier put it in a see through bag, and I asked if he had anything less see through lest someone see me walk out to my car with this can of beer showing through! J
I tell you that lighthearted story simply to illustrate how serious the whole thing was and is to me. I take following Jesus very seriously, and I know my ability to convince people that Christ is Lord is very much tied to my living out that He truly is. If our lives don’t prove Christ is Lord, our witness means nothing. I couldn’t run the risk that someone would think less of my Lord because they saw the Pastor of the Teays Valley Church of God buying beer. For Thom and me, alcohol is just one of the things God has told us we are not to participate in, and we are committed to listening to our Commanding Officer. Incidentally, I told my sister I had made the soup to which she replied, “What did you substitute for the beer?” I’m like, “Really?” I’m not the queen of the kitchen, so it never dawned on me that a substitution was even possible. She said, “Oh yeah, I just used chicken stock and it turned out great.” I’m thinking, “Thanks for the heads up!” Listen, getting ready to witness and share our faith starts with a commitment to demonstrate that Christ is Lord of our lives.
Let me add that if we aren’t witnessing to the unsaved around us, we have to question the Lordship of Jesus Christ in our lives. I know that might sound harsh, but witnessing is what we have been commissioned and commanded to do (Matthew 28:19-20) and those in the Lord’s Army are required to follow their Commanding Officer.
Get ready by submitting to Jesus’ Lordship, then GET SET. (Know the voice of the Spirit and know yourself) Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
I Peter tells us to always be prepared, to always be ready. Be open to the tug and pull of the Holy Spirit in your life. God could have you witnessing in some of the oddest and unexpected places. Just this week, I went through a drive thru at a restaurant that shall remain nameless. When the person came on to say, “May I take your order?” I recognized the voice, and I felt the Holy Spirit simply say, “NOW!” I said, “I’ll have a, b, c, and a visit to my church, please.” I’m guessing that could have been a first!! How many people are invited to church through the drive thru intercom, right? Listen, when the Spirit says, “Open your mouth,” that is the time to act. You can’t wait. That’s why you must always be ready. You never know when God will say, “NOW!”
I love the story in Acts 8 where an angel of the Lord told a man named Philip to start walking south on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. (Have you ever heard that “still small voice?”) He didn’t know why he was going, but he went. We pick up the story in verse 27:
27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” 30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. 31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
Listen, I have to believe that when the Spirit is leading us, there will be an open door or a sense of ease on the whole witnessing process. It doesn’t get any easier than being sent to someone who is reading their Bible only to have them look up and say, “Can you help me out with this passage?” They didn’t even know each other, but Philip was ready to be used of God because He was listening to the Spirit’s voice.
In addition to listening to the Spirit, you get ready by regularly be cultivating your own personal testimony. Get your story ready. Now you can tell someone what God did in 1965, and maybe that’s a starting point, but also be prepared to tell someone what Christ means to you today. What has God done this past year and what difference has the Lord made since you first believed?
Every one of us is called to be an evangelist whether we have the spiritual gift of evangelism or not. Each one of us will have a particular style or way to communicate the Gospel. Not all of you will feel comfortable asking people to come to church at the drive thru intercom! J One approach isn’t necessarily better than another. If we are going to share effectively, we will need to share sincerely and authentically out of our own personality and experience.
In the book Mark Mittleberg co-authored with Bill Hybels (How to Become a Contagious Christian) he has listed six evangelistic styles that are found in the New Testament.
- The CONFRONTATIONAL style. Peter is a good example of that kind of
witnessing style. Think about his sermon at Pentecost. He took on the Jewish religious leaders and Jews who were visiting from Jerusalem all over the world in Acts 2.
Starting in verse 22, Peter said: 22 “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
Pretty confrontational, right? But people responded. They wanted to know what they should do next in order to respond to what they had heard. He quickly told them to repent and be baptized! It was natural for Peter to act that way. That boldness was no longer impetuous knee-jerk reaction, but it was conviction and boldness from the Peter who allowed Christ to be Lord! If you are a confrontational person, use it to your advantage as you share Christ with people because some people need a challenge in order to respond.
- Then there is the INTELLECTUAL style.
This was Paul’s style of choice as he reasoned with the Jews and God-fearing Greeks in Athens in Acts 17. He took time to explain and teach. He was very intelligent and used conversation as an opportunity to debate with the philosophers of the city. His approach was persuasive and academic.
Some of you naturally flow in this style. You are an apologist. You know what you believe. You have the facts. You have the chapter and verse to back it up. You know how to respond to questions. You know how to steer the conversation in the direction you desire for it to go. Go for it!
c. The third style these authors cite is a TESTIMONIAL Style.
Jesus healed a man born blind in John 9. The religious leaders weren’t happy that Jesus had performed a miracle on the Sabbath. They went into CSI mode and started investigating this so-called crime. Who better to talk to than the star witness himself? They interrogated the previously blind man about the encounter. The blind man basically said, “I don’t know exactly what happened or how it happened, but one thing I know for sure! Once I was blind and now I see!” What an awesome, simple testimony. It wasn’t confrontational or intellectual, but it was highly inspirational! When you don’t know what to say, just tell someone what Jesus has done for you.
- A fourth witnessing style is called the INTERPERSONAL style. Matthew was a
good example of this. When he got saved, he threw a party and purposely invited his unsaved friends. He wanted to get them to hang out with him and Jesus. Some of you are good at getting people to come to special church events. Why not invite someone to the next “Young at Heart” lunch or picnic on the property this Sunday or our Good Friday, Tenebrae Concert, Easter Egg Hunt, and Easter service? Let’s have parties, but let’s have parties with a purpose, picnics with a purpose, and concerts with a purpose.
e. A fifth style cited by Mittleburg and Hybels is the INVITATIONAL style.
The Samaritan woman in John 4 is a great example of this kind of witnessing. She just said to everyone she knew, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did.” Did you know that most people who come to church for the first time do so because someone invites them? For some of you it’s easy to invite people to church. I see you put invites on Facebook that say, “If you need a church home, come join me at Teays Valley Church of God.” It doesn’t have to be a special event, you are always issuing the “Come and See” invitation. You know, some people that you invite will come out of curiosity just to see if a woman can preach! J
f. The last style the authors mention is SERVANT style. A woman named Dorcus (Acts 9) is a great example of this witnessing style. She was known for doing good deeds. She made clothes for the poor. She didn’t stand behind a pulpit to preach, but she preached every time she handed someone a garment she had made. Some of you naturally are just kind and thoughtful. From chicken soup to a lap quilt made by your loving hands, you express the love of God for people through practical service actions. Keep serving. Just include those who aren’t Christians in your service ministry. Yes, make the casserole for a Christian brother or sister in need, but use your acts of service to reach out to unbelievers as well.
Get ready by submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Get set by knowing the voice of the Spirit and knowing your testimonial style. Then GO with “gentleness and respect.” Even those of you who witness with a confrontational style, do it with gentleness and respect. Maybe instead of telling people what’s wrong with their lives, tell them about the kind of plan God has for our lives and if what they are doing isn’t bringing contentment and joy, they may look at letting Christ take control. Yes, there is a time for “tough love” and “tough talk,” but that’s not the starting point. You start with gentleness and respect.
We have two people who are going to share a testimony this morning about how God is at work in their lives. They saw this as an open door, a way to practice, a way to glorify and exalt God and I want them to be themselves as they come and share.
Darcia Painter and Kip Lindsay share.
How did their words make you feel or in what way did their stories move you? (Ask for congregational responses.) Will you let God use you this week to inspire or challenge someone that doesn’t know Christ? Church, “Get ready. Get set, and Go!”