THE WHO AND THE TO WHOM
Dear Christian friends,
If Jessica Martin was a devout Christian woman. She let her love for Jesus really show. She was single and worked as a nurse in an inner city hospital in Detroit. She also volunteered giving many hours in a neighborhood health clinic. She took very seriously the words of Jesus, “Whatever you do for the least of these my brothers, you do it unto me.” In other words, she wanted Jesus’ love show through her.
One day Jessica was leaving work at the hospital, a crazed heroin addict who needed a fix spotted her as she was going to the bus stop. He wanted her money to support his horrible drug habit. Jessica, standing alone at the bus stop, was an easy mark. He pulled a knife and attacked her. A city bus half full of passengers was ready to stop, but the bus driver passed by. No one on the bus even protested. The addict stole Ms. Martin’s purse. She was severely wounded. She spent three months in a hospital. Isn’t it horrible that nobody lifted a finger to help? Nobody wanted to get involved.
Statistics tell us that 44 million people die each year in the world. That figures out to be 83 every minute, more than one a second. The majority don’t know Jesus as their Savior. Their final destiny is like the rich man in hell. What are we doing about it? Today in our series on outreach we will talk about the “Who and the Whom of Witnessing.”
What are Joe and Jane Christian’s responsibilities when it comes to witnessing for Jesus? What is your responsibility? What is mine? There is a real misconception among Christians that telling others about Jesus is only the pastor’s job. But what does Scripture say. We believe in the universal priesthood. Everyone is a priest before God, to serve and to share. Peter writes, “As you come to Him, the Living Stone (Jesus), you also like living stones, are built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ.” We are like a house, a living house, united in purpose and action. As living stones, we give strength, as living stones we are active and are ready to work.
He continues, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Declaring his praises is giving witness of what Jesus has done for you, verbally and through godly living.
Jesus once said to his disciples that “repentance and forgiveness will be preached in his name to all nations beginning at Jerusalem.” That work started in the place where Jesus walked the earth. People saw him with their own eyes. Many heard with their own ears. But Jesus left this earth. He trained twelve apostles and others who heard. But he also said he wasn’t going to leave them alone. He sent his Spirit who was poured down upon his followers on Pentecost. They witnessed. A wave that started in Jerusalem went out from there. It stretches over space and time. The wave has reached Johns Creek. Because it has God’s Church here at this place is given the dignity and responsibility to tell what Jesus did.
Humanly speaking, as poor as Lazarus was the preaching of repentance and forgiveness made him as rich as anyone can be. He was able to hear about salvation through the Messiah, the dear Lord Jesus, too. His future was certain when he lived even though he lived in squalor and when he died the future became the everlasting blissful present.
How about the rich man? If Lazarus had the opportunity, certainly the rich man did too. But he didn’t take advantage of the opportunity. It wasn’t important enough.
It is noteworthy that the person or persons who told Lazarus are not mentioned. Finally, we are only vessels by which the Holy Spirit does his work of conversion and creating faith. The prophet Ezekiel says the Spirit is the one who replaces the heart of stone with the heart of flesh - the hard heart which rejects the Lord with the heart that receives Jesus and believes in Jesus. That’s the nitty gritty work, but we are just the messengers who delivers the tool the Holy Spirit uses. But the tool needs to be delivered. The Word must be shared.
But let’s be honest, we give so many excuses. “The Who,” meaning you and me, is often met with excuses: “I am not qualified!” “Isn’t that the pastor’s job?” “They won’t listen to me!” Yet when we look at the Scripture, the first witnesses God entrusted the task to, were a bunch of uneducated fishermen. Yet God the Holy Spirit used them mightily.
There were others. One of my favorite witnesses was a nameless servant girl in the household of Naaman, the commander and Chief of the Syrian Army. Naaman was a valiant man, the right hand man of the King of Syria. Naaman was afflicted with leprosy. All the servant girl said was, “If only my master would see the prophet in Samaria.” Wow! Did God ever use that! The prophet was Elisha who not only cured him by the Lord’s power, he salvation was brought to him above all else. Maybe it is hard for you to tell someone about Jesus, but you can certainly tell someone my pastor would love to talk to you. Pastors love those kinds of meetings when everything has been set up.
There are other examples found in the Bible. After Philip was called to follow Jesus, the first thing he did was to find his skeptical friend, Nathaniel. While Nathaniel made some cutting remarks about Jesus’ home of Nazareth, Philip cut through Nathaniel’s garbage and told him, “Just come and see!” I like Philip’s method. Basically he was saying that before you make some judgments about Jesus, why don’t you check him out first? Don’t wave Jesus off until you get to know him more. How about Andrew? He immediately went after his brother Peter after he had been introduced to the Lord. How about the woman at the well? After meeting Jesus, she went back to her friends and invited them to come and hear what Jesus had to say. There were the shepherds who simply told others what they had seen and heard. What do you see and hear from the Word and from Bible study at Church?
You know something? Not one of the people mentioned were theological giants. None of them went to the seminary, but God used them. God can and wants to use you too.
To whom should we go? Someone went to poor Lazarus. Give the rich an opportunity too. God wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
The good Lord says to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. Don’t be selective. Don’t just pick out the ones you like. Everyone is a sinner. Everyone needs Jesus. Everyone is like Lazarus and everyone is like rich man. We all have the same need – to know about Jesus.
Jesus told this story about people who fit at both ends of the social ladder. Humanly speaking there is a top; humanly speaking there is a bottom. That’s humanly speaking, but that doesn’t exist in the mind of our God. “God so loved the world.”
When I served on a mission board to start up churches, I had problems with this. Where do we set up churches? We looked for strong growth areas. That makes sense, doesn’t it? People don’t have a church when they are moving in so we are there to invite them. What about the inner cities? Churches move out. Frankly, sometimes it is for racial reasons. Churches move out because if they stay the people are poor and can’t support a church. Johns Creek is filled with churches of that nature who moved out. But there are people left where they came from, aren’t there?
Messiah doesn’t have that kind of beginning. Let me remind you however that supporting God’s gospel doesn’t mean just doing it here, but also in other places, rich and poor alike. Don’t forget everyone needs Jesus. The rich and poor. Don’t forget about the sick and infirmed. Don’t forget about the old. Someone looked after Lazarus.
Another point that this story brings out very clearly is that mission work is done at home. As the man who went from riches to rags and wallowed in the torments of hell, he realized his five brothers were just like he was. Five brothers, and not one was a believer.
They would be lost. I give the rich man credit that he had concerns for the rest of his family, albeit too late.
But this seems to be a truth, we find it difficult to speak to family members about the very important matters of the spiritual. Their relationship with the Lord. Why? After all some of the memories that we have were the times we sinned together, if you know what I mean. I don’t think I am the only one who has those kinds of memories, am I? Frankly, most often we joined in sin rather than rebuking it.
But think about it. How do you think you feel that when they die, you might wonder where they will be? We don’t go to heaven on the coattails of Mom or Dad or sister or brother. The prophet once wrote, “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord…For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child—both alike belong to me. The one who sins is the one who will die.”
Recently, my kids have been asking me some of the memorable times in my ministry. I wonder why they are asking me these things. Why is that? But as I think back on seriously memorable spiritual times they are with family. Judy and I have had some real serious challenges with our children when we wondered if they would survive. Jokes and funny stories don’t work at times like that. We want to know that our family member will be in heaven.
I had such a conversation with my mother. We planned her funeral. She chose her hymns. I know why. She told me. Before I left I wanted to have one last devotion with her. I chose Isaiah 53, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.” I would be heading back to the South. This was the last time I would see her here. God blessed her with a grand faith. I didn’t want her to be afraid. I wanted Mom to list closely at these words. Nothing depended upon her. Jesus was pierced. Jesus was crushed. Jesus gives us peace. His wounds heal us. That’s why she could be secure and certain. That applies to us all. Look what we did – nothing! We went astray. We turned to our own way. But that’s why the Lord laid upon him the iniquity of us all. She smiled. That’s all she needed to know. That’s all anyone needs to know. Jesus did it all. That’s the most vital and deepest conversation you can have with anyone.