Sunday 23 March 2014
Key Passages: Galatians 1:11-16;
“But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. 14 And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, 16 to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood,” NKJV
Everyone you meet has a past, a present and hopefully a future. Our most credible message in Evangelism is the change Christ has made in our lives, the change between our past and our present and the future that awaits us when this life is over.
Lifestyle is a way of life that is typical of a person, group or culture. Jesus didn’t just ask us to be mere ‘advocates’ but ‘witnesses.’ An advocate may have no conviction about what he is saying but a witness speaks with conviction because, often, he has seen or experienced what he is talking about. The word ‘witness’ has the same Greek root as the word ‘martyr.’ It is therefore not surprising that as witnesses, they were willing to lay down their lives because of what they believed. An advocate wouldn’t go that far.
In Lifestyle Evangelism, we live in such a way that our lives open the door for people to receive the Gospel message that we preach.
PAUL’S PAST – Galatians 1:13-14
Like everyone else, Paul had a past. He was an enemy of the Gospel and hated Christians. When Stephen was being killed, Paul was there as a leader of the mob. “He made havoc of the church” (Acts 8:1-3). If you had met Paul (actually Saul) at this time you won’t believe he could be saved.
What Paul didn’t know was that God had a plan for his life. If he knew, probably he could have lived differently. Later, he would confess that everything he did, he did out of ignorance:
1 Timothy 1:12-17 says;
“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him, 13 even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief. 14 Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus.15 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. 16 But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.” NLT
In the same way, people we meet in our daily lives may be prospective Pauls. They may presently live their lives in a terrible way, may oppose the Gospel and seem unlikely to commit their lives to Christ. But they too may be just as ignorant of God’s plan for their lives as Saul. That is why we must not give up on anyone.
I remember a former schoolmate of mine. Whilst we were students, she lived such a wayward life – and she was proud of it. I am ashamed to confess that although I was a Christian, I disliked her. In my mind, God couldn’t save a person like her. But a few years after we had graduated, I met this same lady but she was an entirely different person. She had been saved, married, joined a church and was active in the Full Gospel Businessmen Fellowship. She even invited me to an outreach programme. I learned a vital lesson in life: NEVER GIVE UP ON ANY PERSON UNLESS YOU KNOW THE END OF THEIR LIFE.
CHRIST MAKES THE DIFFERENCE
Paul recognised the difference that happened in his life. He knew that a transition occurred when Christ came into his life. For every Christian, there must be a marked difference between what the lifestyle was before and after we met Christ otherwise our profession of faith makes no sense (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Like the blind man that was healed, we should be able to say “… One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25). If people can’t notice the change in our lives they may not receive our message.
Like Paul, we must all come to the understanding that CHRIST WAS REVEALED TO ME THAT HE MIGHT BE REVEALED THROUGH ME. This is a huge responsibility. No wonder Paul made it his life’s goal:
1 Corinthians 9:22-23 says;
“To the weak (wanting in discernment) I have become weak (wanting in discernment) that I might win the weak and over scrupulous. I have [in short] become all things to all men, that I might by all means (at all costs and in any and every way) save some [by winning them to faith in Jesus Christ]. 23 And I do this for the sake of the good news (the Gospel), in order that I may become a participator in it and share in its [blessings along with you]” AMP
If we related with people with the understanding that one day we might have to preach to them then our attitudes will be different. When we realise that God’s purpose in revealing His Son to us is so that He might reveal Him through us then our lifestyle will reflect our conviction. One of our weaknesses as a church is that many of us continue to see Evangelism as an event and not as a lifestyle. When the ‘event’ is over, we seem to forget about evangelism until the next ‘event’ comes up. For Paul, and all those in the early church, it was their daily preoccupation, not just through words but also in the way they lived.
As followers of Christ our lives are on display. We must be sure that when people look at us they can see Jesus. God intends that our lives reflect the Gospel and people should catch a glimpse of Him through our lives. Matt 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
You and I may be the only Christ they will see; the only Bible they will read. How are we representing Him? Someone said this: “I almost became a Christian until I met one!” What gives credibility to our message is our lifestyle.
“Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing side by side, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.” NLT
There are areas where credibility is critical if we are to be effective witnesses for Christ, without which our message will be discredited.
“We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited” 2 Corinthians. 6:3 NIV
Many ministers have lost their audience because of one scandal or another. They may still be preaching but no one is taking them seriously.
“Those who are under the yoke as slaves must regard their own masters as deserving of full respect. This will prevent the name of God and Christian teaching from being discredited” 1 Timothy 6:1 NET
Christians should be exemplary in integrity, diligence and discipline. When this is lacking it shuts the door to reaching our colleagues.
“Older women likewise are to exhibit behaviour fitting for those who are holy, not slandering, not slaves to excessive drinking, but teaching what is good. 4 In this way they will train the younger women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, fulfilling their duties at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the message of God may not be discredited” Titus 2:3-5 NET
A woman was quarreling with her unbelieving husband. Neighbours came to separate the fight but the woman kept at it. When it was about 6p.m. she said to him “I am only letting go because I don’t want to be late for Tuesday Bible Study.”
If you are standing trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?