Have you ever wondered how God might start a conversation to get someone’s attention? How about these for starters?
“Please don’t drink and drive. You’re not quite ready to meet me yet.” God
“When you’re weary, feeling small. When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all.” God
“Can you imagine the price of air if you had to buy it from another supplier?” God
“I was thinking of making the world in black and white . Then I thought naaaah.” God
“If you think the Mona Lisa is stunning, you should look at my own masterpiece, in the mirror.” God
“Don’t’ forget your umbrella. I might water the plants today.” God
“If you missed the sunrise I made for you today, never mind. I’ll make you another one tomorrow.” God
“How can you possibly be a self-made man? I specifically recall making you.” God
“I think you are the most beautiful person in the world. Okay, so I’m biased.” God
If that is how God might start a conversation to get someone’s attention, how might you? How do we become fruitful in sharing our faith? How can we become contagious Christians? That is our theme for the next five Sundays.
It is ironic that the word ‘evangel’ means good news but the word evangelism or evangelist is so often associated with negative connotations. Why is that? We sometimes equate evangelists with men in dark suits with loud voices standing on soap boxes on street corners haranguing passers by.
You may have experienced the kind of teaching that suggests your spiritual maturity depends on how often you witness to others. And like me you may have felt a failure or guilty. That is why I am really excited about this series Becoming a Contagious Christian because we are going to learn an entirely different way of sharing Jesus. No matter what your background, your personality or temperament. It doesn’t matter whether you are an extrovert or an introvert. God has wired us uniquely. In Scripture we find many different examples and approaches to evangelism and I’m confident there is at least one that is natural for you.
By the end of this five week series, my prayer is that every member of Christ Church will:
1. Be sure that they are a Christian.
2. Be able to share their faith naturally using a simple tool.
3. Have discovered their preferred evangelism style.
4. Be able to tell the story of their personal faith journey.
5. Become a contagious Christian among friends & family.
But first lets ask the obvious question. Why become a Contagious Christian? Today I want us to explore the motivation for being a contagious Christian. Lets begin by considering our gospel reading. I want us to discover how to become contagious Christians through a simple formula. HP + CP + CC = MI. Lets start with the answer and work back to the beginning of the equation.
MI = Maximum Impact
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” (Matthew 5:13-15)
Jesus intended his disciples to have the maximum impact possible. He told them to go into the whole world and make disciples, teaching them to obey everything He had commanded them. Jesus uses these simple analogies of salt and light to illustrate the maximum impact he intends his church to have.
Where else are people going to find light? truth? meaning? hope? direction? fulfillment? If not in Jesus, where else? Science can satisfy our minds with answers to the question “how?” Materialism can satisfy our bodies with answers to the question – “what?” But only Jesus can satisfy our souls and answer the deeper longing and the questions beginning “why?” Why am I here? Why do I crave meaning and significance? Why is immortality so tantalizing but elusive? Because there is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person and only God can fill it.
The impact Jesus wants us to have is nothing less than raising the dead. Opening blind eyes. Turning enemies into family. Rebels into saints. Pagans into missionaries. Maximum Impact. If that’s the goal, how do we achieve it? Let’s look at the front half of the formula.
HP = High Potency
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?” (Matthew 5:13)
To have maximum impact salt must be pure. Much of the salt in Jesus’ day was impure – mixed with grit. Have you ever been on the beach on holiday and eaten a sandwich, only to hear the sound of tiny grains of sand between your teeth? It only takes a few grains of sand to ruin your lunch. It only takes a few grains of impurity to ruin a witness.
That is why we are committed to excellence in all we do as a church. On the back of our 2020 Vision and Five Year Plan you will see our Ten Distinctive Values. Notice the words ‘excellence’ ‘purity’ ‘authenticity’ ‘full devotion.’ This is what we aspire to be as individuals and as a church.
This is the only way to achieving high potency. There is no agency on earth that can match these values compared to a group of fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. Why? Because the Church is the only hope for the world.
So Maximum Impact (MI) = High Potency (HP) and
CP = Close Proximity
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” (Matthew 5:13-14)
It is no good being the purest salt – in a packet,or the brightest light – under a bowl. To have an impact in the lives of people, to become contagious we have to get close to people, real close. Jesus says – in the same house (5:15). Most first century homes had one room. People lived and slept in close proximity. Surveys show 4 out of every 5 people become Christians through a relative or friend.
Don’t believe me? Hands up if you became a Christian through a stranger, an evangelist, reading a book or a dream? Hands up if you became a Christian through a relative or friend? Think about why are you here today? Because someone got into close proximity with you and was contagious. So Maximum Impact (MI) = High Potency (HP) + Close Proximity (CP). One more ingredient is needed to complete the formula.
CC = Clear Communication
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
It is not enough to be of high potency and close proximity. Unless we tell people that any good they see in us is the work of God making us more like Jesus, we will actually put them off Jesus. They may feel they could never be as good as we are. Our goal must be clear communication so they understand Christianity is not about being good or trying hard or following rules but about Jesus and what he accomplished on the cross in our place. Jesus is saying in this passage, “I have a deep passion for people outside my Father’s family. Lost people matter to me, and I am deeply concerned about how you relate to them.”
Why? Because the most compelling argument he can present to someone on the outside is a close-up view of the transformed life of one of his family. Nothing compares with the transformed life of a child of God. Jesus is saying to us, “See yourself as salt and light to the people who at the moment are outside the family.” If we want to be contagious Christians then realize if we are to have Maximum Impact (MI) we need High Potency (HP) + Close Proximity (CP) + Clear Communication (CC).
Now let’s conclude with a brief look at 2 Corinthians 5 to discover more about our motivation. Three observations:
1. Contemplate the Love of Christ
“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.” (2 Corinthians 5:14)
Does Christ’s love compel you? Are you convinced that he died for you? For all? Are there some people you feel are beyond redemption? That you cannot forgive? Then contemplate the love of Christ. He died for you. Think about that. Even if you were the only sinner in the world Jesus would have come to die for you. Does that love compel you?
We have a stockpile of God’s blessings. When we live in the awareness of all God has given us, a thankful spirit will be a generous spirit. Never forget the magnitude of the transformation God has begun in you – bringing you to life – from being a stranger and an enemy to become his adopted child and member of his family. Live with praise and thankfulness every day for what God has done and is doing and will do in you and for you and you will not be able to keep him to yourself. Contemplate the love of Christ until like the Samaritan woman, you can say, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” (John 4:29). Contemplate the love of Christ until you can look an unbeliever in the eye and say, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). Contemplate the love of Christ until you can say like Joshua “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15).
So contemplate the Love of Christ for you and let your love for him overflow and become a contagious love for others.
2. Commit to Live in Christ
“And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” (2 Corinthians 5:15)
The word ‘compel’ in verse 14 means to ‘constrain’ us, to ‘hem us in’ and ‘push us out’, Jesus leave us no choice.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
If Jesus died for us we no longer live for ourselves, making our own choices and living independently of him. He wants to indwell us by his Spirit. How does the love of Christ compel us? The plain truth is that Jesus Christ is the only way to God. Hell is a reality and without Christ, people will face eternity without him if they don’t find forgiveness in Jesus Christ. The love of Christ therefore compels us to make him known. If people see that we live with Christ, they will see Christ in us. So contemplate the love of Christ and commit to live in Christ. And then you will indeed see your,
3. Serve as an Ambassador for Christ
“…he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:19-20)
Our highest calling and greatest privilege is to serve as ambassadors for Christ. We represent the Kingdom of heaven on earth. We pray for his kingdom to come in the Lord’s Prayer. And here we are called to live and work to extend his kingly rule, one life, one soul, one person at a time. We bring the good news of citizenship to people who are at present aliens, without hope and without God. All who will acknowledge Jesus as their Lord and King are welcome as citizens of his kingdom.
So when you look at other people what do you see? Someone who is a pain to live with? Or someone for whom Christ died? Someone who is just a prayer away from eternity? Realise that if lost people matter to God so much that he sent Jesus to die for them, then they should matter to us as well. There is no greater thrill than having a person look you in the eye and say,
“I needed a friend. I needed a credible witness, I needed someone whose life was consistent with their beliefs, and you were that person for me. Thank you for making time for me. Thank you for taking the initiative with me. Thank you for patiently answering my questions. Thank you for putting up with me. Thank you for loving me when I wasn’t very loveable. Jesus saved me but you led me to the cross where I found grace.”
When you hear words like that and gaze into tear-filled eyes, you can never be the same. The passion to reach out grows when you experience the joy of seeing seekers become fully devoted followers of Christ. The Church is the hope of the world. You are plan ‘A’ in God’s strategy to save the world. There is no plan ‘B’. He uses individuals like you and me as his Ambassadors. He has placed the good news of Jesus in our hearts and in our minds and in our hands. You have the high honour of being his ambassadors, assigned to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with a lost and needy world. So contemplate the love of Christ. Commit to live for Christ. And accept your calling as an Ambassador for Christ. As we close lets earth this practically. Close your eyes and think of the people that mean the most to you. Make a mental list of the people closest to you, who live or work in close proximity and pray for them. When you get home write those names on a piece of paper and keep them in your Bible. Pray for them daily and give each of them an invitation to our Christianity Explored course starting 1st May. And come next Sunday for the second installment in our series, “Becoming a Contagious Christian. This morning our focus has been on our motivation.
We have discovered a simple formula: HP + CP + CC = MI.
For Maximum Impact (MI) we need High Potency (HP) + Close Proximity (CP) + Clear Communication (CC).
And from 2 Corinthians 5, we have seen that in order to be contagious Christians we need to:
1. Contemplate the love of Christ.
2. Commit to live in Christ.
3. Recognise our calling as diplomats for Christ.
I long for our love for Jesus to become contagious, so contagious that we start a spiritual epidemic not only here in Virginia Water, but a contagion of love that goes viral and impacts our entire world for the sake of Jesus Christ.
Dear Lord help me to feel as you feel, to see as you see and the love as you love. Help me to become more and more thankful as I contemplate your love for me so that I may become contagious in sharing your love with others, that they too may come to know and love you also. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
Material used in this sermon has been adapted, with grateful thanks, from Becoming a Contagious Christian by Bill Hybels and Mark Mittelberg, and the Evangelism, Interactions Small Group Studies by Bill Hybels, both joint published by Zondervan and the Willow Creek Association.