Why We Don’t Share Our Faith
Summer Beach Project 6.14.13
“To win men to acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is the only reason Christians are left in this world.” -R.A. Torrey
[These are mostly philosophical observations from looking at my own heart]. My prayer is that we would see the absurdity of our excuses, repent of our sins & selfishness, and ask that God would give us a new heart for himself & his purposes. We have been given a great privilege. God could have chosen to speak audibly and individually to people’s hearts or to write his signs in the clouds, but instead, by and large, He has declared that his gospel will spread from person to person, through intentional relationships and loving, confrontational conversations.
We Don’t Believe
There are those of you here tonight who know that you don’t believe these claims we believe about Jesus. You’re not sure that Jesus is the only way or that there’s really a heaven & hell. That’s okay; we’d love to work through these questions with you at another time, but this talk is not really for you. We hope that you keep investigating the claims of Jesus with us this summer.
However, there are some of you tonight who don’t share your faith, though you claim Christ, because you don’t truly have faith. It’s not that evangelism is a “good work” that we put before God to earn our place in his kingdom, but it is a good work that results from being in his kingdom. Here’s what I mean: I challenge you to take some time to read through the gospels and look at every time someone encounters Jesus. Every time you see some one changed by Jesus, they cannot help but tell others. The news is so good, so liberating, so transformative- they can’t help themselves. It’s not that they’re always incredibly articulate, but what’s going on in their hearts overflows out of their mouths: “Come see a man who told me all I ever did” (John 4), “Jesus healed me when I was paralyzed” (John 5), “I once was blind but now I see” (John 9)… even the people that Jesus tells to keep quiet can’t keep quiet: “And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it” (Mark 7:36). There’s something about Him & His message that, when it grabs hold, comes out.
We Are Afraid
Most of you would say that this is the number one reason that you don’t share your faith. What are you afraid of?
You fear Rejection from people. You’re afraid of a relationship growing uncomfortable or awkward because you’ve offended someone or trod ground that no one should trespass upon. You’re scared that they won’t listen to you because of your own sin- your present hypocrisy or past failures. You feel too guilty about your life lived before others to share.
You need to remember that you are wholly accepted & welcomed by Jesus, that His approval alone is all you need. His approval alone satisfies & it has already been declared once and for all because of what Christ has already done. Then, move forward just like that woman in well in John 4 (who may have been a prostitute; at the very least, she had a pretty rough reputation). She went in town, around those who knew her & all her flaws, and declared humbly & boldly, “Come see this man who told me all I ever did.” What happened when she did? “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony” (John 4:39).
You and I are often have more faith that people will judge us & reject us than we do that the gospel of God in our stories, by the Spirit, has the power to change. We need to see that, when we act out of fear of rejection, we’re acting like our relationships with these people are going to save them or that we are not saved by grace, but by grace and our good works. So we don’t move forward because it’ll make us uncomfortable.
We need to ask ourselves if the church is meant to be a “comfortable” place. People are not transformed in comfort. Go read Acts 9-12 and see how the church presses into uncomfortable situations to share their glorious hope.
“There are no easy steps to witnessing! No painless, unembarrassing methods! You must bring men to see that they are filthy sinners under the wrath of God who must flee to Christ for mercy. That is offensive. And there is no way to coat it with honey” –Walter J. Chantry
Ultimately, you & I fear rejection because we don’t trust that the Lord doesn’t reject us- that Christ has bought us the permanent, perfect, ever-satisfying acceptance of God.
You fear Failure. You fear that, when the time comes you won’t know what to say, or that you won’t have enough time to put into the relationship or that you’re not trained well enough to share. We need to see that when you & I do this, we’re putting our trust in ourselves & our abilities to articulate instead of the Lord’s power! The power for evangelism is not in our ability; it is in His gospel. You may have never imagined that someone could actually be born again by hearing of Christ from your lips, but that’s not humility. It’s doubt, a denial of God’s blessing upon His gospel- just because it is spoken by you. Don’t doubt the power of God to add His blessing upon your words when you speak of Christ. We protect our pride at the cost of their souls.
“First, we must admit that we were silly ever to think that any evangelistic technique, however skillful, could of itself guarantee conversions; second, we must recognize that, because man’s heart is impervious to the word of God, it is no cause for surprise if at any time our evangelism fails to result in conversions; third, we must remember that the terms of our calling are that we should be faithful, not that we should be successful; fourth, we must learn to rest all our hopes of fruit in evangelism upon the omnipotent grace of God.”-J.I. Packer
I wish that we had time to really delve in Acts 8 for those of you who think that you’re not trained well enough or that the “real” evangelism work is merely for pastors & CO staff. I loved hearing Ajith Fernando of Youth for Christ Sri Lanka address this. He pointed people to Acts 8:4-40, which talks of these evangelists being scattered and the gospel going forth to Samaria & then, presumably, to Ethiopia. Ajith said that most people, after hearing him recount this passage, respond by saying, “Yeah! See what I mean! All those pastors & preachers went sharing.” Ajith then points them to verse one: “and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” The only people who didn’t go out and share were the apostles! It was the witness of “ordinary” Christians that was most effective!
“Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.” –Luke 21:14-15
“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” -1 Peter 3:15
Right now, you are receiving more training than almost any other Christian in the history of the world about how to share your faith. You are not called to be formulaic about sharing, but you are called to (1) be aware that God is already at work in those around you, (2) be available because God wants to use you, (3) be alert in listening to the Spirit’s prompting you to act! God has involved us not because He needs us (thank God), but because He loves us!
We Don’t Love People Enough
“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for” -Charles Spurgeon
Why don’t we think, pray, and act like that? Maybe it’s because we don’t know a lot of non-Christians. Maybe we’re comfortable in our quiet holy huddles & don’t really ever think about the status of other people’s souls. If we can’t think of a non-Christian we’re lovingly investing in towards the gospel, we may be blind to the urgency of eternity (how no one is promised another minute) or love our distractions too much or… if we’re really honest with ourselves, maybe we don’t share with non-Christians because we don’t really care about them. We don’t love people enough to lose them, because we don’t really want what’s best for them- we want what’s best for us. We care more about ourselves & our comfort than the eternity of non-Christians.
“We protect our pride at the cost of their souls. In the name of not wanting to look weird, we are content to be complicit in their being lost” –Mark Dever
We very subtly try to avoid the implications of the 2nd greatest commandment: “love your neighbor as yourself.” You see, if we love other people we have to want what’s best for them- even if they don’t want it for themselves. What’s best for everyone on the planet is a relationship with Jesus.
Imagine that you are a world-renowned neurosurgeon. Let’s say you grab coffee with an old friend from college, and you start to notice a few things. Your friend is complaining about having frequent headaches, tells you an embarrassing story about how they fell last week into an attractive member of the opposite sex, seems to be having trouble formulating his/her thoughts cohesively… and you know. You’re a neurosurgeon. You see the signs. Your friend, in all likelihood, has a brain tumor. Now, you tell me. What’s more loving: (1) To tell your friend that they may be desperately sick, need to be examined, & potentially need treatment which you know where to find or (2) ignore the signs because you don’t want to embarrass your friend?
Penn Jillette, a great entertainer & atheist, put it this way:
“I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize [share their faith]… If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life… how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that… I mean, if I believed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.”
Listen to how his sentiments are echoed in the following quote:
“I’m a conditional Buddhist… and I try to deal with Christians with a sense of humor… I try not to dwell on the insensitivity that Christianity writes in the Christian heart. I remember reading of a man who was hanged in England long ago. He tongue-lashed those attending his demise and called them a bunch of hypocrites. He said that if he, even a villain like himself, believed that someone he didn’t know was going to burn in hell forever if they didn’t believe in Jesus that he, the villain, would crawl across a desert of broken glass to get to that man or woman. I could walk up in front of any congregation of Christians in the world and put a cigarette out in my hand and they would all jump to their feet in alarm and rush to keep me from hurting myself further, but none of them really give a f– if anyone in their town goes to hell. It’s all a sham. No one really believes in that crap.” -M.H. Hardgrove
I hope that you hear a bit of convicting truth in these two non-believers’ words. If we truly believe that people there is a very real judgment seat that people will come before & we do nothing to warn them, we must, at least in comparison to ourselves, hate them.
“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” -2 Corinthians 4:5
We Don’t Love Jesus Enough
Here is the most disheartening part: While unbelief, fear, and a lack of compassion may be secondary reasons that we don’t share our faith, ultimately, we don’t share our faith because we don’t love our Savior enough. We care more about ourselves than Christ.
I know that some of you may not truly believe this about yourself, so let me use an analogy. Jason Mills is a friend of mine that I met in Montana several years ago, when I worked out there one summer. We kept up for awhile, but we haven’t spoken in a few years now. He’s an agnostic, knows my faith, and we’ve talked about it several times.
Now, several times in the Bible, God is referred to as our Husband. Let me draw three scenarios to illustrate how our actions demonstrate our lack of love for Christ.
1. Imagine that Jason & I haven’t spoken in a long time. He has no clue that I got married since the last time we talked. We talk for about two hours & have a great time catching up, but never once do I mention the fact that I’m married. I give no hint.
2. Now imagine that Jason has learned that I am newly married to Erin, so he says, “So I heard that you’re married now,” with a hint of surprise and perhaps a smirk. I quickly say, “yep, it’s true” and move on or I dodge questions and say very non-committal things about her & our marriage.
3. Lastly, imagine that Jason knows Erin previously but doesn’t realize that I am now married to her. He recalls a story and says disparaging things about her. I say nothing.
What would an outsider say about our marriage? That it’s healthy and vibrant? That I truly love her and would give anything for her sake? Of course not! I love my wife more than anyone in the entire world! There’s no way that I could let any of those scenarios take place, because she has stolen my heart! I can’t help but talk about her, say great things about her, or fight for her! And, as important as my relationship with my wife is, she didn’t save me. She didn’t redeem my soul from death.
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” -1 Peter 2:24-25
What we need to do is to see how much He loves us! He loved us enough to cast aside all privilege and honor to come and die for our sakes! And what we have been entrusted with is not a burden, but a glorious privilege. We are able to say to the world, “Listen. I know the world is crazy. I know everything you’ve ever tried to gain purpose or identity from has let you down. But there is a King who loves you more than you could begin to dream. And you don’t have to meet a list of requirements to enter into his good graces. Why? Because He sent His Son to live the life you couldn’t & to die the death you should have, so that you could receive his favor as a gift. Everything you’ve ever looked for in anything else is ultimately found in Him. And, oh, how He wants to know you. How He wishes that you would let go of these things that are enslaving you so that you could experience true freedom & true joy in a relationship with Him. Would you lay down your trifles in repentance & trade them for a relationship with the God who created you, who loves you, who knows what’s best for you, and who offered Himself to cover you?”
It is our job to be faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2) & trust God to do the work that only He can do, but how can they believe in Him of whom they have not heard (Romans 10)? The gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.