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Entries in Passion (2)


Sharing Jesus Passionately 2

1 Peter 3:14-17.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on April 2, 2017.

Today we will finish out our series on the purpose of the Church and followers of Jesus.  We have used the words: Connect, Grow, Serve, and Share.  When we share the truth about Jesus it becomes necessary to give an answer to questions that inevitably arise, and to give a defense to accusations of error.  Throughout history there have been some very eloquent answers and defenses given, and some of them can be found in the Bible.

The first Christian martyr, Stephen, gives an eloquent defense before the Sanhedrin (a Jewish court) in Acts chapter 7.  The Apostle Paul gives a defense to a Jerusalem mob in Acts 22, and a defense to the Sanhedrin in Acts 23.  Later he gives another defense before King Herod Agrippa in Acts 26.  Down through history the impassioned statements of believers and martyrs have been recorded in books like “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.”  You will notice something in all of these that I have mentioned.  They are not filled with the vindictive ramblings and railings of people who are missing their marbles.  Instead, we see very reasoned defenses of the Gospel of Jesus and their faith in it.  Though Christianity is referred to as a Faith, never think for a moment that it also means that there is no reason.  So, today we will look at this area of reasoning with people in the marketplace of Ideas.

The case for apologetics

In this passage Peter speaks about the reality that normally we are not persecuted for doing good.  But there are times when you suffer even for doing what is good.  For whatever reason, another person or king may feel threatened and then seek your harm, though it is undeserved.  In those times we need to stand our ground and share the truth of Christ without anger and striking back.  Thus we defend ourselves with the Truth.  The word apologetics is used for any line of reasoning or answering that is used to defend the faith, of Christianity in this case, against others.  It comes from the same root of the word “defense or answer” in 1 Peter 3:15.  The word actually can mean either one.  If someone is simply asking a question then you give an answer.  But if someone is seeking to demonstrate that you are in error, then you are giving a defense.  This is the area of learning to defend our faith, both in Jesus personally and in the teachings of him and his apostles.  Peter gives us a command in verse 15 to be ready to give an answer or defense.  It is a necessary part of the being a follower of Jesus.

It would be easy to have an attitude that is super spiritual.  We could state that we don’t have to defend the faith because people are either drawn by the Holy Spirit or they are not.  However, this is not the attitude the apostles and early Christians took.  Christians have been reasoning people because their Lord and Master is a reasoning being.  Also, we must not defend the faith in order to get a duty off of our plate.  We must care about whether people believe or not.  A Christian who runs into resistance should be driven to their knees in prayer.  “O God, help me to find a way.”  “Fill my mouth with Your words and anoint me with Your Spirit.” When people ask questions or bring up reasons why they don’t believe, we must seek to answer them with passion for the faith and passion for them accepting it.  Yet, it is also true that not everyone asks honest questions.  Some seek only to tear down continually, and will not listen to reason.  It is not your job to give an answer to every person on earth, but it is your job to give an answer to every person who “asks of you the reason for the hope within you.”

Peter goes on to remind them how they should answer and defend.  It should be done in a Christlike manner.  The how is just as important as the what.  In fact, we should check ourselves before we answer anyone.  Am I letting the character and person of Jesus shine through me?  We defend ourselves, but not as the world defends itself.  In fact, if we are honest, we want to defend in a worldly manner.  It takes courage and strength to restrain one’s self and be like Christ.  So what does it look like to gve an answer or defense of our faith in a Christlike manner?

Peter lists 4 things.  First, we are in a state of readiness.  Like the Boy Scout motto, “Be prepared,” we make sure that we are ready to give a reason for our faith in Jesus.  We prepare ourselves spiritually, mentally, and physically.  And yet, Jesus tells us that we need not worry about the exact words we should say.  But, we do need to spend time in the Word of God and prayerfully thinking through the issues of our day.  People will have questions and we need to prepare ourselves to answer them.

Next Peter uses the word “meekness.”  This word is more about our inner demeanor than it is our outward.  It points to an inner calmness, gentleness, and humility within our spirit.  This is to be in contrast to an arrogant, brash, and spiteful demeanor.  The inward will outwardly express itself.  But a meek person can give a passionate and strong defense of the Gospel.  We see this with Stephen and Paul as I mentioned earlier.  The meek person does not approach the unbeliever with an attitude of superiority, and yet neither are they ashamed and timid about their faith.  May God fill us with His Spirit so that we can be strong and meek.

Next Peter mentions fear.  In our day and age it is not in vogue to speak of fear positively.  However, there is a place for proper fear.  Peter is referring to having a proper respect for other people and a proper reverence for the Lord Jesus.  Thus we sanctify (hallow) the Lord in our heart.  I belong to Him and He has called me for this very purpose.  I must do it, and I must do it in the way that He wants me to do it.

This leads to the fourth thing, a good conscience.  Living in harmony with the faith and the teachings of Jesus and his apostles, gives us an assurance that we are doing the right thing.  It gives us confidence before those who question us.  We have a good conscience, not because we never fail, but because even when we fail we admit them, repent of them, and reconcile with those we sin against.  When a Christian faces and deals with their sin, it keeps their conscience clean.  There is no guilt that can be held over their head in order to shut them up.  You need to realize that the devil wants to cover you in a pile of doubts, confusion, shame, and guilt.  Why? So that he can get you to shut up and not try.  Parents should take this very same thing to heart.  It is hard raising kids.  But if you quit when it gets hard, the devil will win in the life of your child.  Over the years many brilliant people, in defending Jesus and the Gospel, have left us with quite a repository of answers to give the world.

The Case for Christ

There is a movie that is coming out this weekend called The Case for Christ.  It is based off of a true story of an investigative journalist named Lee Strobel.  You may be interested in seeing the movie, but even more important you really should read the book that he wrote in 1998 by the same name.  You see, in 1979, Lee Strobel was a boozing, self-absorbed, and immoral man who was driven to be a great journalist.  He was also an atheist.  That year the conversion of his wife to Christianity rocked his world.  But he was rocked even more by what it did in the life of his wife.  He felt like he was losing his wife and yet she was becoming a better person.  The book traces his investigative interview with 13 different professionals within different professions in order to prove to his wife that Jesus and Christianity were well proven frauds.  After 21 months, in 1981, Lee was astounded that he had convinced himself that it was all true and was backed by evidence that would not only stand up in court, but more evidence than was often used to send people to prison for life.

Lee visited professionals in the areas of ancient source documents, both biblical and secular, archaeology, philosophy, psychology, theology, and even medical doctors.  Remember that Lee was an atheist who was out to prove the religion his wife was embracing was a fraud and easily proven wrong.  He thought he had an answer for every claim of Christians.  Here is a sample of how his journey went.  He felt that the 500 people who had seen Jesus at one time must have had a hallucination.  In his book he says, “I went to a psychologist friend and said if 500 people claimed to see Jesus after he died, it was just a hallucination.  He said hallucinations are an individual event.  If 500 people have the same hallucination, that’s a bigger miracle than the resurrection.”  Often skeptics who deny the reality of Scriptural events will point to alternate explanations that superficially appear to be a valid answer.  But, upon further speculation, you find that they actually make it more impossible.  Another example of this is the crossing of the Red Sea.  Often people will say that the water wasn’t very deep, perhaps ankle or knee deep.  Yet, when you think about it, this only changes the miracle to the fact that God drowned Pharaoh and his army in knee deep water.  I share this to show that there are many people and books written that answer the many questions and misunderstandings that people have towards Jesus.  However, it is just as important to share the good news about what Jesus had done for us, than to answer people’s questions about the bible.

Evangelism Explosion and the  Way of the Master

Sharing with people their need for salvation and the grace of Jesus can be intimidating for many.  There are individuals who are gifted with the ability and desire to talk to everyone.  But most people have to work at it to share Christ with others.  In 1962 Dr. D. James Kennedy, senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, came out with an evangelism tool called Evangelism Explosion.  It is famous for the leading question, “Suppose that you were to die today and stand before god and he were to say to you, ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’  What would you say?”  Of course it involved a set of Scripture verses to share with people once they gave their answer.

Another tool that is more recent comes from pastor Ray Comfort with  He uses some of the 10 commandments (lying, stealing, taking God’s name in vain, adultery) and uses them to show people that they are guilty before God by their own admission.  If they stood before God they would have no defense.  Then he explains how Jesus was making a way for them to be set free from their sin and guilt.  All they need to do is confess their sins, believe in their heart that Jesus paid the price for their sins, and then put their trust in Him and His teachings. 

As good as these attempts to systematize sharing the gospel are, we must recognize that this is a spiritual endeavor.  No one will be rationalized into the kingdom of God.  However, that is not to say that reasoning is not important.  We are both mental and spiritual.  Thus we must engage people’s minds.  Yet, a key component cannot be overlooked, the spiritual sense of our sin and the amazing grace of Jesus.  In the words of Herod Agrippa to the Apostle Paul, many people hear a great presentation of the Gospel and yet say, “You almost persuade me to be a Christian.”  When you hear this, don’t get discouraged and give up.  Don’t hang your head down and feel like you have disappointed God.  Whether noncommittal or even resistant, it is not our job to save people, but to give them a reason for the hope within us.  In fact, very few get saved the first time they hear the gospel.  It is often over the course of time and many explanations of the gospel that people come to faith in Christ.  So hang in there and be faithful to the mission.  The words that God will say to us on that day are “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  Let’s focus on being good and faithful to the mission that Jesus has given us to share the gospel with those who are not believers in Him.

Sharing Jesus 2 audio


Sharing Jesus Passionately

Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 1:7-8.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on March 26, 2017.

We have looked at three purposes of the people of God.  First we are to Connect to Jesus and each other in a living relationship.  If it is a living relationship then we will Grow spiritually to become more like Jesus.  Thirdly, if we are growing to be like Jesus then we will Serve one another selflessly.  This leads to the last purpose that we will look at, which is to Share Jesus passionately with those who are not connected to Him.  All of these “purposes” flow out of the first purpose and can be considered part of it.  Regardless, let’s look at this issue of sharing Jesus passionately.

There are many today who speak of a cultural arrogance of Christians.  What gives Christians the right to tell others that they do not have the truth, in any way?  For sure over the years Christians have sometimes confused spreading the Gospel with spreading a culture.  Still, the question is this.  Is it ever acceptable to teach someone else something that you believe to be truth?  It should immediately be evident that much of life could not happen without the concept of some teaching others truth.  A child that is born into the world is never left to discover truth all on its own.  They are taught what to eat, what to avoid, etc.  A person who wants to learn a profession goes to those who are already doing it, in order to learn the trade.  Once a person has grasped the collective learning to that point, then they are in a place to seek on their own what may not be understood up to now.  What I am saying is that we cannot intellectually reject the concept of telling others the truth.  We can only disagree with what they are promoting as truth.  As Christians we should not allow ourselves to fall prey to the idea that we should let others find the truth for themselves.  Those who promote such things firmly promote it as truth, which in itself is a type of hypocrisy.  No.  If you are Christian then do not apologize for believing God’s Word.  Instead, confidently take your place within the market of ideas, and share Jesus passionately.  You have as much right as the next person to speak your peace.

We will see today that there is another side to this matter.  Up to now we have been dealing with our relationship to other people.  Yet, there is also our relationship to God.  If God has given us truth that others lack, and He has told us to share it with them, then we would be rejecting His will not to share the truth with them.  Thus we would not be walking in faith, but in disobedience.

Today we will look at a passage that shares an interaction that Jesus had with his disciples after the resurrection, but before he ascended into heaven.  It serves as a transitional story from the works that Jesus did while he was on earth to the works that His Church did through his spiritual help.  If we understand anything today, I pray that we will see that we can confidently share the good news about Jesus with anyone we meet without feeling shame.

Jesus gives his disciples a mission

Though the disciples are not exactly clear what is going on, we know that Jesus is getting ready to leave earth.  He is going into the heavenly realm to stay at the right hand of the Father, until he is sent back to establish his reign over the whole earth.  This begs the question: What should his followers do while he is gone?  In this passage Jesus gives instructions for what his followers should be doing.  But, before we talk about the mission he is about to give, let’s look at the condition of the disciples.

Their understanding of who Jesus is and what he is doing had received a complete upheaval at the cross.  They are in a state of shock regarding his death, and yet another shock regarding his resurrection.  Thus Jesus is helping them to make the transition from all that they thought Jesus was to the truth about it.  In some ways they were right, but in very big areas they were also wrong.  Verse 17 shows us that though they worshipped the Lord, some still doubted.   If they are going to be able to do what Jesus is asking them to do then they are going to have to overcome their doubts and learn to worship Jesus as divine.  The same is true today.  What were these doubts they had?  Maybe they doubted that this was really Jesus because their mind just couldn’t accept it.  Maybe they doubted whether they wanted to continue to follow him.  Regardless of what their doubts were and what our doubt might be today we must face them.  Doubts are a very real part of faith.  You can’t have faith without there being some doubts over which to believe.  As we take our doubts and lay them before God in prayer, we will recognize that He has given us very real proof and evidence on which we can believe.  Ultimately doubt and faith is about whether we trust Jesus or not.  So read the Gospels over again and ask yourself if you trust the One who was willing to go to the cross for you, or the wisdom of those who have not.  Christians accept Jesus as more than a great teacher, or a great example of faithful suffering.  He is all that and yet more.  He is the One and Only unique Son of God, who is worthy of the worship of mankind.  He is unique in that he was never created, and in fact, all things that were created were created through him.  What the disciples did that day was considered blasphemy to the Jews.  They accepted the divinity of Jesus and gave worship to him.  To worship Jesus was to recognize his absolute value above all created things and equality with the Father.  Though he was truly human, he was also God.

Then in verse 18 Jesus preempts his instructions with an important truth.  He had been given all authority from the Father over all authorities in heaven and on earth (both the spirit world and the natural world).  This is important because the mission is going to require them to enter into the domain of earthly rulers and spiritual rulers, and promote Jesus as Lord.  This would be seen as an act of insurrection and treated as such by those same rulers.  Thus earthly rulers would challenge Christians on a very physical plane.  What gives you this authority?  In the same way wicked, spiritual rulers would resist.  They would have a better grasp on why Christians have authority to enter their areas of control.  But they would resist nonetheless.  Thus the existence of the Church becomes a means by which all authorities of earth are put on notice by the King of all kings that their time of judgment is rapidly approaching.  Our message to all the citizens of these domains is this: Flee the coming judgment on these rulers and their domains by renouncing them and join the kingdom of Jesus by pledging allegiance to him.  Christian you must understand that anyone who tells you to quit talking about Jesus, is themselves in rebellion to the highest authority of the entire cosmos.  We must not waver in the reality of who Jesus really is.  It is by his authority that we have the right to tell others the truth about their condition and situation.

So this leads us to verses 19 and 20.  These verses lay out the mission that Jesus has for his followers.  The heart of it is to disciple all nations.  So that starts with inviting people to become students of Jesus.  The emphasis of the word “nations” is meant to emphasize the individuals that comprise the nations, and not the geopolitical entities and their governments.  We are not called to Christianize all governments, but rather to “Christianize” all who want to become disciples of Jesus out of every nation that exists.  Now, I have taken time to make a rough diagram of the mission to make it easier to discuss.

Our command or imperative is to disciple all nations.  So we are to help others to become disciples of Jesus as we are.  Also, there is no biological, racial, or cultural boundary that we are limited by.  Christ has authority over all nations and thus authorizes us to make disciples from all nations.  All of this is not to be done forcefully.  All disciples must do so of their own choosing.  We are called by Jesus, “come follow me,” but not forced to do so.  Thus all Christians are volunteers in the service of Jesus. 

Now that we have the principle parts of the command, let’s look at the qualifiers.  The English version makes it look like our command is to go.  However, in the original language it is a verbal adjective that is describing the disciples.  The emphasis is not that everyone who claims to be a disciple must go to all the nations, but that the disciples are to be a “going” people.  Thus, whether we are doing our part by going across the street to our neighbor, or going to the ends of the earth, this is our collective responsibility.  Thus Christians who are not missionaries to other nations, are still “goers” because they are sharing Jesus within their own area and they help to support those that go to other nations through prayer and funds.  We cannot ever become a people who hide behind walls and wait for God to take the world away.  Rather we are called to advance into the most evil of environments and proclaim the judgment of God to those dark forces that rule them and proclaim deliverance to whosoever wants out of those kingdoms.  Christians must not be cowards who hide in fear.  Rather, we must be those who take our fears, much like our doubts, and place them before God, as we ask for courage to walk in faith.  We must have a going heart.

The next qualifying phrases refer to making disciples.  Although Matthew’s version does not explicitly mention this proclamation, Mark’s version says “go and preach the gospel.”  Thus we make disciples by first proclaiming freedom.  Then we baptize those who respond in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  In other words, we introduce them into the new community with a symbolic act that represents what is happening in their life.  They are dying to the old life and being raised up to a new life in a new kingdom.  This basically represents a person switching allegiance.  What must those spiritual powers think every time a believer is baptized in the name of Jesus?  It must be salt to their wounds as they lose another person from their grip and come one step closer to their judgment.

The next part of making disciples is to teach them all that Jesus commanded.  Part of what Jesus taught was that his apostles would be enabled by the Holy Spirit to lay down the whole truth for the Church of Christ (John 16:12-13).  He didn’t have time to lay everything out for them.  But He would lead them by the Holy Spirit.  Thus the Bible speaks of the foundation of Christ and his Apostles.  The truth must be taught to these new believers so that they too can become teachers and disciplers.

Of course I have continued the diagram to include what Jesus says about himself.  Notice the parallel.  In a sense he says, “This is what you are supposed to be doing, and this is what I will do.”  He promises to be with his disciples always, even to the end of the age.  Thus the promise is not just for the first century and the first disciples.  It is in force as long as is given to the Church to proclaim the gospel and as many generations.  So how is Jesus with us?  Acts chapter 1:7-8 helps us to understand this.

In this passage the disciples wanted to know what would happen to Israel as a nation at this time.  But Jesus tells them to wait for an event in which the Holy Spirit of God would come upon the disciples of Jesus and help them to be the witnesses and teachers that they were called to be.  So, it is through the Holy Spirit that Jesus is with us.  In fact, in some places the Holy Spirit is actually called the Spirit of Christ.  Why?  He is called that because He is not acting on His own, but leading only in the direction that the Son of God desires.  So what is this age that Jesus refers to and when will it end?  The best way to describe it is to see it as a time of God’s gracious offer of citizenship in His coming kingdom to whosoever will.  Of course Satan fights hard to blind people to the truth and even to pull people back away from Christ.  He will never give up until he is completely removed by God (see Revelation 20:10).  Take time today first to pray for the help of the Holy Spirit.  You were never meant to do this alone.  Thus we have the Holy Spirit and we have a community of others who are in communion with the Holy Spirit.  Second, ask God for focus on how to be a witness of His love and His truth.  Ask Him for help to speak the truth in love and with passion.  Yes, you must become convinced that these things are true before you can worship Jesus and serve Him in this purpose of telling the whole world.  This Age of Grace has a point in which it will end.  We are not told a date or number of years.  We are simply told to be faithful.  May God help His Church to be awake and alert in these perilous times.

Sharing Jesus audio