I have met people in life that have caught my attention and inspired me to life; something captivated my heart and I simply wanted to be around them. They were fun and risk takers at the same time. It was my desire to stay close and take in as much as possible. They carried a message about God or they released contagious passion. Bill Hybels and Mark Mittelberg wrote a best seller entitled Becoming a Contagious Christian. One of their beliefs is that “true followers of Jesus Christ long to become contagious Christians”. When I consider the word contagious I have several thoughts that come to mind. Some of the ideas come across are simply bad such as infectious, viruses, unclean. On the other hand, contagious also speaks of something that is transmitted, or communicable, and when connected to lovers of God, being contagious brings great life. Contagious Christianity is so much more that evangelistically knocking on doors or speaking to strangers about Jesus Christ. Contagious Christianity spreads the message of Jesus Christ in such a way as people want to become infected with the love of God. This morning I want us to look into the heart of evangelism and to grow into being contagious followers of Jesus.
First Things First
We live in a broken world that does just about anything to keep one from knowing the truth about Jesus Christ. Nowhere is this plainer than in the area of one’s thinking. We are told that the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers (2 Cor 4:4). One of the areas that strongly tries to disavow the existence of God is that of science. However, in the last fifty years or so, a philosophical principle that affects the world of science was proposed, called the “Anthropic Principle”. This principle takes into consideration the scientific realities of the universe must be compatible with the existence of growing and intelligent life. This kind of thinking did not originate in the church but in the pursuit of scientific knowledge. Because this principle promotes the idea of design (supernatural and intelligent), many secular scientists are looking to other natural explanations.
When the Anthropic Principle is fully extrapolated, we begin to see creation as upheld by intelligent design with the purpose of supporting human life. Let me give you a few examples of how people truly matter to God in light of this principle. Science has discovered that -
· If the expansion of the Universe was slowed down or sped up the possibility of life would be ruled out.
· If the earth was closer to or farther from the sun human life would burn or freeze to death.
· Human Life could not be supported on earth if the earth’s rotation was altered (gravity affected) or the earth’s axis was tilted (seasons affected).
The Scripture tells us - By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth (Ps 33:6) and Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made (Jn 1:3). The exciting reality is this – science is now proving what the Bible has spoken of for centuries. First things first – there is a Creator who perfected his creation from the beginning.
God is Love
Our Creator, loves and cares for people, therefore God made sure everything is perfect in his intelligent design. God’s love directs the affairs of his Creation. Many of us have watched a sporting event and seen the verse John 3:16 in the background. This simple message is profound and spiritually true; God loves people and has given his Son to the world as Saviour and Lord. People matter to God. As a 20-year-old, I was a healthy pagan sinner who by revelation understood two basic things. First things first, there is a God who created everything including me. Secondly, he loves me. When I understood that God was real in the greatness of his creative power I was impressed. However, it was the love of God that changed my life. I was overcome by the Love of God. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 Jn 4:10). It was God’s love that transformed who I was; I was a new creation and the old was gone and the new had come. This is the contagious part of Christianity that I want us all to experience. It was love that motivated the Father to send the Son and in turn to empower us with the Spirit. We know from the Scriptures that God loves us because that is who he is – “God is Love” (1 John 3:16).
Compassion of God
In the context of today’s message, the heart of evangelism, the love of God shines bright. There is one specific aspect of God’s love that truly inspires me and that is his compassion. I see God’s compassion as the personal and practical application of his love. We know that he has to love us because God is love, but when he shows us his compassion we are changed.
Read with me Matt 9:35-38 – Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Jesus was instructing and proclaiming the good news. We must remember the good news was the announcement of a favourable message in the Roman Empire. The gospel writers now use this word to announce King Jesus’ Good News. The word in the Greek language for healing is “therapeuo” from which we get the word therapy. Then Jesus saw the crowds and had compassion on them. This is the love of God in action. Compassion is to be deeply affected in one’s inner being, which moves one to show kindness, favour, grace, mercy and pity towards the harassed and helpless. We see this in the following Scripture - When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick (Mt 14:13–14) and then fed the five thousand…
It was the compassion of God that accompanied the authority of Jesus’ teaching. I believe it was the compassion of God that released the signs and wonders and miracles that helped people to believe.
The Heart of Evangelism
This brings us to the main point of today’s message. We must know that God is the Creator (First Things First), and that God is Love and that his compassion motivates us to share the Good News. Becoming an excellent evangelistic church is not dependent upon “charismatic or non-charismatic,” Pentecostal or conservative evangelical, nor upon evangelistic activities, etc… but upon the Compassion of God being released.
Psalm 103 is one of my favourite passages of Scripture. We are exhorted to Praise the Lord, oh my soul; and all my inmost being, praise his holy name. We are told not to forget the benefits of his salvation, but to remember the forgiveness of sins, the healing of sickness, redemption, and the experience of his abundant life. We are told the Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and that “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him” (Ps 103:8,13).
There was a time in YWAM when the compassion of God was poured out on one of our schools. We were overwhelmed by his love for us, we were confronted by his holiness and our sinfulness, his mercy was too good to be true and under the weight of his compassion we wept and we repented of our sins. Once we caught our breath and composed ourselves our weeping turned to joy as we experienced the heart of the Father.
I believe it is the compassion of God that brings the right motivation for evangelism. We must have personal experience with God’s compassion so that we can share the message of God with compassion. All too often believers share their faith without compassion gripping our hearts.
I have several thoughts that I believe the Lord wants us to consider in conclusion. I would care to say that all us of here have a desire to grow in our relationship with God and become a contagious and compassionate Christian; someone who attracts others in life and has good news to share. We understand the importance of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with others. However, at times we find ourselves lacking in the area of evangelism. Why is this?
I believe one of the reasons is simple – we lack the compassion of God touching our hearts. In other words, we don’t feel much for God anymore. J. Edwin Orr was a Scholar and Preacher of True Revival, Evangelism, and Apologetics. He overheard four preachers speaking of revival and evangelism one day - “We are willing and eager for revival. But we must be quick to crush every appearance of emotional feeling, lest we be led astray.” His response to these preachers was “this is sheer humbug.” True evangelism must touch three areas of one’s life to be successful.
· It must reach the intellect with revelation and understanding of Jesus Christ.
· It must touch the conscience with the conviction of sin.
· AND it must stir the emotions. In other words, if one’s emotions are not touched by God’s compassion then there is something foundationally missing; whether in the evangelistic or the soon-to-be Christian.
As we share the Good News of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, we must influence the minds of people, let them experience the conviction of sin AND not be afraid to get compassionately emotional with them.
The question arises, how do we put compassionate spirituality into action? There are several practical disciplines that enhance spiritual compassion within one’s life and within a congregation. The concept of “abiding” or waiting on the Lord is clear in the Scriptures. The Psalmists tell us again and again to wait on the Lord, John the Beloved tells us to abide in Jesus, His love and His Word. Abiding is all about a lifestyle of devotion to Jesus.
Unfortunately, in this world, there are barriers to compassion for Jesus.
· Compassion fatigue
Even though we can be busy and distracted, and sometimes tired emotionally, these barriers are easily overcome when we come to Jesus. We need to understand that Jesus is eagerly waiting for you and I to draw near. His compassion exceeds our love and devotion to him. God is a Lover, capital L, waiting for you, longing for you because he desires you. He has already provided forgiveness of sins in Jesus; mercy and grace are abundant in his heart for you and I. Remember the Lord is compassionate and gracious…
Let’s allow God to plant compassion in our hearts as we continue to grow in sharing our faith in Jesus Christ with others.