Years ago there was a physician in the Middle East countries who studied all his life and put all his effort into one task: the fight of brain cancer. As he was walking in the mountains he found a wonderful and at the same time strange looking plant. It was with deep roots, though it was small in its outer appearances, and had blue and purple leaves. The physician had heard from the stories of old about this plant. People were told of this seldom growing plant to have the power of healing. So he took a deeper look at this plant in his laboratory. After several months he found the formula against brain cancer. But he kept this new found treasure a long time for himself and on his deathbed he wanted to tell his son about what he has found but it was too late, his speech had already left him. So he died with a secret which could have saved so many lives if it just would have been told.
This story above is not a real one but there is a truth in the analogy. How many people know about the cure of the real life cancer – sin – and yet do not tell others about it. As you read this story you might think how mean and foolish this physician might have been, but I want to challenge you and me to take a closer look into the mirror and to see if there is not somebody like the physician found in both of us.
In my days when I was riding the bus downtown Chicago to the school I went to I had plenty of opportunity to observe people who suffered with me the ride on a CTA bus (I think I had a similar experience in Hungary…). One day as I was sitting there I saw a couple entering the bus. They must have been in there early teen years. Both were clothed totally in black and had several types of death-symbols around there necks and fingers.
Before I got on the bus, I was praying to God to share my testimony or being a witness for him. So I got on the bus and started to read the gospel of John. Nobody noticed me and I did not put much effort in being noticed by the others (how brave I was!). And then there was this couple who was clothed like most gothic people tend to do. But I still did not know what to say, so I kept my silence. Have I not been the same like the physician in the story? Am I not guilty of “depraved indifference”? Yes, I am.
This story is just an illustration of a struggle I have been facing for a long time. Evangelism for me is a kind of frightening thing. On the one hand, I have compassion for the people I meet on the street and yet on the other hand, I cannot open my mouth. Yes, I want to share and carry the good news around the world and yet I am not able to share it with my next-door neighbor or the person who sits next to me on the bus.
As I surrendered to Jesus and “allowed” him to rule as my Lord in my life with seventeen, I grew in Bible knowledge and leadership skills. On many occasions I had the opportunity to share Christ among unbelievers. I had good conversations and “bad” ones (I remember one occasion where one of my friends almost jumped over the table to punch me in the face – like St. Nicholas …just different). But I do only know of one who by the Holy Spirit’s power came to Christ because of my witnessing or preaching. I know, it is not my job to make converts but to witness but seeing some of the fruit (once in a while) is surely a sweet occasion.
To be honest I am more than glad that it is not my responsibility to convince somebody of his sin and his need for Christ. I am relieved that Jesus said:
“And when he [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8)
But it is my responsibility to live my faith and to be authentic. And if Jesus is the Savior and Lord, the Son of God, the Creator of all things (and much more) why would I be silent about him? The answer is manifold: Shame, pride, convenience, laziness and more. It is just an explanation but no excuse and I know that. But in this article I want to be honest. I don’t want people to thinks that I live a perfect Christian life, when there are so many failures and difficulties. To put it in a nutshell: I find it hard to be a Christian!
But Jesus never promised a smooth transition from being a sinner to being a saint. Sometimes in my life I prayed that God would break my will and infuses His in my body. So I always would do what He delights in, but it is not the way our Almighty One works – though He could.
I rejoice that God did not call every believer to do everything but that the Holy Spirit gave everybody according to his own will. After Paul describes the different gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12, he asks a rhetorical question:
Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? (Vers 9)
This for sure has to be answered with “No!” there are different kind of gifts and duties for God’s servants. But there is a common commission. Everybody has the commission of being witnesses for Jesus. I once preached in our youth group on the Verses of Jesus found in Matthew 5:14-16,
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
In the sermon I focused on the first sentence. Jesus did NOT say “you could be light, if…” he simply and plane said: “You ARE the light!” Isn’t that amazing? Because of Jesus in us who himself is the light we are also lights which should shine amongst the people in the darkness. And here the words of Jesus “let your lights shine” makes clear that there is a possibility to put Jesus under “a basket” and hide the light in us. I pray for boldness and strength for me to not be ashamed but to be proud in Him,
“…but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 9:24)
To live a life in a pleasing and glorifying manner to God is what we are called to do. All foundations are laid in Jesus Christ. We are already pleasing God because we believe in Him but our behavior can displease Him and that is why He has to discipline his children.
Relationship-evangelism (which should not diminish the open proclamation of the Gospel!) is another facet of the overall commission of evangelism. In building relationships and keeping old ones up we are able to have a big impact on people’s life. On a day to day basis they can see how our faith in Jesus Christ produces fruit and changes our world views, values, and behaviors. They can see our reactions either towards joy or difficulties. They can hear us speaking about God in our daily conversations, and they can feel the love and acceptance we offer.
This kind of evangelism (which in a broader sense is our walk and life in Jesus Christ) seems easier to me. If a relationship is already built I am freer to talk to the people and to share my faith in Jesus.
Both kinds of evangelism – the “unintended” encounters and the relationships we live in – is willed and founded by Christ himself. He is our main example “the founder and perfecter of our faith.” There is no one like him! The writer of Hebrews states,
“…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (12:1-2)
I end and encourage the reader and me to “press on to the higher goal” (Philippians 3:14) looking to Jesus who will be with us and is in us. God’s promises never fail! He forms us every day more and more into the likeness of Jesus Christ unto the day we may see him face to face.