When we become excited about something it is the most natural thing in the world to want to share our excitement with others. On the birth of each of our children it was my task to go home and phone family and friends with the news, and while leaving the hospital was never fun, sharing the news was always a joy. In my teen years I was somewhat of an ambassador for sailing and would often share with my friends who had never been sailing the many reasons why they should give it a go. Now I am somewhat of an ambassador for motorcycles, particularly small motorcycles, especially with the price of gas these days. And don’t get me started about Apple gadgets. Whatever we are passionate and excited about, we find we can share with others most easily and naturally. Given that, we have some good news for those who may find ‘the task of evangelism’ challenging: there is nothing more exciting than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The most exciting events of our lives will pale in comparison with the day we find ourselves with God in eternity if we have trusted in Jesus. The most exciting truths in our lives pale in comparison to the truth that God loves us and worked His plan of salvation for us. Our anticipation of any upcoming event fades to nothing compared to the anticipation of Christ’s Kingdom coming. Given that we have much to be excited and passionate about ‘the task of an evangelist’ morphs into the natural testimony of a witness. Ours is not a catechism to dump on people who are already on information overload, but a real hope to share with those who really need some hope. So where do we begin?
Here is one idea: Our church family will be participating in an opportunity to share our hope with Billy Graham’s MyHope initiative in the fall. The Billy Graham Association has put together a video which will be shared on network television in November coinciding with Billy Graham’s ninety-fifth birthday. This will provide us with an opportunity to invite people into our homes to watch the video and share with them our own testimony, or to invite them to a viewing at the church. We each start with praying over a “Matthew List” which is a list of people we particularly want to introduce to Jesus, people in whose lives we think God may especially want us to be witnesses for Him. Why are they called “Matthew Lists” you ask? Let’s take a look at Matthew (also known as Levi) in Luke:
27 After this he [Jesus] went out and saw a tax collector named Levi [Matthew], sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” 28 And he got up, left everything, and followed him.
29 Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house; and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others sitting at the table with them. 30 The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 Jesus answered, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; 32 I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:27-32 NRSV)
Matthew, who as a tax collector was giving up a more lucrative profession than the fishermen-turned-disciples to follow Jesus, was excited enough about Jesus that he threw a party to introduce his friends to Him. This was a very natural thing for him to do and there are four things we can notice about this:
- While his friends are invited, it is really about Jesus. This was not a party that Matthew was going to have anyway, so why not invite Jesus along. This was a party intentionally given for Jesus (verse 28), Jesus was the guest of honour, the guest it would be an honour for every other guest to meet. It is a great honour to be invited to meet a great person. Perhaps we fail to introduce others to Jesus because we believe we will be imposing on them or “ramming religion down their throats.” But we fail to recognise the great honour it is for someone to be introduced to Jesus. Indeed there is no greater honour we could bestow on another human being than to introduce them to Jesus. Nor is there greater apathy than to fail to do so.
- This was something only Matthew could do. Out of the disciples only Matthew could throw a party and expect so many tax collectors to show up. Think of people you are connected with and whose acquaintance you make. You may be the best person to introduce them to Jesus. You have connections with people that I do not have. You have connections with people Billy Graham does not have. Let’s not leave introducing people to Jesus to the people gifted at evangelism. They are not given the gift of your connections with people.
- There were more than just tax collectors there with Jesus. Notice how the Pharisees complain to the disciples about the presence of the tax collectors? There are a lot of people at this party. We may want to introduce people not just to Jesus but to other disciples of Jesus. Be careful though, we do not want to introduce people to the church for the sake of our church, but for the sake of the people.
- No friend is left out. Notice how the Pharisees grumbled at the presence of all the tax collectors. For a Pharisee, the only thing worse than a tax collector was two tax collectors. Imagine showing up at a party and realizing there is a whole group of them? Why the grumbling? Tax collectors were not collecting taxes for Judah, or to pay the salaries of the Pharisees. They were collecting taxes for Rome, to pay, among other things, the Roman soldiers who stood between the Jews and freedom. They were therefore considered as traitors. But even they were given the honour of being introduced to Jesus. There is no one in your life, no matter what they have done or said against God, no matter what they have done or said against the Church, no matter what they have done or said against you, that is beyond the loving reach of God in Christ. There is no one who can disqualify himself or herself from our Matthew List.
Ready to be a witness and introduce others to Jesus? If you are like me you may never feel ready. That is natural but it is also natural to share enthusiasm and excitement about that which is truly exciting. There is nothing more exciting than the Good News of Jesus Christ. Time to go – we have some people to be praying for!
(You can listen to the audio of the full sermon at http://www.churchcloud.com/calvary-baptist-cobourg/ or through iTunes podcast upon release)