[Pre-Intro Statement… Name is… Excited to reach Bloomington]
As you saw in that video spoof reaching the lost can be hard. For some, it can be downright nerve-racking. Jim Henderson in Saving Casper, calls this phenomenon EVANGELSIM FRUSTRATION DISORDER [EFD]. It’s when we have a negative experience sharing our faith. [See if you identify with any?]
Do you have chronic guilt over your unwillingness to “witness” to your friends and family? Do you sometimes have spiritually debilitating depression over your “lack of boldness?” Do you have anxiety when the pastor mentions evangelism or the great commission? [Maybe you have EFD J]
Many of us struggle with reaching… Believe me… I get it! About a year ago I was on a plane to Atlanta going to a pastors’ conference. And I had just one desire: please don’t put me next to someone who will bug me. And as I was sitting there, wouldn’t you know it… here came this provocatively dressed, attractive 40-something woman, who sat right next to me. And it became apparent that she was a talker. Not exactly the makings of a peaceful flight!
And then soon after takeoff as we hit a little turbulence, this woman began to murmur something which soon crescendoed into a full-blown panic attack. She began freaking out! People around us were staring at her and then me. I finally turned and asked, “Do you need anything?” I wasn’t prepared for what came next. She said, “Can you hold my hand?”
Now… I’m a pastor on my way to a pastors’ conference. And I’m happily married. They didn’t teach this one in seminary! I thought about and finally did the only thing I thought I could: I held her hand and asked if I could help. Finally a flight attendant came to calm her and fortunately the turbulence lessened and I was able to get my hand back.
But then a funny thing happened; this stranger began to open up about her life. She shared how her mom was in the hospital… how her pet dog just died… and how lonely she was in life. And in a moment the blinders came down and I saw a broken woman far from God. This woman wasn’t a problem… she was a person!!! As I left the plane I could sense the Lord speak deep within me saying: “Craig, this woman is precious in my eyes and I love her. I came for her.” You see, my struggle that day was with my self-centeredness.
Friends, here’s my question: HOW DO WE OVERCOME EVANGELISM FRUSTRATION DISORDER?! Because the world is lost and it’s only getting “loster!” Entire series called Lost has been about us bridging the gap to share Jesus with the lost.
Let me suggest that it’s not going to come thru a laundry list of to-do’s and it’s certainly not going to change thru a guilt-trip. I believe that in order to overcome Evangelism Frustration Disorder you must be convinced it isn’t about me or my knowledge or my expertise… that IT’S ALL ABOUT JESUS! That’s our big idea today. As a matter of fact, I believe you’ve got to be convinced that it’s all about a couple of aspects of Jesus’ character. Then and only then… will you be able to overcome EFC!!!
[Turn in your bibles to Luke 19 where we see these truths emerge…]
BIG IDEA: OVERCOMING EVANGELISM FRUSTRATION
[This leads us to the first thing we must be convinced of.]
#1: FIRST TRUTH
First of all… You must be convinced that it’s all about Jesus’s PASSION for reaching lost people! [Repeat again…] That Jesus really loves the lost! Because Jesus was passionate for reaching a really notorious sinner in our story.
As you turn there… let me give you some context. Jesus is coming to the end of his public ministry and is on the precipice of the cross. And on his way to Jerusalem he approaches the ancient city of Jericho where Jesus has just healed a blind beggar and where we meet a very interesting character: enter Zacchaeus.
We’re going to see a couple observations related to Jesus’ PASSION for Zaccchaeus .
PROBLEM: The first observation is a problem, that Zacchaeus is a world-class sinner! Zacchaeus is a SINNER’S SINNER!!! “A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.” (Luke 19:2)
Immediately we see Zacchaeus had two things working against him…
Number One: Zacchaeus has a bad job! He was a “chief tax collector.” This title is found only here in Luke’s gospel and seems to point to someone who headed up the local tax department in Jericho. Meaning he managed other tax collectors. This would have been a lucrative practice in Jericho which was near an important trade-route. It meant that Zacchaeus was rich. And the problem isn’t that he’s rich… it’s how he got rich. [leads us…]
Number Two: Zacchaeus is a crook! He was a tax collector. We see them throughout the gospels. Matthew was a tax collector, for instance. This meant that Zacchaeus most likely lined his pockets with others’ money. Tax collectors were despised by the Jewish people as traitors because they worked for the Roman Empire and not their Jewish community. And they often were corrupt. It meant that he wasn’t just unpopular… he was hated!
Put this together and you get the not-so-pretty picture! Frederick Buechner: He’s a sawed-off little social disaster with a big bank account and a crooked job.
[This brings us to our second observation.]
RESPONSE: Notice Jesus’ response to this “sawed-off sinner!” We see Christ’s passion on full display as he pursues Zacchaeus despite his sin.
Because this “sawed-off little social disaster” couldn’t wait to see Jesus! V. 3 tells us that Zacchaeus came to see Jesus but had a problem… He was too short to actually see Jesus. And so we read next: “So he ran on ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.” [Luke 19:4]
By the way, this is where some of you start humming the old children’s song about Zacchaeus. “Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he. He climbed up in a sycamore tree. For the Lord he wanted to see.” This notorious sinner runs to … see Jesus, and climbs a tree to … see Jesus. Because Zacchaeus wants to … see Jesus! [window into how people saw Jesus… Have you notices how often sinners wanted to be around Jesus?]
And then we see v. 5 where Jesus’ passion jumps off the page! “When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’” [Luke 19:5] [song J]
Friends, this is stunning! It’s stunning because nobody gave Zacchaeus the time of day. He was a sinner! Out of the throngs of people who does Jesus stop for? A sawed off social-disaster… a sinner!!!! And this is stunning because Jesus invites himself to Zacchaeus’s home! As a matter of fact, this is the only place in the gospels where Jesus invites himself to someone’s home. He says, “I must stay.” It’s like Jesus was compelled to be with Zacchaeus!
[Know what this shows us?!]
It shows us that Jesus PASSIONATELY loves people far from God! That’s why he emphatically declares at the end the story, “For I came to seek and to save the lost!” (Luke 19:10 Not only is that the purpose statement for Luke’s gospel… it’s his purpose for ministry! It’s like he’s saying: “Guys, I have a passion to reach the lost! And it’s my WHITE-HOT WHY!!!!”
And He showed us this again and again.
He spent time with tax collectors, prostitutes, the demon-possessed, and the dregs of society. He was labeled by the religious elite as a “friend of sinners.” He rubbed shoulders with a Samaritan woman at the well. He ministered to wealthy elites far from God. And he even hung out with shady social disasters like tax collectors! Make no mistake about it: JESUS LOVES SINNERS!!!
Why is this so important for evangelism?! Because Jesus’s passion should set the tone for my passion in reaching others. Because if I’m going to overcome my Evangelism Frustration Disorder I’ve got to learn to see lost people like Jesus does.
In our home we say to our boys, “How much does Mommy and Daddy love you?” And invariably they hold their arms wide open and say, “Soooo much!” We could do the same for our friends, neighbors and family members. How much does God love them? Sooo much! Because Jesus came to seek and to save the lost!
And when we begin to realize this… everything begins to change! Because that woman on the plane is no longer a problem, she’s a person needing grace. Your neighbor or coworker or friend isn’t an obstacle, they’re someone passionately loved by God!
In light of this, let me give you one very simple step! Think about one person in your life who needs Christ. It could be a friend, a neighbor, or maybe even a spouse. With that person in mind, ask yourself, “How does Jesus see him? What would he feel towards her?” And then I want you to pray one simple prayer! “Jesus, give me your passion for him or her. Break my heart for what breaks yours!”
Reality: I will never love sinner more than Jesus does! And once I begin to experience Jesus’ passion for the lost, then I really, really want to walk across the room… I am motivated to share my story! Because I am convinced that Jesus is passionate about reaching the lost! Because… IT’S ALL ABOUT JESUS!
[But there’s a second truth we must be convinced of.]
#2: SECOND TRUTH
You must be convinced that it’s all about Jesus’s POWER to radically change a life. [Repeat again…] As a matter of fact, at the end of our story, this notorious sinner would never be the same again!
[They are at his home now…] Read: “But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’” [Luke 19:8]
What does this mean? … That Zacchaeus is a different dude!
Two things should grab us about his transformation.
The first is that Zacchaeus is giving to the poor. This is the antithesis of the rich young ruler in Luke 18 that Dave talked about last week. Jesus implored him to give away his wealth to the poor, but he wouldn’t budge. Right off the bat, Zacchaeus wants to give half of his possessions to the poor! HE’S DIFFERENT!
And the second thing that hits us is that Zacchaeus want to do “fourfold” restitution. What’s the big deal? According the Jewish Law, when it came to voluntary restitution, no more than the original amount plus one fifth was required. We see this in both Lev. 6:5. But Zacchaeus is prepared to give back four times what he has stolen! And Leon Morris notes the extent of this gesture: “Considering the way he made the money it was unlikely that this would have been a short list.” This means that Zacchaeus is cheerfully agreeing to do far more than was necessary!
Why? Why the sudden change? Because Zacchaeus is a different dude! Jesus makes it clear: ZACCHAEUS HAS BEEN SAVED!!! Jesus boldly declares, “Today salvation has come to this house…”
This story makes it clear that Jesus Christ is awesome and He alone has the power to change a life! Jesus is the key to transformation!! It’s why Jesus said to the disciples in John 15: Apart from me you can do nothing!
OUR PROBLEM: The problem is that we forget this when it comes to evangelism. We freak out because we think it’s about us.
Maybe there’s someone in your life that seems like a lost-cause. “There’s no way that guy will come to Jesus!” Maybe you work with a skeptic who is a little antagonistic. So you think, “What’s the use?” Maybe you’ve never initiated with your neighbors and you want to invite them to Grace. “But what if they reject me?”
We’ve forgotten that it’s not about me… that it’s about the same God of Luke 19 who can absolutely change others today!!!
FAVORITE PASSAGE: EPHESIANS 3:20…
That’s why the truth of Ephesians 3:20 is so vital! Ephesians 3:20 [The Message]: God can do anything, you know- far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!
This should free us up! Because I don’t have to force evangelism. I don’t have to be a bible scholar. I don’t have to have the perfect method. I simply have to take a step of faith and let Jesus change lives!
Bill Bright: “Successful witnessing [evangelism] is taking the initiative to share Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God.”
Never has the reality of Jesus’ power been more evident to me than five years ago. All my life, my father had been a good man who worked hard, but never submitted his life to God. And for the first 35 years of my life, Dad seemed like a lost cause when it came to Jesus. Growing up my mom would pray and pray and pray for him to find faith. I remember her weeping for Dad. And in my walk with Christ I remember vivid moments where I pleaded with God to change him. But to be honest… part of me had given up.
One evening I was watching a basketball game with Dad and once halftime came, he immediately turned off the TV. And what happened next was like a dream! Dad turned to me and said: “I think I’m ready. I want to receive Jesus into my life. Can you help me?” My mom who was in the room looked stunned. I was stunned! Jaws were dropped!
And over the next 15 minutes I shared with him the gospel and Dad in his way prayed to Jesus. And at that very moment he was a changed man! And just a few short months later I had the privilege of baptizing my dad. I’ll never forget seeing my dad with his arms raised in victory as he came up out of the water. It’s one of the highlights of my life and ministry.
It’s a stark reminder that Jesus is in the business of changing lives!!! And He can do more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! So go ahead and take a step of faith…
Identify your one… Get in the room and stay there… Tell your story… Talk about Jesus… Persuade them to surrender. Invite them.
Because it ultimately doesn’t depend on you. It’s about His power to change a life. Because… IT’S ALL ABOUT JESUS!!!
Friends, Be encouraged… we can overcome EVANGELISM FRUSTRATION DISORDER!!! It’s not about you. IT’S ALL ABOUT JESUS! About HIS PASSION & HIS POWER.
In my home we love Cheesecake Factory! We love the huge menus, the awesome food, and the $50 slices of cheesecake!... J
You never have to force me to talk about CF!
Why? Because I love cheesecake factory. I can’t wait to talk about Cheesecake Factory!
That’s the way it should be with evangelism. Because when we are convinced that IT’S ALL ABOUT JESUS… when WE FALL IN LOVE WITH JESUS, sharing my faith becomes fun… IT’S A JOY!
As we close we’re going to respond in worship. We’re going to sing a song called Cornerstone… a song about surrender and trust in Jesus:
Christ alone; cornerstone
Weak made strong; in the Saviour's love
Through the storm, He is Lord
Lord of all
As we respond, let’s worship our cornerstone… let’s revel in the Savior’s love!
I want to pray together before that. I want you to come to the Lord in that vain… “Weak made strong… in the Savior’s love.” Ask you to do something for me… hold out your hands… palms up…. PRAYER