I Don’t Want People Who Do Not Readily Accept the Gospel.
I like the story about a church that was looking for someone to work with them as their preacher. They received resumes and listened to sermons and narrowed the candidates down to two men who they would invite to come for an interview and to preach for the church. The first minister showed up and preached a sermon on hell. While the congregation thought that was an interesting topic for a introduction sermon, they were impressed with the man and thought they would offer him the ministry.
Two weeks later the second candidate, a younger man with less experience, showed up and to the surprise of the congregation he also preached on the topic of hell. After a brief meeting the congregation unanimously decided on the second candidate.
After the minister started his work he discovered that both candidates had preached on the topic of hell. He asked a wise older man in the church why if they both preached on the same topic, did they hire him instead of the first man. The old man replied, “When the first man preached on people going to hell, he seemed to be almost glad about it. When you preached on people going to hell, we could tell it broke your heart.”
I came across a video blog several years ago that really convicted me, and I would like to share it with you this morning. It’s 4 minutes long but I think it’s worth the time. The blog belongs to Penn Jillette, who is the guy who talks in the comedy duo Penn and Teller. Penn Jillette is an atheists, but instead of me telling you what he said I’ll let him tell you. Let’s watch the vblog together. (Video can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZhG-tkQ_Q2w)
The part that struck me about the video is when he says, “If you believe in heaven or hell and that people could be going to hell, or not getting eternal life, how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize. How much do you have to hate someone to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell that?” That is such a profound thought, I have never consider the question before and would never described it as hate. But at least consider what he is saying; it is possible that we are displaying hate by refusing to share the gospel with folks.
I truly believe that we want the church to grow, because we believe in the reality of hell. Jesus teaches that there will come a time that we will leave this world and enter into either eternal life or eternal punishment. In Matthew 25 Jesus teaches the parable of the sheep and goats. He says that God will separate mankind into two groups, the goats on His right and the sheep on his left. In verse 46 we read "And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
In Daniel 12:2 we are told that eternal death is a place of shame and contempt: Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.
I don’t know about you but shame isn’t one of my favorite emotions. It amazing the extreme lengths we go to, in order to avoid shame. If we are ashamed of our body we wear big clothes to cover it up. If we are ashamed of our hair we put on a hat, if we are ashamed of the way you look without your makeup you refuse to get out of your car in the drop off lane at school. No one likes to be shamed, and we even get uncomfortable when we see someone else being shamed. But God says that Hell is a place of shame.
We are told that Hell is a place of Darkness. In the parable of the talents in Matthew 25 we read in verse 30: As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
The darkness described here is not walking down a country road in the dark, with the moon and stars to guide your way. It is not sit in your room with all of the lights off dark. It is darkness with no hope of light darkness. And that is a darkness to be feared.
And we are told that it is the place where God will pour out His Anger and Wrath. Paul writes in Romans 2:8: But he will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves, who refuse to obey the truth and instead live lives of wickedness. While God describes His unconditional love for those who chose to love Him in return, He is also very honest about His anger and wrath for those who refuse to acknowledge His Lordship in their lives.
If we truly believe that God is who He claims to be, and that He will do what He claims He will do then how can we not want the church to grow? Any person who has experienced the love of God in their lives, cannot help but share their hope and peace with others. To do anything less could be considered hate.
Over the past few weeks I have been trying to impress on you that church growth needs to be more than something we talk about at church. We can talk all we want to about heaven and hell, but unless we really believe in those places we cannot be bothered with this idea of growth. Until we believe in the reality of eternity, we get by making excuses instead of making disciples.
I’ll be the first to admit that sharing you faith is difficult and often times scary. I truly believe that we allow the fear in our hearts to cloud our desire to share our faith. Every week we have looked at different reasons that people have for not wanting the church to grow. It doesn’t mater if we are out right afraid of them or just afraid that they will come in our church and mess it up. The truth is that today, just like 2000 years ago, the fear was and is very real, and very much the same.
Usually folks tell me that they struggle with evangelism because they don’t know enough; I wonder if there is a different and deeper reason. I wonder if many of us struggle because we don’t want to talk with folks who are not open to the Gospel. We have to step out of our comfort zone to talk with people about Jesus and His power to save them from themselves. When they respond to that message we get excited and energized. But what if they say no, how do we feel then? Was it a waste of time? Are there some people you just can’t save? I believe that some of us have the belief that I want the Church to grow, but I don’t want those who are not immediately responsive to the Gospel.
Jesus understood that there would be people who would not be receptive to His love and offer of salvation. In Matthew 13 Jesus tells the Parable of the Sower and describes some people as pathway ground that refuses the seed. In Matthew 21 He tells the Parable of the Evil Farmers who beat and kill the son of the landowner. And in Mark 10 we see His encounter with the Rich Young Ruler. Let’s read that text from Mark 10:17-22. (Read Text)
The Bible mentions a lot of people coming and having an encounter with Jesus, but this is the only person we read about that went away worse than he arrived. Here this young man is on his knees before Jesus staring at the dust. Think about that inner dialogue that must have been running through his mind. What would it be like to follow Jesus? He would be free from the pressures and responsibilities, from his doubts and fears. He has the chance to follow this man who possesses that indescribable something that he deeply desires.
But on the other hand, there is so much that he is going to have to give up. Is he willing to give up the fleshly things he enjoys now for a future glory? Is he going to have to miss the parties, the extravagant clothing and lifestyle? Mark says, he left sorrowfully, because he was rich" I imagine that Jesus helped him stand up, and allowed the young man to turn and walk away.
Those of us who are Children of God know that being a Christian is so much more than a one time choice; it is a continual choosing. It is not just once a day; there are many times in the day that we choose who or what you will worship. Will you worship God or will you worship your spouse? Will you worship God or will you worship food? Will you worship sex or some physical pleasure? Will you worship your career or what other people think of you? There are a lot of choices, and the truth is that some people face the choice and they turn and walk away.
What I often forget is that Jesus’ mission here on earth was to bring salvation and not condemnation. Some people are not ready to give up the things of this world and they make the decision to wait, or walk away for a time. But God still offers them His love and forgiveness, as long as they have breath in their lungs He gives them the chance to come to repentance. No one has gone to far, sinned to much, made to many wrong decisions that God will not offer them forgiveness if they will just come to Him. And yet I believe that there are still some of us that struggle with the fact that God is just too good.
Remember the Parable Jesus tells in Matthew 20:1-16 about the eleventh hour workers. He says that God’s kingdom is like a man who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. They agreed on a wage and went to work. Five different times the land owner went looking for workers and at the end of the day he instructed his foreman to call the workers in and pay them their wages. Start with the last hired and go on to the first. Those hired last received the same as the ones who worked all day, which angered the men who slaved all day under a scorching sun.
I love and honestly struggle with the land owners words in verse 13, Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’
The struggle comes from the last phrase. There is this idea that those of us who were immediately receptive to the gospel deserve more grace or more heaven or more reward than those who were not as quick to believe. There is this idea that someone who has been a Christian far less time that we have should not get the same reward that we get.
I had a friend tell me once that while we may all get to heaven there will be some of us that get to stand closer to the throne of God than others. That’s pretty awful theology; God doesn’t have step sons and step daughters. He welcomes everyone into a deep, abiding, equal relationship with Him.
Remember who God wants to live with Him in eternity:
All who are burdened with sin? "Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives. The teaching that I ask you to accept is easy; the load I give you to carry is light.". Matthew 11: 28-30
All who want to be saved? The Spirit and the bride say, "Come." Let each one who hears them say, "Come." Let the thirsty ones come--anyone who wants to. Let them come and drink the water of life without charge. Revelation 22:17