Welcome back to our God Questions series where we are taking the time to walk through and answer questions that I think we all have about God and our faith.  This series has allowed us to talk about some very good and important topics when it comes to our lives, and I must say, all of those questions lead us to the topic we are diving into today.  We have talked about making the most of our lives, how to have faith, how to pray, and how to engage our Bible all of which help us walk with God.  Then the last three Sundays, we talked about The Holy Spirit.  Learning who He is, and what The Holy Spirit does in our lives.  We learned that the Holy Spirit is God.  He is God in us, and it is The Holy Spirit that allows us to live out our faith as we invite Him in and allow Him to lead our lives, the Holy Spirit empowers our lives to be lived as God intended all along.  This is so big because as we live as God intended, empowered by The Spirit we will set out to do something very important.  We will share God’s love with those around us and that is what we are talking about today, our God question is:

How and Why Do I Share God?

This is an intensely important topic and an essential part of the life of a Disciple of Christ.  I mean Jesus was constantly encouraging His followers to do what?  Go and make disciples!

Matthew 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” NIV

This is a massive moment at the end of Jesus’ time on this Earth, telling us what the job of His followers truly is, we call this “The Great Commission.” And it is a major part of being a Christian.  That’s what we are engaging today, we are going to talk about why and how we do it, but also why it can go so badly, be so misunderstood, poorly received, and even just feel so weird and clunky to share and also hear and receive something that should be the best news we could ever hear and receive or share!

So, let’s get some language out of the way so we can talk freely today.  When we talk about sharing God with others, we may call this witnessing.  Some may say they are sharing The Gospel, some say they are sharing God’s love, some may say they are sharing Jesus, some may say they are sharing The Good News, but all are talking about going and making disciples of all nations, sharing God with those who need Him…which we know, is every one of us, we all need His love in our lives.  So, let’s talk.

Growing up around the church, and Christianity my whole life, it’s amazing the different experiences you have and the people you see and meet.  And I will say when it comes to sharing God with this world, it is wild to see, hear, and even experience many ways people go about this.  Some go well and lead people to Christ, and quite frankly some do not go well at all.  And I would like to talk about that, not to criticize how some go about this, but so we can learn from it all to be effective as we share Christ with those around us.  This is life and death, so we want to do this well.

So, let me ask you, have you ever been around someone who shares The Good News and it’s well-received?  Have you ever been around someone who shares, and it just doesn’t go well?  We know some of this is the heart of the person you are speaking to, and whether they have those ready and open hearts Jesus says we must have, but we have to look at the person sharing this life and death message as well.  Be honest, have you ever been around someone who shares God’s love but doesn’t live that way?  How does that go?  They are a Christian, and they are very quick to let people know they are a Christian.  But their lives don’t reflect the things they say.  Their coworkers who don’t know Christ see them living out the opposite of this life they speak of, and then when they go to share Christ with them, well, it just doesn’t go well because of the way they live and what they say they believe aren’t lining up.  Quite frankly, this person calling themselves a Christian while not living out their faith, (which is not possible because a Christian life is just that, how you live their life) is causing more damage than good for those who don’t know Christ around them, because the life you live is the greatest witness you will ever give, and if your life and words don’t add up, it’s just tough to believe in what you say!

Have you ever seen someone who decides the best way to share God with others is to point out sin and all the issues…how does that go?  I have to tell you this is a heartbreaking reality for so many people.  They have felt hurt, pain, and judgment from Christians, and it only drives them further away from God.  It is doing the opposite of what the witnesser thinks they are accomplishing, because so many of us, myself included, don’t and didn’t need help pointing out our issues, sins, and problems…we had that part figured out.  I know I didn’t need more help feeling bad about myself, what I needed was someone to come around me, love me, and show and allow me to experience God’s love…to feel it.  Yet for some reason, many Christians, forget or can’t place themselves in the shoes they were once in (we all sin and fall short of the glory of God) and somehow think pointing to sin, guilt, and shame will draw people to Christ, but it so often does the opposite.  Our job as followers of Christ is to build a bridge, throw a lifeline, and help draw people to Jesus.

So, how do we build bridges and lifelines for people?  It’s simple, LOVE.  We allow them to experience love, God’s love, a love we only have because we have had it shared with us.  A love that comes from God in us.  This love of God pouring in and out of our lives attracts us, it is completely contagious.  You know, I talk about learning to let go a lot these days.  Learning to let go is the most important lesson of life, in so many ways.  And it’s a way to build bridges with people you care about.  You may care deeply for someone, want the best for them, and truly want them to experience God and their best life, but in all your efforts to fix them, push your beliefs on them, or point them to what you know is a better life, pushing in on all they should be doing that they are not doing…you may be doing the exact opposite of the thing you desperately want for them in their life.  We want to build bridges, and remember love does that, control and fixing them doesn’t build bridges, it most likely is doing the opposite.  It can push them farther away.  It reinforces what they already are assuming about themselves, and you.  They walk away not thinking of the love and grace shown by you, but thinking things like, “think they are better than me,” and “I’m never good enough” and the problem is they already feel that way about themselves.  We want to build bridges not push people away.  Now, Sam, you have to be careful here, because if I build these “love bridges” or throw these lifelines of love and grace and only love and show grace, aren’t I telling them it’s ok to live the way they are living?  Aren’t I saying that I approve of their sin?  Sam, how will they ever feel convicted of their sin and know they need God?  Now, I’m going to slow down and answer that very clearly.  My answer to that is, that your job is not to judge, that is Jesus’ job, and He will handle that one day.  Your job is not to convict someone of sin.  That is The Holy Spirit’s job, and he will handle his job well.  I believe Jesus would challenge you in those moments, to not ignore the plank in your eye to look at the speck in someone else’s eye!  I believe He challenges us all in those types of moments to look at our own lives, and issues before throwing any stones!

It’s amazing what happens when we build bridges and just love people where they are, rather than push them to be what we want them to be, or point out their issues, which just pushes them further into feelings and hurts, further away from God’s love.  You know love is everything.  Remember what Paul says about love in the love chapter?

1 Corinthians 13:1 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. NLT

What are we seeing here?  We can say amazingly Godly things, but it’s just noise, it’s empty without love.  Without love it’s all empty, it’s nothing, and it just won’t be received well.  Do you want to share God with people?  Do you have loved ones that you desperately want to lead to Christ?  Build bridges of love.

That is your job, to love.  Jesus will handle the judgment. The Holy Spirit will handle the conviction of sin, and God will handle the plans and control.  We are to love, to love in a way that is showing the world that you have something they want!  It’s amazing what happens when we build bridges of love, and how attractive that is for people.  It’s also amazing how much we read of this in our Bibles yet how often someone calling themselves a Christian does the opposite, and the damage that does.

So, how do I build bridges of love to others for them to be drawn to Jesus rather than pushed away?  I would say it starts with simply being yourself and following the golden rule of treating people the way you would want to be treated!  Hold your salvation close so you don’t forget as so many Christians do, that you were also in that tough spot, that you needed God’s love too!  As you place yourself in their shoes you can build that bridge of love rather than reinforcing what they already feel, or assume about Christians.  And, please, please, please, live out the life you claim to be living!  Make sure your actions, words, and beliefs are all lined up…so, with this heart of love, and the motivation of building bridges rather than talking down to, fixing, judging, convicting, or chucking Bibles at people, let’s talk about how to share Jesus, The Gospel, The Good News with those around us…and it starts with a very important question.  How you answer this question becomes the start or end of this conversation.  Are you ready, here’s the question we must ask before we even attempt to share God with others.

Are you living for yourself, or are you living your life for God?  Listen, this may sound harsh but we have to start here and you need to get very honest with yourself today.  Are you living for yourself, or are you living for God?  If you aren’t sure, there is a good way to tell.  Self-centered people want the attention on themselves.  They care more about themselves and what they want for themselves and even for others than they do other people.  They go after what makes them feel good or happy, and they aren’t all that interested in sharing.  A person living their life for God is the opposite.  They want God to get the glory and attention and focus on Him.  They care about others and place others ahead of themselves.  They desire to fulfill God’s desires.  They quite literally are living out a life of love, which we are seeing is very important if we are going to share God with those who need Him!  This shift in focus must take place…

Matthew 6:6 “Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.  MSG

As we engage God, and experience this shift in focus, we begin to sense His grace, and we live in it, and share it with others.  So, take a moment here, this is the starter’s line to sharing our faith.  Ask yourself the question.  Am I living a self-focused or God-focused life?  This is where it begins and it allows us to build those bridges of love or not…it comes down to who’s will I’m living for, mine or God’s!

Philippians 2:1 If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care —   2 then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. 3 Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. 4 Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. MSG

Paul says it so well there, can we let go and truly live for God and build these bridges of love?  It starts with living to please God and not us anymore.  Once we have experienced this shift in focus, we can now share our faith, and let’s get into how we can do it!  Let’s get into some tips and techniques on how to do this now…

First, the best tip and technique I can give you continues the theme of the day.  Keep it simple.  Be yourself and allow your life and how you live it to be sharing God with those around you.  Paul pushes this mindset often, a perfect example here in Romans 12 which I love in the Message version.

Romans 12:1 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life — your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life — and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. MSG

When I live in this mindset, where my life is an offering to God, embracing what He does for me, my life becomes a living witness or testimony to who God is and what He can do in a human life!  This is why we talked earlier about those experiences where it doesn’t go well!  The problem with this is your life is already sharing who you are with people…so if you live one way and act another and then talk another way, pointing people to do what you aren’t doing, it just won’t go well.

So, an essential question to ask yourself is this.  Does my life and my beliefs line up with the words I speak?  If someone went to work and followed me around tomorrow, what would they see?  How you live matters.  It matters so much more than what you say.  And quite frankly from all of us here at MRC, I would say that if you aren’t willing to live out your faith, we would rather you not tell people you are a Christian, because that damage is brutal, driving people further from God rather than to Him.  This is such an important and often overlooked issue with sharing The Gospel with people, how we live matters, check out Paul encouraging his young protégé here…and what does he say?

1 Timothy 4:11 Get the word out. Teach all these things. 12 And don’t let anyone put you down because you’re young. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. MSG

We are to teach people by our example, by how we live our lives.  By word, demeanor, love, faith, and integrity.  If you want to make disciples, you have to live out your faith!  You can’t live like everyone else and talk about a different life, you need to show it, they need to see it modeled for them, and they need to feel it from you!  Show them how to live like Christ!  Live your life following God just like Jesus did and let others follow your example to Him!  You can be a very articulate person with a lot of knowledge about God.  You can be a great communicator of Christianity and theology who can throw all the facts about God, but it is all empty, it’s nothing without love, and none of that stuff will ever speak as loudly as your life and how you live it will speak to people about who God is and what he can do.  It just won’t.

Second tip, if you want to share your beliefs you do need to know what you believe.  This is why I ask you so many questions and want you to answer them for yourself – if we don’t know what we believe, how can we live it out?

1 Peter 3:15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way. NLT

While the most important thing you can do is live out your faith, we must be ready to share Christ with people.  Peter here says we should always be ready to explain our faith gently and respectfully, and I love the way that is worded there.  I don’t want you to hear me continue to press in on love and how you live your lives and think that means there is not a place to study and gain knowledge, that is very important too.  Keep studying, keep growing in knowledge, and just be sure that you are allowing The Holy Spirit into your life so that you can live out what you are learning…otherwise, it’s a very empty exercise where you may win a game of Trivial Pursuit, but doesn’t mean you are an authentic Christian who is sharing Christ well!  So far we have hit some essential pieces to sharing our faith, we are to build bridges of love, simply be ourselves, and know what we believe…all of which continue to challenge how we live out our faith.  Have you ever heard this quote?

“Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary, use words.” Saint Francis

I love that and it is so true.  We are to live our lives like Christ lived his so people see Christ in us.  They see how we live our lives.  They see this difference in us.  Well, when you know what you believe and why you believe it and become passionate about it, you can’t help but live it out.  That is a real faith that we want you to experience.  God in you, leads you to live it out and when you live your life for God your whole life, choices, words, actions, points other people to HIM!  This is why we ask you so many questions that we want you to answer for yourself, owning your beliefs is a really big deal.  I love how Paul starts 1 Corinthians 11 here…

1 Corinthians 11:1 And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ. NLT

This is so big, live out what you see in me, as I live out what I see in Christ.  Don’t just listen to God’s Word and teaching, live out what you hear.  This is so important, keep gaining knowledge and engaging in sound teaching, and live it out.  Are you catching on to the theme of sharing Christ yet?

James 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it — he will be blessed in what he does. NIV

Ok, one last tip before I give you a bit of a disclaimer that can help your heart as you share the Good News with those around you who need it.

Third tip, living it out is great, but there is a time to engage and talk about Jesus with people.  When you do, please remember what we continue to talk about.  We want to build bridges of love, we want to simply engage and love people where they are without trying to force them where we want them to be, and we want to continue to grow in our beliefs so we are confident and competent in our beliefs and know how to live them out, and while how we live carries the most weight, there is a time to share, to talk and engage a conversation with people about God’s love.

Romans 10:14 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? 15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” NLT

Here’s the thing about sharing your faith with people, it’s all about loving them where they are and building that bridge.  It’s a conversation, not a presentation of information.  It’s about understanding where other people are coming from and then helping them realize what Jesus did for them. It’s helping them see He’s interested in their life—whatever they’re going through or have done.  I believe this starts with prayer.  Pray and ask for God to lay people on your heart who need to hear of His love in their life, then ask God to not only give them those ready hearts for Him but that God will open the door to opportunities for you to share Him with them.  As you live out your faith, and they see God’s love in you, those doors will open over time…and as you allow God to lead it, something incredible happens, they find His love, His grace, and His mercy through you.  What a gift!  As Paul says, how will they know unless we tell them, and share God’s love with them?  Truly how beautiful are the feet who bring God’s message to those who need it…this is awesome, awesome stuff.

So as we start landing the plane on this conversation, which is something that we are most passionate about at MRC…I do want to leave you with one helpful lesson, and I would say it’s the hardest lesson to learn, and the sooner you learn it the better off your heart and mind will be and it’s this.

Never lose sight of this, you can’t save anyone.  That’s not your job.  You know, as you find Jesus, and experience His love and grace in your own life, it’s hard to not become so passionate about those you care about experiencing it too, that you can get discouraged when the message isn’t accepted or landing in the hearts of people you care for.  I told you earlier, that the major lesson life teaches is what?  Learning to let go…well, this may be the hardest thing to accept and let go of, you can’t save people…it’s not your job.  Earlier in the talk we are laying out some job descriptions, and this should be part of that.  Remember the scope of work we talked about earlier?  Our job is not to judge, Jesus will do that someday.  Our job isn’t to convict others of their sin, The Holy Spirit handles that.  Well, another way things can get pretty tough on us, is that in all our passion for Jesus, and what He is doing in our lives, we can want things for people so badly…but they have to want it for themselves.  We must understand that we can’t save anyone, that is not our job, that is God’s, and I will tell you that isn’t easy to let go and accept, but it will save you a lot of heartache if you do.  Remember your job is to build the bridge of love, to throw out the lifeline of grace, to point people to The One who does the saving for them.  That may sound simple, but it is so important.  Your job is to plant a seed, build relationships, love, share, care, help, give hope, and let people know who God is, and what God’s done for us!  You let them know why we need Him.  You do that through living out your faith and leaving the saving to God.  It’s freeing and takes a lot of weight off your shoulders if you can do that, and I say that as someone who struggles to not wear how people respond to God around me.  Remember your job description, stay in your scope of work, and let God do what only God can do in people’s lives.

1 Corinthians 3:5 After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. 6 I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. 7 It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. NLT

This is so important, because in our love for Christ and what He has done in our lives, we can take too much ownership of those around us who we desperately want to come to know Christ, and we must understand that our job is to love, to throw the seed, and water the seed, helping others in their journey, but it’s not our job to save them, only God can do that.  This isn’t easy to do, especially when it’s people you care about and love deeply, but it’s so important…that we do our jobs to the best of our ability and let go of the rest.  Our job is to love, to point to The One who does what we cannot.

Listen, we love you so much, and I’m just not sure there is anything I would want you to own more than what we are talking about today because this is truly what it’s all about.  There is nothing we want more than for you to be open and effective in sharing The Good News of God’s Love with the people of this world who so desperately need it.  So, as we close, let’s take a moment and think this all through.

  • Look at your life and be honest, are you sharing God with others well? 
  • Does your life show God and His love to people who need it? 
  • Would you say you are building bridges of love and throwing out lifelines of grace to people?  Why or why not? 
  • Do you live for your will, or do you live for God’s will?  Have you experienced that shift in focus?
  • Does your life, your beliefs, your words, and your actions all lineup?  Do you see how important that is?  Be honest, what would those who spend time with you say about you?  Are you the same person in all areas, teaching people with your life, your words, demeanor, and integrity?
  • Do you know and are you confident in what you believe?
  • Are you open to having conversations about Jesus with others?
  • Do you understand your responsibilities and God’s in this process of helping people find Jesus?  We looked at some important parts of the scope of work today.  Your job is to build the bridge of love not to judge, or convict of sin, and not to do the saving.  God handles all of that!

And now one final question.  Who do you know who needs God’s love in their lives?  Who is it?  Who comes to your heart and mind right now who needs Jesus in their life as much as we all need Him in ours?

Take the time to write out their names, place that list somewhere you can see it, pray for those doors to open, and then love on them right where they are, not where you want them to be, just simply be yourself and love them where they are and allow that love to draw them to Jesus.