2 Cor 5:14 – Preaching from ChristChurch London’s Sunday Service
Three days ago, my non-Christian mate Chris asked me: “What have you been up to today?
I said “preparing a sermon for our church for Sunday.”
He asked “What’s it about?”
I said: “Well once a year, one of us talks about why Christians want to reach non-Christians with the good news about Jesus. And it’s this Sunday.”
He said: “Man, that’s going to be hard task!”
I said: “Why?”
He said: “Because people like me are cynical about religion.”
He said: “Adrian, tell them not to just quote the bible at us, because people like me don’t believe the Bible. Tell them not to say that ‘the good book says this’, or ‘the good book says that.’”
I said: “Chris that’s really helpful.”
I said: “Chris, most people I meet are turned off by religion, but they feel positive about relationships. Most people are cynical about religion but positive about Jesus as a person. I’ve never met anyone who thinks badly of Jesus.” I said “Chris, the great thing is that what’s on offer is not religion. What’s on offer is a relationship with Jesus that goes on forever.”
He said: “I can see why that is appealing.”
I said: “Chris, do you believe in God?”
He said: “That depends. I think there must be a higher power. There must be something.”
I asked: “Why do you think that?”
He said: “Because when I get out of London on my bike and I go cycling, I see nature around me, and I cannot bring myself to believe that it’s just a total accident.”
I then asked my favourite question:
I asked: “Do you think that you are alive for a reason?”
He answered: “Yes, but I don’t know what it is.”
And so we were away.
Now there are loads of reasons why we do evangelism, but today I want to talk about just one.
There are loads of reasons why we’ve said that in our church we want our mid-week life groups would be outward looking, but today I want to talk about just one.
It’s because of the love of Christ. It’s because of the amazing compassion of Christ:
36 When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:36-38)
Today we want to talk about the why of evangelism, and it’s all about love.
I’m not going to go through what our strategy is in detail, but I do want to show you the reason why we do evangelism. And in Luke 10, Christ is talking about that very thing, about love for lost people.
25On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:25-27)
Loving God comes first. Loving your neighbour is a follow on. In fact, if I receive the love of God in the first place, I have got an abundance of love, which will then overflow out of me, and become love for those who I find around me.
28“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. (Luke 10: 28-30)
OK, so he was a normal guy. He hadn’t spent his whole life being beaten up every day. For all we know, he’d never been in a fight before. Jesus called him a neighbour, so we’ll call him Average Jo Neighbour. But today Jo Neighbour is having a really bad day. But help seems to be at hand . . .
31A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. (Luke 10:31-34)
35The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:35-37)
The first man to meet Jo Neighbour was the Priest. The Priest was on his own. He travelled alone. And he journeyed home alone. The Priest finished his journey totally on his own.
The Levite was the same. They were both busy with God’s work. They passed by and didn’t get involved. They were in a world of their own. They saw Average Jo Neighbour but they didn’t get involved in his life in any way. They just passed by.
But the Samaritan was different. He started his journey alone, but he did not finish it alone. He decided to take Jo Neighbour along with him, as he journeyed along.
And so at some point in the life cycle of your Life Group we’ll get out a blank piece of paper and we’ll ask each other: “Who are you travelling with?” There will be an evening at life Group when we will brainstorm: “Who do I know in London who doesn’t know Jesus yet?’
Who, right now, are you journeying with?
My wife’s favourite food is Indian, and if we go to an Indian restaurant she will usually order Chicken Tikka Massala. So one year, on our wedding anniversary, I decided to cook her Chicken Tikka Massala – from scratch.
So let’s just be clear. I’m not talking about Holloway going to the shops and buying some ready-made Tikka Massala sauce. Oh no, I am talking about Holloway getting all the ingredients from scratch, as if I lived in India.
We are talking about extreme cooking. And in fact as I went round the the supermarket putting all the various unusual raw ingredients in my trolley, as other shoppers worked out what I was doing, I could tell that they were visibly impressed.
“I wish my husband would cook Chicken Tikka Massala from scratch for me.” They might have said.
Now hands up, how many of you have ever visited Earls Court Tescos on the West Cromwell Road? Well if you have, then you will know that it’s so vast that you feel a sense of awe and wonder as you wheel your trolley round. And so I collected all the raw ingredients, some of which were so unusual that other shoppers almost gasped in astonishment.
Until I had just one ingredient left. I needed something called bruised Cardamom pods.
What on earth are bruised Cardamom pods? And I searched and searched and I could not find them.
Eventually I was confronted in the freezer section by a woman wearing a blue checked shirt, a red scarf and a matching blue checked skirt, and she had a plastic badge which she’d pinned on her shirt, which said “Hi I’m Erica” and I thought: either she works here or she just finds it really hard to start conversations.
And I said: “Hi Erica. I am Adrian. And I am looking for bruised cardamon pods.”
And I fully expected her to say, something like, “go down there, turn left at household consumables, right at bin bags, fifth aisle on the left, half way up, there’s your bruised cardamom pods.”
But instead when I said: “Erica, my name is Adrian and I am looking for bruised cardamom pods,” she replied:
“Let me take you there.”
She stopped what she was doing, and she took me there. She led me zig-zagging through the maze, until there on the shelf it was.
And do you know what I thought? I thought: “People are willing to journey with you for bruised cardamom pods.”
Are you hearing me?
We have found something better than bruised cardamom pods! We have found the cross of Christ. And we can journey people there.
Folks there are hundreds of companies and organizations selling their goods on the shelves at Earl’s Court Tescos. But in the supermarket of life, we are selling ours too, and we have found the missing ingredient, without which no-one’s life is complete. If you turn left at household consumables, if you turn right at bin bags, then on the fifth aisle on the left, you will find the Cross of Jesus Christ. But we have got to get alongside non-Christians and journey people there. Because very few will find it on their own.
Why? Because there are millions of other products on offer. Have you noticed that?
And we have discovered that left to their own devices most non-Christians do not find their own way to Jesus. Most people if they are ever going to find Jesus and get their sins forgiven, they need someone who will journey with them. They will not make it on their own. Isn’t that your story? I’m so glad that someone told me. Someone took me on a journey.
By contrast, very occasionally, you’ll see Christian street preachers shouting at passing shoppers. And they’re shouting directions. “Go to the cross, that’s where you’ll find salvation.”
Arthur Blessit used to go into public toilets when no-one else was using them and and he’d unroll the toilet paper and on every sixth sheet, he’d stick a “Jesus loves you sticker.” And then he’d roll the roll back up perfectly so that you’d never know.
So that as you’re sitting down and you reach for the toilet roll, you think, “Oh, that’s nice, Jesus loves me.” But most people are going to need more than a surprising experience with toilet roll to be converted to Christianity.
Shouting directions at them from a distance won’t do it. Because in the maze of post modern life, with the bewildering range of options and products on offer in our consumer society, if they are going to find the cross of Christ, they need someone to journey with them.
And that is why in our Christ Church life groups, we are not embarrassed to encourage each other on a Tuesday night by asking: “Who are you journeying with?” Why don’t we look at all the names we’ve brainstormed and choose 8 of those people and each write down on our connections card the names of 8 people. Eight people who we would like to bring to cross of Jesus Christ?”
God is looking for us to journey people home. He is looking to us to travel with people.
Andrew brought his brother Simon Peter to Jesus.
[My friend Sthefania is going to come up and talk about some of the people she’s brought.]
In the story of the Good Samaritan, there’s a man bleeding and dying, there’s a guy broken and hurt on the side of the road. There’s a lot of pain out there.
So we have to start where the person is, not where we would like them to be.
Right now the man I am journeying with, I’ll call him Bob, is in a lot of need. I saw Bob last night, and whichever way you look at it, emotionally, economically, socially, spiritually, Bob is in massive massive need.
The first thing I need to do with Bob is work out: where is he at? And the truth is that like Jo Neighbour, my friend Bob is miles off. He’s miles away from Jerusalem. He’s miles away from coming to a Life Group Social. And he’s hundreds of miles away from coming to an Alpha launch. This is not a 2 minute journey. This is a major long term commitment I am making here.
And some of the names on your list of 8 will be far off, and some will be close.
I believe that for every 100 hands we hold as Christ Church,
There are probably 50 who are really resilient to the gospel.
Then there are another 20 who are nearly as resilient as the first 50, but slightly softer.
But there are 30 people in every hundred who probably are a little bit open. And there are probably 10 people within that 30 who are very open. But we’ve got to hold 100 hands to find them. And it could well be that the open 10 are the last 10.
There are 10 people who are open to Christ right now. And there is one who would come tomorrow if only they were invited.
[Stefania Rodrigues – Testimony. “I would have come here 10 years ago, if someone had asked me.”]
But you are probably journeying with several people who are far off.
That means it is going to be a long journey, therefore we need to make preparations. The Samaritan had to pay the inn-keeper two silver coins and come back the next morning. Journeying with Jo Neighbour was a big undertaking.
We are probably going to have to set aside time.
You may have to go to the pub with your friend many times before you ever have a natural conversation with them about God.
You might have to go for coffees with your friend for a year before you’ve reached a point in your friendship where you can talk to them about God.
We need to become listeners.
And here’s the key thing we need to remember: evangelism is a process.
Listen to this beautiful parable of the growing seed:
26[Jesus] also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:26-29)
Why did Jesus tell this parable? Because Jesus wanted us to know that evangelism is a process that takes time. All the analogies Jesus used for evangelism, fishing, sowing, farming and searching for lost items all took time.
So we need to devote our time to the journey.
We need to be good listeners
We need to see that evangelism is a process.
My friend Bob who I’ve been journeying with, who I saw last night, I’ve been journeying with for 3 years and he’s not come to any evangelistic event. I’ve thrown my lot in with Bob for the long haul.
In this story of the Good Samaritan, the Good Samaritan pours oil and wine and he bandages the wounds. The bible says he puts the guy on his own donkey. There was a little bit of cost involved.
So what we are doing as a church is we’re going out into the offices where we work, and the places we study or wherever we go and we are getting alongside Average Jo Neighbours and we are journeying people home.
Someone said that the definition of evangelism is handing out invitations to a free party that is ‘out of this world.’
This is something that is not beyond you, and beyond your ability.
Because all that we are doing is passing onto people what we have. Whatever love for Jesus, or passion for Jesus, or understanding of Jesus or understanding of the gospel of Jesus we may have, it’s just about passing that on. When Jesus commands us to evangelize, nothing more is being asked or expected of us than that.
People don’t learn much about Jesus from us on our good days, but they learn a lot about Jesus from us, when everything is going wrong. On those days, they learn that God is real.
Jesus will never leave you or forsake you. On the difficult days, Jesus is there. This is a massive confidence.
And here is the classic statement in Paul’s letters about why we Christians do evangelism. He says:
14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. (2 Corinthians 5:14-16)
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. (2 Corinthians 5: 17-20)
Christ’s love compels us. There is no point in having any kind of strategy unless we first have the love of Christ in us. Christ’s love compels us. We are Christ’s ambassadors, as if God were making his appeal through us.
My friend Laurence Singlehurst said that a professor from John Hopkins University was invited by the great and the good in the city of London and he was asked this “what is the greatest threat to the British way of life? What is the thing that would take away all the good things that people like William Wilberforce and Winston Churchill fought for?” And they expected that he would talk about “Al Qaedar and the terrorist threat.”
But this is what he said: “Friends, without honesty and without integrity, your nation has no future. If you cannot trust company chairmen, if you cannot trust accountants, if you do not have self-control amongst your young people out in the streets, it is all over. If you do not have integrity, if you do not have honesty, it’s finished.”
And to say they were surprised, was an under-statement. And they said: “Well can’t we just make more laws? We’ll make laws that govern what companies do, and people do.”
He said: “friends you’ve made more laws in the past 50 years than in the past 200 put together. And it doesn’t make a bit of difference.”
And they said: “what’s the answer?”
And he replied: “I haven’t got a clue.”
He said: “you paid me to tell you what the problem is, not the answer.”
But then he added: “I guess you need to find somebody in the heart changing business. Somebody who can make people different.”
Now here’s the strange thing, in this country, there is a group of people, who make up about 10 per cent of the population, but these people have a secret, and the secret is this . . . they know somebody in the heart-changing business. They know somebody who can change people’s hearts. They know somebody who can re-order people’s purpose and values and set them in a new direction.
Who is the person, they know who is in the heart-changing business? It’s Jesus!
And who are the people with the secret? It’s us!
I believe with all my heart that the future of our nation lies in our hands.
My best understanding of the bible is that the future of our nation lies in our hands.
And that is a real responsibility. I want to tell you that without the gospel of Jesus, this nation is going to get darker, more selfishness, more lies, more hate, less love, more corruption, more difficulty, more problems, more sadness, without Jesus we are in trouble. Without the love of Christ invading our nation, in every sphere and at every level, without a demonstration of integrity and honesty, it’s going to get darker.
When I started a new school when I was 7 years old, my parents told me that I would be walking a mile and a half to school and back every day on my own. And so starting at the age of 7, I walked a mile and a half to school every day, and a mile and a half back on my own every day, and that was here in Britain and no-one thought that was irresponsible. No-one thought “Oh, that Mrs Holloway is taking a bit of risk.” Why did no-one worry? Because it was normal. Why-ever not?
That was only 30 years ago. Can you imagine telling your 7 year old today to walk 3 miles a day in Britain on their own every day? You’d never do that would you? Why? Because it’s not safe any more. So what’s changed? Society has changed. It’s got darker. And that’s why we are living for complete social transformation of this country and the only way that could ever happen is if this country found someone in the heart-changing business.
People have to be changed. Trying to educate a 21 year old will not make them into a different person. But when Jesus is living inside a generation of 21 year olds, you are going to see complete social transformation in this country.
And that is one reason why when your life group leader on a Tuesday night at some point hands round some strange little blank cards with spaces for you to write the names of eight people on there who don’t know Jesus yet, all of heaven is rooting for you and your life group.
We know the angels rejoice over one sinner who repents.
The future of our nation is at stake. Christ’s love compels us.
More money, more laws, more education will only get this country so far. The unique thing about Christianity is Christ. And the unique thing about Christ is that he changes people from the inside out.
God’s plan is that we are all missionaries, we are all full-time Christian workers. And God wants us to have confidence in the message of the gospel.
When Paul wrote the letter to the Corinthians, he was writing to Christians who lived in a religiously pluralist society very much like our own. There were a thousand ways, and a thousand paths. In fact religion in the Roman Empire was very much like Earls Court Tescos, there were a million options. There were a million gods to choose from.
What possible hope did a sect who worshipped a crucified carpenter have? What possible chance would there be that this group of fishermen would take over the known world?
If you lived on Mars in 33AD and you had to bet your life on the message of fishermen who worship a crucified carpenter taking over the known world within 300 years, or you had to bet your life on the Roman Empire crushing the fishermen within a generation, who would you have bet on?
You would have bet on the Romans. But today we call our children, Andrew, Peter and James and we call our dogs Caesar and Nero.
Between 33AD and 325AD there was a revolution of love. Amongst the slaves in Rome, one by one they were converted to Christ, as people saw the sacrificial love that Christians showed for others. The Romans were amazed by the Christians’ integrity and forgiveness.
Imagine if every Christian today was a secret pastor. If every Christian had 8 non-Christian connections and we all did the two things that pastors do:
a) we love people unconditionally, regardless whether they respond or not, and
b) we seek their spiritual welfare
And I believe that is what you and I must do. It might be 3 people where we work, 3 people where we live, and two other friends who live in London.
Now imagine this. If every Christian had 8 non-Christian people they were connected to, we would have a network.
We do keep a record here of how many souls are saved.
But there’s another statistic that I’m much more interested in.
It is how many hands are we holding? How far does the love of this church go? Because the more hands we are holding, the further the love of Jesus spreads out from this church into our city, and, inevitably, the more people we will win to Christ.
The challenge is this: how many hands are we holding? How many Jo Neighbours are we journeying with?
So if there are 10 of us in our life group, then as a life group we are holding hands with 80 people.
And we currently have 33 life groups which means that in theory we could be holding hands with 2,640 people in London, who we personally know but who don’t know Jesus yet. That is something that angels get excited about.
I’ll finish with this, 11 years ago, I visited a revival for the first time in my life. And in revival, eternal things, just seem more real. Heaven and hell just seem like very present realities.
I saw Christian teenagers who’d been in the revival, run out in front of moving cars to get them to stop just so they could tell the driver about Jesus. That’s how urgent it seemed.
I heard of a 5 year old Christian girl who went into Santa’s Grotto at Christmas and said: “Santa, I’m going to ask you one question: and don’t you lie – do you know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour?”
And I came back from that revival and did a very simple talk just going through what Jesus says about the reality of hell in Matthew’s gospel. Most of what we know about hell comes from the lips of Jesus. And then I had another talk about the reality of heaven from Revelation chapter 21. And I said everyone is going to spend eternity in one of those two places. And the effect of those two talks was amazing. At different places I did them in 1997 and 1998, Christians literally ran from those meetings and stopped people in the street to tell them the gospel. And you might wonder, if that’s the most effective way to stimulate evangelism, why not do that all the time?
And there’s a reason why I’ve never done those talks at Christ Church, and that’s because it doesn’t start there. It starts with the love of Christ.
“God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles, the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of Glory.” (Colossians 1:27)
You’re the kingdom of God. When your alarm goes off tomorrow morning, and you hit the shower. Christ in you is up, and the Kingdom of Darkness is not happy. The Devil would be delighted if there were no Christians in the media. The Devil would love all Christians to be in cosy Christain ghettos. Why? Because he knows from John 17 that Jesus prayed for Christians not to be taken out of this world, but to stay in this world. Wherever you go. God goes. Wherever you are working now. When you enter your workplace tomorrow. Christ in you arrives. Tomorrow Jesus is going to work in London in you and through you. This is not Christ Church at it’s best. Christ Church at it’s best is tomorrow morning when Christ Church London hits the streets.
You know one day, guys, I believe that one day you’re going to meet Bob, the man that I’ve been travelling with. And I’m going to meet some of the people that you’ve been travelling with, and we’re going to have journeyed them home and God’s kingdom will be established. Amen.
Band come back
LG leaders and trainees stand please