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The culmination of the Gospel story. God loves each of us as an individual. Don’t let anyone hear you say something second hand about someone else that’s not positive. Always go to the source. The same power of the Holy Spirit that was available to Jesus and the disciples is available to us today. Pray that you will recognize and exercise the gifts the Holy Spirit gives you to be effective in your sphere of influence.
A. There is something about each of us that God loves (1 John 4)
B. Pray that God will help us see people as God sees them
C. Be open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit
Course: A Short Course On Evangelism
Lecture: The Future
Welcome to our tenth session, actually our last session. I’m going to miss you folks. Here we want to talk about the future. We’ve talked about history from 3,000 BC, believe it or not. Actually from the garden, the beginning of time, through primeval times and patriarchal times. We’ve talked about the nation Israel, how she struggled through her captivity in Egypt. Then, after the covenant was made with Abraham, the Lamb was promised, but then her captivity in Egypt. Then her wandering in the desert for 40 years and finally taking the land. The period of the judges and the kings. The northern and southern kingdoms. The exile of the northern kingdom first in 722 and the exile of the southern kingdom in 605. Then, finally in 586 returning 70 years later, during which time five of the world’s high religions surfaced. The only ones remaining would be Islam and the Sikhs. We don’t have time to talk about those. Then we talked about Jesus being born just at the right time. The covenant was established with Abraham. That is the way you establish relationship with someone in Abraham’s day, it is very important to remember that. But once you bind the concept, you have to be faithful to the principle; and the principle is, “Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin.” That’s why Hebrews 9 is one of my favorite chapters in the whole Bible. Read it, I challenge you. Read Hebrews 9 again and again and again. The tabernacle not made with hands. No forgiveness of sins without the shedding of blood. And because sin came by humankind, only by humankind can sin be taken out. Because once you bind the concept, you have to be faithful to the principle. That is what covenant is all about. That’s why I am a covenant theologian. Then we talked about a short theology focusing on Romans 8, repentance and faith creating low pressures. Swoosh. The spirit of God moves from high pressure to low pressure in the form of least resistance to enable us to measure up, so that the law of the Spirit of life delivers us from the law of sin and death.
Then we talked about the barriers to spirit-assisted evangelism, beginning with lack of motivation and then the fear of rejection. Then our last session, we assume inadequacy, where I reminded you that our greatest strengths are anointed weaknesses. Some of us do evangelism too well to be effective in our sphere of influence. We are a tad slick, if you know what I mean. Some of us need to stutter a bit before we can be effective in our sphere of influence. Some of us have overcome sin in our lives. Some of us might even be living in sin and are still effective evangelists. I don’t know how that works, but I’ll leave that to God. Our strengths are anointed weaknesses.
So, what about the future? Well, we’ve not talked a lot about prayer. We have ended each session with prayer, but we have not talked a lot about prayer. I cannot tell you how critical prayer is. I told you in one of the sessions that I asked God how come God had blessed me so much over the years and God simply said, “Most of that was simply answering the prayers of your father.” I hope you heard that. I cannot tell you how important prayer is. Get the children of your churches praying. Listen, a 5-year-old prays for rain and goes home for the umbrella. And the old folks. You have to be about 90 when you’re cramming for finals, where you become children again. Get your children, 4, 5, 6-year-olds. I won’t go to a church if they don’t get the children praying for at least six months before I get there because that guarantees an anointing. And the old folks, the old men and women who are cramming for finals, who pray like children again. I love it.
We’ve got to learn how to pray. To pray for our neighbors. We’ve got to learn how to love our neighbors. I said in one of the previous sessions, that one of the most important things I teach my students is, they have to help people understand how much God loves them.
Let me tell you a story about my own life. When I was teaching at Fuller Seminary and I had the experience I told you about with my wife. I’m depressed. I know most of you folks don’t understand depression, you’ll just have to imagine what that is like. I’m one of those self-righteous joggers. I jogged every day for 35 years; and you don’t want to be anywhere near me for at least 30 minutes after I jog. I think I’m the most wonderful thing in the world, God forgive me. Anyway, I’m out jogging around the Rose Bowl. My son is on a bicycle next to me. I’m asking God if God still loved me, thinking God probably should not. I heard God say to me, “Tuttle, don’t you know why I love you? I don’t love you because I’m a God of love, though I am. And I don’t love you because I’m supposed to, though I am. And I don’t love you because that is what I do best, though it is. The reason I love you is, there is just something about you that is lovable.” Whoa! I finished that three miles lickety-split. My name was no longer legion. I got delivered in an instant. Suddenly I realized there was something about me that God liked, God loved. Don’t tell me you love me, but you don’t like me. If you can’t find something in me that you can like, you don’t love me, folks. That is what the Spirit of God does, he enables us to find things in people that we can respond to.
Let me read something to you, 1 John. You probably suspected, 1 John 4. Listen to this. It says, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love, does not know God.” I wonder what that means. I have this theory, do you want to hear it? It means that whoever does not love, does not know God. Listen. If there is something about me that God loves, there is something about you that God loves. I’ll tell you something. If I’m good enough for God, I ought to be good enough for you. What do you think of that? I’ll tell you something else. If you’re good enough for God, you ought to be good enough for the one next to you, or the one you go home to. What do you think of that? I’ll tell you something else if you’ll listen. If you’re good enough for God, you ought to be good enough for yourself. I told you, David could only manage half of the commandments, but he was a man after God’s own heart. He extended his line of kinship because of David. The mess. These idiots, Ahaz, Ahab, Manasseh, sin of the nation to the place of no return. But yet, God sustained David’s line. Why? Even though he could only manage half of the commandments, because he was a man after God’s own heart. He understood the principle of one God and worshiping no other, letting God be God.
God loves us and whoever loves knows God. He who does not love does not know God, because God is a God of love. So, we pray. We understand that God has called us to love people.
I want to tell you just a quick story. Remember that church in the rural South back in the ‘60s where I was beaten? I stood up one Sunday morning to preach a sermon and suddenly realized I didn’t like half the people in the room. I said to God, “God, I think half the people in this room are lousy so-and-sos. “ I said to myself, “I can’t do this anymore.” So I am preparing to preach my sermon, standing before the congregation. To this day, I am a legend in that county. I had to tear the place up, I’m telling you. Someone was programmed every day, the minute I got off text, do you know what that means, some of you preachers? They would stand up and say, “I don’t have to listen to this bull anymore” and walk out on me. That is very disconcerting for a young, 27-year-old kid. I said, “God, I don’t like half the people in this room.” And I said to the people, “Folks, I got something I got to do. I may be back. If you’re here when I get back, I’ll probably preach this sermon, but I got something I have to do. I’ll see you.” I walked out of the pulpit, back into my office, shut myself in the closet, sat on the floor and put my head between my knees and said, “God, I cannot do this anymore, I can’t stand half of the people in that room.” I said, “I’m not getting off this floor until you do something for me.” And in five minutes – God took five minutes – the Spirit of God spoke this word to my heart: “Bob, from this moment on, I’m going to give you the ability to see every one of those people like you will one day see your own children.” And in an instant, my heart was renewed. I crawled back into the pulpit. Most of them were still in the room. They say that is the best sermon I ever preached, and I’ve been different ever since. We pray, we ask the Lord to enable us to see people as God sees them, as we see our own children.
I was preaching in a church in the State of Washington, great big old church. Halfway through the service the preachers leans over and says, “You’re on.” Since I knew it wasn’t time for the sermon, I grabbed the bulletin to see what was happening. That man gave me 30 seconds notice on the dreaded children’s sermon. I think I’m gong to die. I have to work harder on my children’s sermon than I do my adult sermon; and the church was filled with 1500 people on the radio and it had a runway out into the middle of the people with stairs at the end. By the time I got out to the end of the runway, there were 50, 60 kids daring me to bore them. I’m saying, “God, this is an emergency, I need help now, five seconds from now is too late. I’m on the radio. I need something now.” So I just started to talk to hear my head roar. I did something I had never done before, I’ll never do it again. I said, “How many of you kids have pets?” What’s up with that? Most of the kids said, “I have pets.” I had a kid slip up under my arm, named Brian. See Brian? That’s Brian. He said, “Yeh, Preacher, I got pets, I got two cats. No, I got one cat, the garage door got the other one.” I said, “Brian, I’m sorry the garage door got your cat.” He said, “That’s okay. That cat is in heaven, I still have another one.” I don’t know where this is going, but it’s king of getting interesting. I said, “Brian, who loves your remaining cat more, you or me?” He said, “That’s a stupid question, I love that cat more.” I said, “Why?” He said, “I spend more time with that cat.” I said, “Brian, who loves you more? Your mama and your daddy, or me?” He said, “That’s another stupid question. My mama and my daddy love me more.” I said, “Why?” He said, “I spend more time with my mamma and my daddy.” I said, “Also, it’s because you are a part of who they are. It is the most natural thing in the world, or should be, to love that which is a part of you.” I said “Brian, what is the biggest number you can imagine?” He said, “Fifty-five trillion,” which is not bad. At that time that was ten times the national debt in this country. I said, “Brian, you take your mamma and your daddy’s love for you and multiply it by 55 trillion and that’s how much God loves you, because you are far more a part of God. God has far more invested in you than your mamma and daddy.” Then I turned them loose to go back to their pews to sit with their parents. I stayed up there and preached the adult sermon, and this is the invitation God put on my heart: “Would all of you dear people please, repent of your sins and put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, so we can all go to heaven and be with Brian’s other cat.” Would you like to know what happened? I was at the communion rail for two hours, I almost missed my airplane. Brian goes to his mom and dad and says, “What does it cost to fly to Chicago? I’m going home with that man.” We still communicate.
See people as God sees them. Pray. That is the future of the church. Don’t ever let anyone hear something from you secondhand that is not a positive. If you have ought, go to the source. Pray. Love people. The last thing I need to say here, be open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I’m a charismatic. If you have a problem with that, get over it. A charismatic is simply someone who believes the same – listen to me – who believes the same power of the Holy Spirit available to Jesus and the disciples, is available to us today. That’s all it is. The full Gospel is not speaking in tongues, folks, although I’m a tongue-talking fool. The full Gospel is not speaking in tongues, it’s clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and imprisoned. That’s the full Gospel. But if you don’t empower that with the Holy Spirit, you burn out in two to five years. Some of my best students are no longer in ministry. They tried to do it under their own steam. They had the vision, but they didn’t have the power. They had the content of the Gospel. The full Gospel is feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned. But if you don’t empower that with the Holy Spirit, you burn out in two to five years.
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are given by God to enable us to minister effectively in our sphere of influence. Our spheres are different, so our gifts are different. Right? I’m perfectly willing for you to have whatever gift God wants you to have to enable you to minister effectively in your sphere of influence. Listen to me. This is important. You are perfectly willing for me to have the gifts that God wants me to have to enable me to minister effectively in my sphere of influence. Right? You don’t covet my gifts. I don’t covet your gifts. Everybody doesn’t need to speak in tongues or have the gift of healing, or have the gift of prophecy, all of these wonderful gifts. There are thousands of gifts, by the way. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are simply given by God to enable us to minister effectively within our spheres of influence. So we want to be open. It would serve one or two of you right if you busted out in tongues on the spot. You have been resisting the gifts of the Holy Spirit long enough. Most of us don’t need the gift of tongues to be effective in our sphere of influence. But we want to be open to whatever gifts. Some of us do need that gift. But we want to be open to whatever gifts God wants to give us to enable us to minister effectively in our sphere of influence.
I want to close with a challenge. You’re going to get an outline of this. They will get this, won’t they, Matt? You’ll get an outline, just very basic, of the content, just to remind you of some of the things I’ve been talking about. At the end of this outline there is what I call a “bulletin insert” on a 3 x 5 card. This is what you do. I’ll read it to you. I says: “I” – and there’s a blank space to put your name – “promise to pray every day between now and The New Year” – let’s say we’re starting now, between now and January 1, or whatever date happens to be appropriate – “that the Holy Spirit will reveal one or two persons in my sphere of influence that are presently not churched, so that I can do three things.” You can do this. I’m not asking difficult things. So that you can do three things. First thing: “So that I can pray for them every day during the following year and I can cultivate them as the Spirit of God provides opportunity for involvement in this community of faith.” Don’t say you don’t know unchurched folks, since you haven’t prayed that yet because you haven’t prayed yet. You pray every day between now and the end of the year, say the next three to four months, every day, pray “God, reveal to me one or two persons in my sphere of influence.” If you’re part of my church, one or two of them might be a person of color. Most churches could use some more color, both ways, white and black. Pray every day that the Holy Spirit will reveal one to two persons in my sphere of influence that are presently not churched. You pray this and God will reveal people in your sphere of influence. You can pray for them every day for the rest of the year. You can cultivate them as the Spirit of God provides opportunity for involvement in this community of faith. Why? Why is that important? You get singled out, you get picked off. You get singled out, you get picked off. I live in two communities, one in Florida and one in North Carolina. Almost none of my neighbors go to church. I am the village priest. And they invite me to their parties, why I don’t know. Almost every time just driving home, I have an opportunity for ministry.
I cannot tell you how much fun it is to be a Christian and to know that you can share these truths with people in such a way to enable them to overcome the stuff that would attempt to swallow them. I’m telling you, folks, most folks don’t have to die to go to hell, they are already there.
Finally, “I can connect with at least one other person each week as to how I am doing with this covenant promise.” Let’s say you are giving this challenge to your congregation, you can double your attendance in one year, just by everybody in the congregation adhering to this covenant. Pastor, have them fill out the card, put them on a cart. Have them put their names and addresses on the back of the card and then have the church mail them back to you in a week or two, just to remind you of this covenant promise.
I’ll give it to you again: “I promise every day between now and The New Year, or whatever day happens to be appropriate, that the Holy Spirit will reveal one or two persons in my sphere of influence that are presently not churched” – you get singled out, you get picked off, remember that – “So that I can pray for them every day for the next year, cultivate them as the Spirit of God provides opportunity, for involvement in this community of faith.” If they already have a church, leave them alone. There are enough unchurched people in every community to fill every church. Unchurched people, pray for them, cultivate them as the Spirit of God provides opportunity for involvement in this community of faith and connect with at least one other person each week as to how I’m doing with this covenant promise. Can you do that? Challenge each other to accept that covenant and that challenge. I promise you, this will make a great difference.
I so enjoyed spending these ten sessions with you. I hope you have enjoyed some of them, if not all of them. I hope as a result of listening to what we have had to say will better prepare you for life and ministry. And I pray that you will get a new appreciation for evangelism. It’s not pushy, self-righteous, holier-than-thou. It’s being loving, accepting and caring, loving our neighbors because we do not realize, most of them are desperately in need of the good news, that God was in Jesus Christ, reconciling the world to himself.
Lord, we’re grateful for your goodness. We’re grateful for every one who will ever hear these sessions. I pray that you will speak the word that they need to hear, each one. You sit in every city and tug at every heart and have something specific for each of these persons in these sessions. So we pray that they can receive what it is they need to receive to be effective in life and ministry. And we promise you, Lord, to give you the glory, for it is in the strong name of Jesus we pray and for His sake. Hallelujah! and Amen.