The last words of encouragement and direction that Jesus gave to His followers, recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, are, for most of the followers of Jesus, our greatest struggle. What were Jesus’ last words to His followers? Let’s take a look at Matthew 28:18-20.
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.” (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV)
“Go and make disciples.” We who have come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior of our life, those of us who have experienced the grace and mercy of our King, we who have learned that salvation comes through a relationship with God through His Son Jesus, we are to go into all of the world and share that Good News. These words of Jesus were not an “Oh-and-by-the-way” thought shared by Jesus. These words, this call, this command of Jesus to His followers is the very heart of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
If Jesus’ words at the end of Matthew aren’t enough evidence for you, then let me remind you that in the opening chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, the history of the birth of the Church, Jesus spoke to His followers immediately before His ascension to heaven. Take a look at Acts 1:8-9 with me.
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. (Acts 1:8-9 NIV)
Jesus came to us and we are to go to them. We don’t go in our own power. We have the model of Jesus who reached out to people time and time again and we have the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to carry out what Jesus has called us to do. Yet, with all of this working to our advantage, most of Jesus’ followers don’t feel confident to reach out to others, are too busy doing other things to reach out to others, don’t want to risk being labeled as some kind of Jesus freak by others, or simply don’t have any desire to reach out to others.
A study was done about one year ago by the folks at LifeWay Research. They published their study, called, Churchgoers Believe in Sharing Faith, Most Never Do, in August of 2012. Let me read you an excerpt from the study.
The study conducted by LifeWay Research found 80 percent of those who attend church one or more times a month, believe they have a personal responsibility to share their faith, but 61 percent have not told another person about how to become a Christian in the previous six months.
The survey also asked how many times they have personally, “invited an unchurched person to attend a church service or some other program at your church?” Nearly half (48 percent) of church attendees responded, “zero.” Thirty-three percent of people say they’ve personally invited someone one or two times, and 19 percent say they’ve done so on three or more occasions in the last six months. (Wilke, Jon D., Churchgoers Believe in Sharing Faith, Most Never Do. August 13, 2012)
Those numbers are mind boggling when you consider them in the light of the Scripture we have just read about where Jesus gave His final words of advice to His followers. The 80% who believe they have a personal responsibility to share their faith should be 100%. Right? The 61% who have not shared their faith and how to become a follower of Jesus with anyone in the last six months should be “0.” Right? Less than half of the followers of Jesus have invited anyone to church in the last six months. In Oklahoma City, less than 25% of our population is in church on Sunday morning. There is no shortage of people for us to invite to come to church with us and yet, I would bet that we have told more people about a restaurant we’ve enjoyed or a movie we’ve watched than the One who has changed our life.
For those who are here this morning who are intimidated, or feel like you don’t know enough to reach out and share your faith with someone else, I’ve got good news for you this morning. We are going to read about people telling others about Jesus this morning and you will be amazed at how little they knew, but how effective they were in sharing Jesus with others.
For all of us, there is a basic, fundamental truth found in our Scripture for this morning and this truth should challenge each of us to examine our hearts. The truth is this: When others encountered Jesus, He changed their lives, and they had to tell someone. Let’s read our Scripture for today.
35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” 37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” 39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon. 40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter). 43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote–Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. 47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” 48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” 50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” 51 He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.” (John 1:35-51 NIV)
In our Scripture for today we run into John the Baptist once again. Our Scripture for today opens with, “The next day…” What happened on the prior day? That’s a great question. Let me refresh our memories. In John 1:29-30 we read,
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ (John 1:29-30 NIV)
This was the first time John the Baptist pointed out Jesus for who He was. He was, and is, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” The day after this took place we come to our Scripture for this morning and we find John the Baptist once again pointing out Jesus as He passed by. John said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” Two of John’s followers were with him. As soon as they heard him point out Jesus, they left John to follow Jesus. We don’t read where John said, “Hey guys! Come back! Where are you going?” We don’t read that John starting reading his press clippings out loud so that the two disciples would be reminded that the Jesus they were going to follow said, “Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist;” (Matthew 11:11 NIV) John wasn’t threatened by his followers leaving him to follow Jesus at all because John knew that he had come to prepare the way for Jesus’ coming so that all people might follow Him. Do you remember when the group came to question John about whether he was the Messiah, Elijah, or the Prophet? John openly confessed that he was not. They said, “Then who are you?” John answered them in John 1:23 by saying, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” (John 1:23 NIV)
Our heart’s desire should be to point others to Jesus, not to gain fame or followers for ourselves. This is a huge problem for many churches today. The first church I ever worked in was full of wonderful people. There was a youth event that was going to be held at 1st Baptist Church and I was going to take our kids. When I told the Associate Pastor about my plans he said, “Not a good idea.” When I asked, “Why?” He said, “They get enough of our people without us taking them there.” That’s the craziest thing I had ever heard. These are not “our” people. Our desire, our passion, should be to point people to Jesus, not to draw them to us.
John the Baptist pointed his followers to Jesus and they went after Him. In John 1:38-40 we read about what happened next. Read along with me.
38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” 39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon. 40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. (John 1:38-40 NIV)
When Jesus saw them He turned around and asked, “What do you want?” Those four words should stop us in our tracks this morning. Jesus’ question to Andrew and John is His question to each of us this morning. Let me ask you, “What do you want?” People today are seeking all kinds of things. They want to be happy. They want to be successful. They want to experience peace in their troubled lives. They want stability in their crumbling marriage. They want to make a name for themselves. They want to buy a home, a new car, or get a better job. What is it that you want from Jesus?
Andrew and John didn’t answer Jesus, but He knew what they wanted. They said, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” Jesus said, “Come and you will see.” We read that they spent the day with Jesus, but we’re not told about the conversation. I think we can get a pretty good idea about what Jesus was talking to them about by what happened after they left Jesus. Look at John 1:41-42 with me.
41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus. (John 1:41-42 NIV)
Andrew went and found Simon. He told him, “We have found the Messiah, the Anointed One.” Andrew brought his brother to Jesus and Jesus did the rest. Read John 1:42 with me.
42 And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter). (John 1:42 NIV)
Jesus looked into Simon’s eyes and said, “You’re going to be a rock!” That’s what the Aramaic word “Cephas” means, “rock.”
This past week, as I was studying this section of God’s Word, I learned something that hit me like a ton of bricks. Andrew is an interesting guy. When you think of the great men and women in the Bible, those who were used by God in a powerful way—Andrew’s name isn’t mentioned. We know that Andrew was from Bethsaida. We know that Andrew was the one who brought the boy with the loaves and fish to Jesus. In John 12 we learn that Andrew brought a group of Greeks to see Jesus. In Acts 1, Andrew was there in the room with the other followers of Jesus when Pentecost came and the Church was born. Andrew was there every step of the way, but he wasn’t one of the prominent followers of Jesus, that description better fit his brother, Peter.
I love the story of Andrew’s life and his faithful service to the Lord. God has called me to work in a little out-of-the-way church, in an often overlooked neighborhood, and that is more than fine with me. Serving the Lord where He desires for us to be is the absolute best place in the world to be. Serving the Lord in the capacity in which He desires to use us is the greatest honor in the world. Let’s move on.
Another day comes and another day goes. We read in John 1:43 that the next day Jesus, while He was on His way to Galilee, found Philip and said, “Follow Me.” Before you know it Philip went to get his buddy, Nathanael. Read John 1:45 with me.
45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote–Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” (John 1:45 NIV)
Philip said, “He’s the One!” The One the Jews had been praying for, the One Moses wrote about, the One the prophets told us about—“Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael wasn’t impressed. Philip was so excited. He couldn’t wait to tell Nathanael the good news. Nathanael didn’t respond with the same kind of enthusiasm. He said, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Nazareth, and folks from Nazareth were looked down upon by people from the Galilee. Nazareth isn’t mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. You will find no mention of it in the writings of the rabbis—the Midrash or the Talmud. Nathanael’s hometown of Cana was only ten miles north of Nazareth so he knew all too well that nothing good could come out of Nazareth.
We’ve got quite a few folks from Pauls Valley here at Britton Christian Church. Just about 7 or 8 miles south of Pauls Valley is the Holy City of Wynnewood. We only have one person from Wynnewood who attends our church and boy does he catch grief from the folks from Pauls Valley. I don’t know where you are from but I bet the same thoughts Nathanael had about people from Nazareth, the people from your city have about your rival. The writer of Ecclesiastes is right, “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
What was Philip’s response to Nathanael? Did he try and convince him that he was wrong? Did he quote Scripture at him? Did he call him names, suggest that he was prejudiced, or roll his eyes and say, “You are hopeless!” No, Philip didn’t respond in any of those ways. He simply said, “Come and see.” He didn’t pretend to have all of the answers, but Nathanael’s skepticism wouldn’t stop Philip from telling him about Jesus.
I hope you are noticing that neither Andrew or Philip shared a lot of information with those they reached out to after they met Jesus, but they did go to them. They hadn’t been to Seminary, they weren’t pastors, and they had never attended an evangelism conference or taken an evangelism class. They lacked all of these things and yet they possessed something that was much more powerful—they possessed a willingness to go. The willingness to go is the greatest asset you and I possess my friends. If you and I wait until we have all of the answers to all of the possible questions we might be asked then we will never go.
I went to college with a guy named Rick Gage. Rick played wide receiver for us and his dad was a Baptist evangelist named Freddie Gage. Rick’s dad came to our city when I was freshman and preached at First Baptist Church. I will never forget Freddie telling about the thug life he lived while he was young and how the Lord saved him. Freddie was a leader while he was a kid growing up in Houston, TX., but he was leading people astray. When Freddie gave his heart to Jesus, those leadership skills and passion he possessed were immediately reoriented. I remember Freddie telling the story that after he became a follower of Jesus he went back to one of the bars where he used to hang out. He got up on the pool table and preached about “Moses in the lion’s den” and 25 people in the bar gave their life to Christ. I think it was Daniel who was actually in the lion’s den, but I have to tell you, I would rather have all of us out on the streets, in our neighborhoods, office buildings, apartment complexes, schools, and locker rooms sharing about Moses in the lion’s den than saying nothing at all.
I hope that you are encouraged by Andrew and Philip’s willingness to go to their family members and friends. Andrew had no idea that Peter would preach the most powerful sermon at Pentecost one day, he just knew he had to tell him about Jesus. Philip had no answers for Nathanael’s skepticism, but he invited him to come and see Jesus for himself. You and I will never “save” one person, but we must go. You and I will never change one life, but we must go.
People who don’t know Jesus don’t need our theology as much as they need a theophany. Do you know the difference? The word, “theology” is really made up of two Greek words, “theos,” which means, “God,” and “logia” which means, “study of.” St. Augustine defined “theology” as “reasoning or discussion concerning the Deity.” So, theology is the study of the things of God. “Theophany,” on the other hand, is the manifestation of God’s presence. God came to Moses at the burning bush, Elijah experienced the Lord in a still small voice, and Jacob awoke from a dream and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was unaware of it.” (Genesis 28:16 NIV) I love the study of theology, but it wasn’t theology that changed my life—it was the presence of Jesus, it was the conviction that God was at work, even if I couldn’t understand His work. We need to study God’s Word, but for those that don’t know the Lord they need the Lord’s presence to open their eyes.
There are some of us here this morning who have never surrendered our hearts to Jesus. I want you to know that He is in this place. He has brought you here even though you may be totally oblivious to that truth. He didn’t bring you here for any other reason than for you to come into His presence so that He might open your eyes to your need for Him. Won’t you come to Him this very morning?
There are others of us here this morning who are followers of Jesus, but we speak to people about everything under the sun except for Jesus. I hope this morning that the Lord has impressed upon you the urgency of you and me leaving this place and sharing His love, grace, and mercy with everyone we meet.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
July 28, 2013