Sermon: "Inviting Friends"

First in the "Beyond These Walls" series.
Delivered April 23, 2006 by Rev. John Schmidt.
Other sermons in this series - 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7

Theme: We have such a bad image of evangelism. Even if we believe it is important, we think it is difficult. Sometimes evangelism is no more than having a real experience of Jesus in a small group or worship service, and inviting a friend to share that with you.

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Sermon Text: John 1:35-42

Well as was mentioned earlier we are starting a sermon series on Beyond These Walls and it focuses in on this issue of sharing our faith with other people. Now I don't know about you, but I get fairly uncomfortable about this. We have a fairly bad image about sharing our faith, about evangelism, and I might talk about that a little bit more in a minute. But we are going to be looking at a passage in a moment where there are five people mentioned. We are not going to read this whole passage, but in this section in the early part of the Book of John, five people have a face-to-face encounter with Jesus and in only one of those cases does Jesus go and seek that person out and start the conversation. In every other case someone points to Jesus and says, you have got to meet this guy. It begins with a guy named Andrew, an unnamed person, who might even be the author of the Book of John. Then a little later it is Simon Peter, then Philip is confronted directly by Jesus and then Philip is an agent in the way that a person named Nathaniel hears about Jesus and goes to see him. It's important that someone somewhere has told us about Jesus or at least has invited us to be part of something or has pointed to a book or a song.

So I want to ask you right now, I've got the microphone with me, think about that first time that you heard something about Jesus Christ and it really made sense. How did you get to that point? Who was involved? Let's just share a sentence about all of that and I will go to a few of you. So think about that and whoever wants to share, I am ready.

  • "Young life camp, Young life speaker at a Young life retreat in high school." Okay, and how did you get there? I mean did somebody tell you about it? "A friend invited me to come." Okay, someone else?
  • "I was invited to come to this church actually by a friend of mine at work." Okay, invited to come here. Now, I did this at the last service and we had some frightening answers actually.
  • "I was invited to come to both a coffee house and Inner Varsity Christian fellowship and Bible study by people at the college where I used to go to." Okay, great a coffee shop and Bible study. Yes?
  • "13 years ago I was invited by Mike Smith to hear I think it was the First Contemporary Worship Band at the 8 o'clock service." Okay, invited to come to a service here, an early contemporary service. One or two more?
  • "I was going to church already presently before that time, but I was invited to come to the youth group and that's where I heard the gospel." Okay. One more, way up in front, I will go up there.
  • "Last year I was invited to go to Trinity Assembly of God youth group and I really only went because there was a girl that I wanted to meet. So I went and the youth pastor is awesome and we talked and he made it like so real and it was a turning point." Great! Thanks. It's amazing what God uses.

So here we are, we are going to focus now until Pentecost about evangelism and yet the fact is folks that we have a bad image of it. We think of evangelism and we start thinking of pressure and sales and insincerity. We think about some of the horror stories that we have heard. I heard about this situation where a guy was in a dorm shower, you know how those showers are; there are eight shower heads, no curtains, no divisions, it's just one big stall and he is in there showering and a guy comes in, stands next to him and starts lathering up and says, "Do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior?" Now you can imagine this. The guy is like, "What?" This is a true story. I heard it last week from somebody in this congregation. Right now there is a group that goes to LSU, Louisiana State University and it sounds like the same group that was going there when I was a student 30 years ago. And they changed their technique a little bit because now they bring a visual aid. They bring a poster that lists all of the people who are going to hell. So the European Union is going to hell. The UN is going to hell. Politicians are going to hell. The abortionists are going to hell. Rock stars, movies stars, now hell's serious business.

But somehow I don't think bringing that poster is what Jesus had in mind when he told us to go and share the world about him. Jesus said it. Jesus was loving. Jesus was kind. Jesus was gentle. Jesus was forceful. Jesus knew who he was. Jesus was always loving and yet Jesus shared this news, so when he tells us to go share, there has got to be a good way to do it. So I am going to share with you today Pastor John's easy 15-step plan to evangelize your friends. So hold onto your seat. It comes right from this passage. I am going to read to you from the Book of John, Chapter 1, Verses 35 to 42.

"The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. (That's John the Baptizer) When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God!" When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, "What do you want?" They said, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), "where are you staying?" "Come," he replied, "and you will see." So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour. Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ). 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)".

Let's pray. Gracious God, we thank you for this your Word and pray now that as we look into it you will show us whatever we need to know to help us take another step in a journey with Jesus. For we ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Like I said before in this passage and in the verses that follow about five people have this direct encounter with Jesus. But it starts with Andrew and this other unnamed disciple hearing from John the Baptist, their teacher saying "There he is, there is the guy, the lamb of God" and so they take the step to go be with Jesus. Then following that, Andrew shares with Simon, then Jesus talks to Philip and then Nathaniel hears about Jesus from Philip and then ends up meeting Jesus. So the part that we are going to look at is the part that involves Andrew. Now take a look at what actually happens in this text, because this is where we are going to get an idea of the first step for easy outreach to your friends. It says here in the text beginning around Verse 38, "Turning around Jesus saw them following and asked, "What do you want?" And they said, "Rabbi, which means teacher, where are you staying?" "Come," he replied, "and you will see." So they went and saw where he was staying and spent that day with him." The first principle of effective and easy evangelism is to have a real experience with Jesus. That's the first step. You've got to experience Jesus. That's what happens here. Andrew goes to Jesus and says, "Where are you staying? We want to be with you for a while." And so they go and they spend the day with Jesus and it's out of this experience of being with Jesus for that day that they then go out with this enthusiasm about what they had just experienced. You can't be a witness if you don't experience God. That is where it starts.

You know if somebody is going to get me to garden, it's going to be somebody who already enjoys gardening. Somebody who loves it and will tell me how great it is to get all dirty and sweaty and dig up this stuff and had half of it die before the end of the year. This is going to be somebody who is enthusiastic about that. We are invited to go to a concert. The people who invite us and get us to fork out $50 to go to a concert; those are the people who have heard the music and have heard the group and they are excited about it. They have this connection and they share that enthusiasm with you and you go with them. The same with movies; the person that gets you to go to that movie that you weren't planning to go to see is someone who has seen that movie and loves it and wants to see if again. So the first thing that needs to happen in our lives is to have an authentic, real, motivating, life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ.

And then we need to continue to work on that relationship by continuing to be in God's presence, through Bible reading, through group study with other people, things like that, prayer. We continue to build that sense of connection and experience and its out of this excitement, the fact that something happened today between you and God, that you go out and share with other people, but the first principle is to experience Jesus.

Now let's look back in the text and see the second of the 15 step plan of evangelism. We go down and we take a look in Verse 41 and 42. It says in Verse 41 the first thing that Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him. "We have found the Messiah, that is the Christ and he brought him to Jesus." The second step of evangelism is to invite your friends and family to experience him with you. Where is it that you experience Jesus? It might be in your small group. If that is where you really have a sense of connecting with the real thing that Jesus is doing in your life, invite a friend in to that and maybe that's the place where your friend will connect with Jesus as well. Is it in this worship service? If that is where it happens, invite him in, because this could be the place where they experience God too. It might be at a special event like the Franklin Graham festival. If you can find out if there is an event there that fits and you trust it and you have experienced it and you are excited about it, invite them to participate in that. This is a once in a 20 year chance that this is happening right here in Baltimore and maybe that's part of what you get excited about, or what you connect with or where you see Jesus at work and you can invite somebody else into that. Maybe it's music, maybe there is some Christian group that has spoken to your heart. Invite a friend. It might be a book. If a book has spoken to you and God has used it, maybe your friend is the sort of person that that book will speak to as well. So what we are inviting people into is we are inviting them to share our own experience of Jesus. This is powerful stuff, but I need to move on because there are a lot more points.

Let's go on to the next few points; three, four and five. Let's find it in the text. Well there is nothing else in the text. It's just those two points. There are two steps. Pastor John's two-step plan of evangelism. Experience God and then just invite someone else to share in that experience with you. Sure there is other things that we can learn and do, but this is where it all starts. It's not complicated. Experience God. Cultivate that living sense of participation in what God is doing in your life and in the world and then invite somebody else to share that with you. This is powerful stuff.

On the day of Pentecost, the guy who preached full of the power of the Holy Spirit, so much so that thousands of people became Christian on that very day, at the kickoff of the whole church, the guy who was preaching was Peter and Peter first heard about Jesus when his brother said, "Hey come with me, you've go to check this guy out. I think he is the Messiah." It's powerful. The first time that I ever heard the gospel in a way that I can remember was important to me was when I went to an Andre Cole magic show at LSU years ago and somebody encouraged me to go to that and I have been racking my brain and I can't remember who it was. One of my Christian friends said you know check that out. It's going to be a lot of fun. It's going to be a good event. And so I went and that's where I first heard the gospel and even though I didn't respond then, I receive literature from that event that God used later in my life. Just because somebody invited me to go.

I want to light the evangelism candle right now, because last week six people indicated that they became Christians at the worship services on Easter weekend. The point here, and I weeded out the ones that were unsure, there was more than that that put B, but some were B, C, B, A and I just took the B's. How many of those people were invited to come by a family member or friend? God used that in their lives. Today we are going to have a baptism. We are going to have a baptism and she probably doesn't even know this, it's probably the first person that came to Christ under my preaching here at this church and I get to celebrate that today with her in a baptism, but before we do that, I want to invite Katie M to come up and share with us her testimony.

"Hi, everyone. My name is Katie M. and I have been asked to share my story with you. I am originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, called __?___, which is about 40 miles north of Philadelphia. I am an only child, which I think is both beneficial to me and my parents. Growing up I did not have much spiritual background. My parents said they did not want to force me in to attending church as they were forced to do so. I did have friends who I knew believed in God and went to church and went to youth groups and what not. However, I don't recall any of them ever really asking me to come with them. There did come a point in my life, however, when I felt the sense that there had to be a more meaningful purpose to this thing we call life. So as many teenagers do, I tried to discover what that might be through a relationship with my boyfriend at the time. However, I was not fulfilled through this relationship and over time I felt even emptier than before. Something was just not right."

"My journey in life took an abrupt turn when I came down here to attend Towson University and the summer before coming down here I began to experience an emotional distancing from my boyfriend, through which I think God was trying to get my attention. When I moved into the dorms I met Sara Moyer and unlike the guy who talked about Christ in the shower, that is not how she evangelized to me, but immediately she did start to share the Lord with me. It helped out. We got along extremely well and as I look back on it it was very obvious that God was pursuing me. The first weekend at Towson Sara took me to a Jars of Clay concert and introduced me to many fellow Christians. Although I couldn't pick out and remember any of the lyrics Jars of Clay sang, I knew there was something very powerful going on at that concert. Never before had I heard so many joyous voices singing together. I felt welcomed and that this experience was worthwhile. So after this amazing experience I was hooked on Jars of Clays music and wanted to find out more about the Lord. Sara then introduce me to Megan and the three of us began to attend church every Sunday here at Central. Sara and Megan were very supportive in introducing me to Christ without overwhelming me or pushing me too far. God used them to plant some seeds and it worked. On the morning of October 5, 2003 after being in Towson for just over a month, I accepted Jesus Christ right here in this church."

"Just two weeks ago, the tears are coming, sorry. Just two weeks ago in preparation for sharing my story with you, I looked back at Pastor John's message that day and there was a point where he said there is an emptiness in us when we don't know God and people are trying to fill that in all kinds of destructive ways. And God has happened to put you right next door, or right in the next cubicle or in the next office or in the next desk and that is not by chance. That is the part of the sermon when I made the decision to follow Jesus Christ and accept his love and God's forgiveness of my sins. I knew he had put Sara in the dorm room with me. The only other thing that I can remember about the experience is crying a lot and feeling as if that place in my heart that I was trying to fill was filled. I had found this thing in life that makes you feel whole. Actually I felt very relieved that the emptiness in my heart had been filled."

"Some of the obvious differences in my life after accepting Christ as my Savior are summed up by Peter when he says about Christ, "Though you have not seen him, you love him and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glory story. For you are receiving the goal of your faith and the salvation of your souls." And that can be found in 1st Peter, Chapter 1, Verses 8 to 9. I now feel joy and hope in every situation, because I know that life does not end here on earth but will be ever celebrated in heaven with Jesus. Any and every situation we come across in life is nothing other than an opportunity to glorify the Lord and there is hope in that. Another major difference in my life after becoming a Christian is that I feel that I am becoming the person that the Lord has created me to be. Before I became a Christian, there was always the sense of not feeling right in my actions and just feeling as if something was wrong and now I know why."

"Amazingly enough I am now the one being blessed to hear the Lord's call to share him with others. This summer I will be working with middle and high-schoolers at a Christian sports camp in Colorado. In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says, "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest." I can confidently say that Jesus is the one who has filled my life and I know he wants to be the fulfillment in a life of anyone who will believe in him. I am thankful for friends like Sara and Megan who are not afraid to take that first step and share the Lord with me. They, among many other friends, have encouraged me to be a friend like that to many others. Thanks for listening."

I am going to ask you a few questions. You will need that in a moment. I am first going to ask Katie a few questions about her faith and then I will get the chance to baptize her. Katie, do you acknowledge yourself to be a sinner in God's sight, justly deserving God's displeasure and without hope accept in God's sovereign mercy, do you? Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Savior of sinners and do you receive and depend upon Christ alone for your salvation as offered in the gospel? Do you renounce evil and affirm your reliance on the grace of the Holy Spirit, to live as a follower of Jesus Christ and do you tend to be a faithful member of this congregation by supporting and participating in its worship and ministry and will you submit to its discipline and seek its unity as God gives you strength? Why don't you come here. I would like you to put a towel in such a way to keep you from getting too wet and then bow your head over this so that I can pour. Katie Marrison, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Sara and Megan, do you want to come up here and pray with me now?

Let's pray now. God, we pray for Katie now and thank you. Thank you for the work through her friends. Thank you for the wisdom you gave her parents not to push things on her. Thank you for the way you have opened her eyes when the time was right and the place was right. Thank you for loving people that surrounded her and thank you for the truth of Jesus Christ that has stirred our hearts. So we commit her to you now, not only that she will know you, but that she will serve you faithfully all her days. For we ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

© 2006, Rev. John Schmidt
Central Presbyterian Church, Baltimore, MD 21204 410/823-6145