New Covenant Presbyterian Church
Sermon Ephesians 6:19-20 “Sharing My Faith”
March 10, 2019
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Today is the first Sunday in the season of Lent. Lent is a 40 day period, excluding Sundays, that begins on Ash Wednesday and continues into Holy Week. We prepare ourselves during Lent for the death of Jesus. Sundays are excluded from Lent because Sunday is always a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. The early church used Lent as a time of preparation when people would learn about Jesus leading to their baptisms on Easter.
We are continuing our look at Believe, Living the Story of the Bible to Become Like Jesus. We started this series last Fall when we looked at what we believe, the content of our faith. This winter we have been looking at what we do as a result of what we believe, spiritual practices.
Next week I will be on study leave. Mark Hetterly will be in this pulpit. In two weeks I will return and we will begin the third stage of the Believe series. We will look at what we become as a result of what we believe and what we do. We will be looking at Christian virtues we develop as we become more like Jesus.
Today we will look at the final spiritual practice in the Believe series, “Sharing My Faith”. We will get to this, but first, let’s pray.
“Grant unto us, O Lord, to be occupied in the mysteries of thy Heavenly wisdom, with true progress in piety, to thy glory and our own edification. Amen.” (John Calvin)
The Psalmist asked a very important question, Psalm 8:4 “what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” What are human beings? This is a fundamental question we all face and how we answer it affects how we think about the world we live in.
One thing that is beyond dispute is that human beings are troubled. We are all mortal and face death. We remember our dear friend Clinton Dunn who died last month. We are all subject to disease. Alex Trebek, the host of the tv show Jeopardy, was just diagnosed with 4th stage pancreatic cancer. We suffer from violence. Murders in New York City are up 30% since the first of the year. We suffer economic shortages in a world of plenty. And every Sunday there is a long list of suffering we pray over in worship.
Why do human beings suffer? In America today there are two answers to this question. Let’s look at these.
One view, that is increasingly popular in America, is that we suffer because we are victims of injustice and bigotry. We see women getting paid less than men and say that they are suffering from centuries of male preference. We see black men in prison and say that they are victims of slavery and Jim Crow laws which enforced white privilege. We see discrimination against transgendered men and women and say that this is due to continuing fear of changing sexual practices. In this view, we are all victims.
So being a victim is one explanation for why we experience troubles. There is another view, which I would call a biblical view.
In the biblical view, we are not victims of injustice and bigotry. Rather, we are sinners. We refuse to follow God and have been doing this as far back as our earliest ancestors. As a result of sin, we experience death, disease, violence and economic scarcity.
So there are two world views to explain our troubles, either we are victims or we are sinners.
Both world views suggest solutions to our problems. Those who believe that we are victims of injustice and bigotry say that the solution is political power. If we elect the right people to political office they will deal effectively with the injustice and bigotry. That is one solution. Here is the other. Those who believe that we are sinners say that the solution is a savior. If we accept Jesus Christ as Lord then Jesus will deal with sin and its consequence.
So, which of these theories best fit the world we live in? Which one is true? Are we victims or sinners? The best test would be to see which one best helps to bring people out of trouble.
Have you ever heard anyone who claims to be a victim of injustice and bigotry say that they are now no longer a victim because of the action of a political leader? I don’t hear it. I have heard in every election cycle since I have been an adult that certain groups are still victims of injustice and bigotry regardless of who gets elected and what policies they enact. Even today I hear that people in certain groups are still victims. Electing the “right” political leader seems to have little or no effect.
Now, what about those who consider sin to be a problem? Have you ever heard someone say that they were troubled by sin, but when Jesus entered their hearts, they experienced transformation to new life? Of course! We hear this all the time when Christians give their testimonies. There is a book in the back of the sanctuary which has all of your stories of transformation.
So which one of these world views is true. I think it is clear that the biblical worldview, that we are sinners in need of a savior, is true because we have experienced the transformation that comes from a life where Jesus is Lord and Savior.
We believe in the biblical world view. But there are many people in our community, in our families, where we work, in the MOT retirement center, in our restaurants, and in our stores who believe that they are victims without hope of transformation. So, what would be the kind thing to do for them? What could we say or do to help them find the transformation to new life in Jesus Christ?
Well, we could share our stories. We could tell people we meet about what Jesus has done for us. We could share our testimony. This would be the kind thing to do. It would give people a new way to think and a solution to their trouble. Just tell people what Christ has done for you.
If you are having trouble knowing what to say I urge you to speak with Nancy Carol Willis. She is a professional writer and will help you to express your love for Jesus. Once you have the words and develop the skill to share your testimony, talking to others about your relationship with Jesus will be easy.
We hear the Apostle Paul talk about this in his letter to the Ephesians.
Ephesians 6:19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
The spiritual practice of “Sharing My Faith” means that we fearlessly share our testimony about what Jesus has done for us. All we have to do is be kind and engage in conversations with people we meet. We don’t have to worry about what to say. God will give us the words. All we have to do is tell people about what Jesus has done for us. God takes it the rest of the way. Listen to this example from the Apostle Paul.
Acts 22:1 “Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense.”
2 When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet.
Then Paul said: 3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. 4 I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, 5 as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.
6 “About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. 7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul!
Saul! Why do you persecute me?’
8 “‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked.
“ ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. 9 My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.
10 “‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked.
“ ‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’ 11 My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.
12 “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. 13 He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him.
14 “Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’
This is called evangelism. We share our story with others. Notice that evangelism is not the same as church growth, but they are related. Church growth requires that you knock on doors, or pass out fliers, or pay for advertising that will entice people to come to church. These are all ways of getting people who already know Christ to come to our church. But evangelism is being willing to talk to people who believe that they are victims of injustice and bigotry. We share our stories about our savior who has transformed our lives.
Humankind suffers from all kinds of problems. It is tempting to think that these problems are caused by injustice and bigotry, and we are victims. This is false.
Our problems are caused by sin and we need a savior. We know this because Jesus is that savior and he has given us new life. We share our stories of new life with those who still believe that they are victims. We invite them into a relationship with our savior Jesus Christ. This is the spiritual practice of sharing your faith. Let’s pray.
Lord Jesus, we thank you for all that you have done for us. We thank you for the transformation to new life we have experienced. Give us opportunities to share our stories about the benefits of having you in our lives. This we pray in your glorious name. Amen.