Motiviations For Telling People About Jesus

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Seventy-nine years ago next Thursday (the 29th of October, 1941) Winston Churchill gave a speech to his old school, Harrow about the hardship Britain had already faced at war and the hardship yet to come. And in it, he said:

Never give in, never give in, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in

And he said that because he knew people would be tempted to give up. And the same is true of Christians when it comes to sharing the gospel with others. Because we invite people to Christian events and they say no. We drop something Christian into conversation, and they don’t like it. We bring them to week 1 of Christianity Explored, and then they don’t come back.

We say, “Wouldn’t it be good to think about what you believe sometime?” and they say, “I’ll think about it later.” And it’s tempting just to give up. And that’s why the apostle Paul wrote the verse which kicked off this series on 2 Corinthians 4 and 5 (2 Corinthians 4.1):

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.

In other words, we don’t give up. And Paul only wrote that because he knew that he and his readers would be tempted to. And 2 Corinthians 4 and 5 is full of help in the face of that temptation. And this week’s passage has two big motivations for telling people about Jesus. So before we look at them, let’s pray:

Father,
We’re not only tempted to give up in our sharing of the gospel; we confess that we sometimes, or even often, have given up. So we pray for your forgiveness for that. And we pray for your help, through your Word, to get going again, or to keep going. In Jesus’ name:
Amen

So if you have a Bible, would you find 2 Corinthians 5.10. That’s where we left off this series before our autumn special events, and where Paul says this:

For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

And that’s the first of the two big motivations here to keep trying to tell others about Jesus. It’s that:

1. Everyone is going to meet Jesus as Judge (2 Corinthians 5.11-13)

Which is why the next thing Paul says, in 2 Corinthians 5.11, is:

Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others…

In other words, because we know that everyone’s going to meet Jesus as Judge, we try to persuade people that the gospel message is true, and that they need it. So what did Paul mean by ‘the fear of the Lord’? When he looked forward to the day he’d meet Jesus as Judge, what did he fear? Well what he did not fear was reaching the end of his life, and Jesus saying, ‘Actually, I don’t accept you after all. You haven’t done enough for me to let you in to my kingdom.’ He did not fear that, because the reason Jesus accepts us is not that we’ve been good enough – we haven’t been, and never can be. It’s that he’s paid for the forgiveness of all the ways we’re not good enough, through his death on the cross.

So because Paul was trusting in Jesus’ death, he didn’t fear the Lord’s rejection of him. What he was concerned about was the Lord’s evaluation of him. There’s a church yard near where I grew up with a grave-stone that reads like this:

In memory of
Captain James Harvey
Died 23rd April 1786
Tragically shot and killed by the
accidental discharge of his pistol
while in the hands of his valet [i.e, his personal assistant]

And the Bible text underneath is:

‘Well done, good and faithful servant’ [Matthew 25.23]

Which I assume was meant to apply to Captain Harvey. But it sounds, unfortunately, like praise for his valet. But those words come from one of Jesus’ parables. And they’re what he’ll say to us at the end of our lives, if we’ve trusted in him and tried to serve him – not least, in trying to tell other people about him. ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’. Now contrast that with the words of a Christian who wrote this in a letter at the end of his life:

‘Although I trust I am forgiven and accepted by the Lord,
I fear that I have done little of what I could have done to serve him,
and that his evalution of me will be,
‘Saved soul, wasted life.’

And that’s what Paul feared. Not the Lord’s rejection – because the cross makes us secure from that. But the Lord’s evaluation. The thought that Jesus might not be able to say to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’

Now it’s really important to say that faithful service looks different for each one of us. So, for example, the Lord isn’t expecting us all to be the apostle Paul because he hasn’t gifted us all as pioneer evangelists and church-planters, like Paul. Some of us are really good at conversational evangelism. Whereas others of us rely on inviting people to hear others speak. Some of us have lots of opportunities to tell others about Jesus. Whereas others of us have very few – but pray a lot for others’ opportunities. And whoever we are, we’re called to be faithful in doing what we can, not what we can’t.

So that’s what Paul was concerned about for himself – and all believers – meeting Jesus as Judge. But he was also concerned for those who are not believers, and at what would happen when they met Jesus as Judge.That’s the other reason he said, 2 Corinthians 5.11:

Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.

In other words, we try to persuade people that the gospel message is true and that they, like us, need forgiveness because we know that judgement is a future reality. And that keeps you trying to share the gospel even when people look as if they don’t need it. So lots of people around us seem very nice, and happy, and successful, and even enviable. And we’re tempted to wonder, “Do they really need the gospel? Are they so badly off without it?” And the answer is 2 Corinthians 5.10:

For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ…

And they will be unthinkably badly off without it then standing unforgiven and unreconciled to Jesus. And that also keeps you trying to share the gospel even when people tell you they’re “not the religious type” or (as someone told me this week) that “it’s not their thing”. Because that’s like jumping off a cliff whilst saying that you’re not the gravitational type or that gravity’s not your thing and thinking you’ll just gently float to earth. But you won’t. Because whether or not you believe in it, gravity is a reality you can’t escape. And the same is true of judgement. Because if it’s actually a fact that Jesus really lived and really died on the cross and really rose from the dead and really is now alive in heaven, then it’s only a matter of time before you and I will meet him as Judge – and that’s a reality we can’t escape.

So that’s the first big motivation here to keep trying to tell other people about Jesus. Now Paul had critics accusing him of all sorts of selfish motives. For example, they said he’d happily change his message to be more popular.They even said he was after peoples’ money – a bit like unscrupulous tele-evangelists today. To which Paul replied, 2 Corinthians 5.11-12:

Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord [in other words, knowing people need to be ready to meet Jesus as Judge], we persuade others. [Which was actually a selfless thing to do – the opposite of the selfish motives he was accused of. Read on…]
But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. [In other words, God can see my motives. And I hope you can read them off the way I do ministry, as well:]
We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart.

So, 2 Corinthians 5.12 is the first mention here of Paul’s critics – ‘those’ who need answering. And they criticised his whole mentality as well as his motives. Because Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5.13:

For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.

So his critics were also saying, “He’s beside himself.” We’re not told why. But it was probably because Paul got very passionate and took the gospel and peoples’ spiritual welfare with reald seriousness. And when criticised for that, he said (2 Corinthians 5.13):

…if we are beside ourselves, it is for God

In other words, I’m unashamed about being passionate, because it’s for God and people’s spiritual welfare. And maybe you’ve been told you’re taking Christianity far too seriously. And the implication is “can’t you just take it less seriously, and just keep it to yourself?” And Paul would say:

…if we are beside ourselves, it is for God

And we’re unashamed about that, because we can’t take God and people’s spiritual welfare anything less than seriously. But on the other hand, Paul says,if we are in our right mind (literally, reasonable, rational), it is for you. So even though he was passionate about the gospel, he didn’t want to come across like he was saying, “Look, just believe it!” He presented the gospel rationally so that people would hear the reasons for believing it’s true and believing we need it. So, that’s the first big motivation here to keep trying to tell others about Jesus. It’s that everyone is going to meet him as Judge. And the other big motivation is that:

2. Everyone can be forgiven through Jesus’ death (2 Corinthians 5.14-15)

Anyone and everyone. Look on to 2 Corinthians 5.14:

For the love of Christ controls [or motivates] us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died

So one big motivation for Paul was looking forward to the day of judgement. And the other big motivation was looking back to Jesus’ death on the cross. And that’s what he’s talking about in 2 Corinthians 5.14:

For the love of Christ controls [or motivates] us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died

What does that mean? Well, imagine I took you and a whole party of others out to a restaurant. And we have a great meal together. And at the end there’s the usual vying to chip in on the bill – the usual game of debit card snap. But I say to you all, “No, I’m getting this.” And I ask for the bill, hand over my card, and pay for you all.And in the eyes of the restaurant, that means you’ve all paid. One has paid for all, therefore all (in the eyes of the restaurant) have paid.

And when Jesus died for us on the cross, it was something like that. Because each of us had a spiritual ‘bill’ to pay – a list of countless ways we’ve failed to treat God as King, which he ought to hold against us, at the end of our lives, by turning us away. Because you can’t be part of a kingdom if you don’t accept the King. But God in his love wanted to spare us that judgement, and offer us forgiveness back into relationship with him instead. And he couldn’t do that by just tearing up the bill and saying, “Let’s forget it. Let’s say it doesn’t matter.” God in his justice could never do that. How could he possibly say, “Six million through the gas chambers doesn’t matter.” Or to bring it down to our level, “All the people you’ve failed to love and managed to hurt doesn’t matter.”

No, the only way he could do it was to give his Son, to become a man, to take our place, and to the pay the bill for us in his death on the cross. So that justice was done, but not on us. Which means, end of 2 Corinthians 5.14, we can now say:

…one has died for all, therefore all have died

In other words, one has paid the spiritual bill for all in his death on the cross, therefore all (in the eyes of God) have died – all have paid. And so the gospel says to us all – the spiritual bill for all your wrongdoing past and future, has been paid for. So you can be forgiven back into relationship with God, whoever you are, whatever you’ve done.

But it’s important to say: that’s not automatic. The fact that Jesus died for all on Good Friday doesn’t mean that all are automatically forgiven. Each of us has to accept that, individually, which means asking the risen Lord Jesus to forgive you – and to take his rightful place as King in your life. Because the point of forgiveness from Jesus is not just to heal our consciences, but to mend our relationship with him – to get us back to living for him as we should have been all along. And so 2 Corinthians 5.15 says:

...and he died for all, [so] that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

And if you’re not sure whether your relationship with him has been mended yet, why not visit our website whyjesus.org to find out more about how that can happen? And it’s not too late to join our new Christianity Explored course, which is for people wanting to find out more. And details of that are also on our whyjesus.org website.

So, that’s the other big motivation here to keep trying to tell others about Jesus. It’s that anyone and everyone can be forgiven through Jesus’ death.Just listen to 2 Corinthians 5.14-15 again:

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

So as we think about family and friends, colleagues and coursemates, neighbours and housemates, we need to say to ourselves, “Jesus died for them – each one is part of the ‘all’ in those verses.” And we need to say to ourselves that none of them is too bad to be forgiven – because on the cross, Jesus paid for everything on the spiritual bill. And we need to say to ourselves that none of them is too good to need forgiving, however nice they are. Because if ‘one has died for all’ – then clearly all are in a lot more need of forgiveness than they think.

So that’s how Paul kept himself motivated to keep trying to tell other people about Jesus.He looked forward to judgement day and said to himself, “Everyone is going to meet Jesus as Judge – so they need to be forgiven back into relationship with him before they do.” And then he looked back to Good Friday and said to himself, “And anyone and everyone can be forgiven through Jesus’ death. So I’m not going to write anyone off or give up on anyone.” And if we really take that all in as we try to tell others about Jesus, then as Churchill said, we’ll never give up.

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