Matthew 28: 18 – 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.”
Acts 1:8 – 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.”
Luke 19:10 – For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
I don’t know if you’ve noticed—but these days ZOMBIES are very popular. I mean, they used to be limited to the low budget “B” movie genre—but these days the walking dead are in the spotlight with big-budget movies like World War Z—which, by the way, has a sequel coming out this fall—and the hit AMC series, Walking Dead with all its successful spin offs.
I mention this because today we are starting a sermon series on personal evangelism that I’ve entitled: “Waking the Dead.” I picked that title because the sad true is—a person without Jesus is spiritually dead. And—as Christians, we have been commanded to WAKE lost people from this life that is more like death to an existence that is truly LIFE—life that is abundant and full—the kind of resurrection life we can only experience through faith in Jesus.
Now, at first I loved the series “zombie title” idea. It was edgy—current—I thought it would get people’s attention. But then I started worrying—perhaps it was TOO edgy. Maybe I shouldn’t refer to ZOMBIES from behind the pulpit. Then I listened to Kevin’s sermon from a few weeks back where he made the same connection. He even gave us some history on the term, “zombie.” Do you remember what he said in his sermon on grace? I’m quoting him here:
“The Oxford English Dictionary tells us we got the word ‘zombie’ from the Kongo words nzambi, meaning god, and zumbi, which means fetish. African and Haitian traditions say that through religious ritual the deceased could be reanimated and controlled by the voodoo priest; a zombie slave. In the same way, all of humanity has been born as a sort of zombie slaves to sin.”
Kevin referred you to Ephesians 2 where it says,
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air—the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, Who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”
Well, I took Kevin’s use of this term as a confirmation—God’s leading that it was okay to proceed! By the way, I love it when the Holy Spirit leads two people in the same direction!
Before we go any further, I want to remind you that WAKING THE DEAD is part of the vision God has given us for this year. God has told us here at Redland that we each need to do a better job at sharing our faith—through connections we make with lost—DEAD—people. And the purpose of this FIRST message is to motivate us to do that.
So—if your first thought when I mention personal evangelism is “WHY? Why should I even TRY to share my faith?”—well you’ve come to the right place. In fact, I think that once again, the Holy Spirit has been leading two people in the same direction—-because He’s helped prepare me to answer that question. Here’s the first reason we should try and wake the dead.
(1) It helps us to become MORE FULLY ALIVE.
Now—I know that sounds self-centered—but hang with me. We don’t share our faith for our own benefit—we do it for others…but the cool thing is, when we get serious about working with God to bring the dead back to life—it makes us feel more alive spiritually.
We had our grandkids with us this week and one thing about kids is their energy level. For example, Joel—when he gets out of the car—he starts running. If he sees a tree, he will climb it. If I stand still long enough, he will climb me. He just goes and goes and goes! I watch him and think of the good ole days when I had that kind of energy. Well, there are times in our walk with Jesus when we lose our “energy level.” The excitement we felt when we first became Christians is gone.We avoid challenges that we used to rely on God and “climb over” eagerly. If that describes you—and you long to get BACK the youthful joy of your salvation—then get serious about sharing your faith.
Making connections with lost people—working with them to help them understand why Jesus came—helping them make life’s most important decision—it is like the spiritual equivalent of a vitamin B12 shot. I’s like drinking a 32-ounce Red Bull—spiritually speaking. It’s like tapping into your grandson’s energy source. It’s like going from a dial-up modem to Verizon super Fios.
Here’s why. When our lives have an “evangelistic edge” — when that is our focus—that’s when our prayer life is most fervent—because we’re constantly praying to God for help. It’s when our Bible study is most intense, because we’re not just looking for abstract theological truths, but for wisdom that can help our seeking friend find Christ. It’s when our dependence on God is at its greatest, because we know that apart form the work of the Holy Spirit, there’s no way we can bring about the conversion of anybody. Plus, our desire to worship God grows because we just naturally want to praise God for His great grace—for Who He is and what He does.
Becoming a contagious Christian also motivates us to live lives of personal purity. We realize that our lives are often our first opportunity to witness—we see that our sin could give a lost person an excuse to say no to Jesus. This MOTIVATES us to live and work in such a way that our, “…light shines before men” and others see our good works “…and praise our Heavenly Father.”
Listen, nothing is as meaningful—nothing is as exciting—as LIFE-GIVING—as being used by God to communicate His love and truth to people He cared enough to die for. Nothing is more satisfying than helping lead someone to put their faith in Jesus.
In John 4 Jesus referred to this principle after His evangelistic conversation with a Samaritan woman—a conversation we’ll study later in this series. Do you remember that conversation by the well where she confessed her faith in Jesus? The women left to tell her neighbors about her decision and then Jesus’ disciples came back and offered Him some food. He said, “My food is to do the will of Him Who sent Me and finish His work.” In essence, Jesus was saying, “I just woke up a dead person. I brought this woman back to LIFE—-and I EAT—THAT—UP!!!” This same deep satisfaction and fulfilment awaits all believers who share their faith.
Lee Strobel. Lee tells of a Christian friend of his named John, who had taken a routine business trip to Atlanta. John said, “Everything was going according to schedule, and I decided I would stop into this little sunglass shop at the airport and buy some sunglasses. So, I went into the shop, picked out some sunglasses, paid for them, and started to walk out of the store. As I was walking out the door, I had one of those nudges from God. I just knew I had to turn around, go back into the store, and talk to the cashier about Jesus. I just knew I had to do it. But, how could I? On what basis could I get into a spiritual conversation with this stranger? I’d already made the purchase. So, I ended up using the worst transition into a spiritual conversation in the history of evangelism. I went back into the store and pointed to my sunglasses and said, ‘Sunglasses, huh?’” He was reading a newspaper at the cashier’s station. He looked at me and said, ‘Yeah.’ I looked through the sunglasses and said, ‘Uh, isn’t it great that, uh, these sunglasses can, like, um, protect our eyes from the brightness of the flames of the sun?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ Then I blurted out: ‘Well, wouldn’t it be great if we had something that could protect us from the flames of Hell?’ As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I couldn’t believe I said that! The guy set down his newspaper, looked me in the eye, and said, ‘You know, I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately.’ I was shocked! I said, ‘You have?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’”
So, John started talking to him about Jesus. He talked about forgiveness and grace and eternal life, and tears started flowing down this cashier’s face. Then in a prayer of repentance and faith, right there at the counter of the sunglass shop, that man received Jesus Christ as the forgiver of his sins and the leader of his life. John said, “It was unbelievable! The day started out so routine, so normal, so average. Who would have known that it would end up in such an adventure?” That’s what the Christian life is like when you get serious about evangelism—intentional about sharing your faith. There is nothing more—INVIGORATING—than waking the dead.
Okay—here’s another motivation—another answer to the question “Why try?”
(2) It is our Lord’s COMMAND.
Look back at our text. Does Jesus use the word “Please” when he says, “Go ye therefore and make disciples…” Does he say, “if you want to be My witnesses—do so in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world?” No—because he has not given us an option here. This was and still is His command from our LORD—our superior—and that should settle the issue.
I’m sure all you military people know that when a superior officer in the military tells you to do something you don’t question—you do. I remember my dad telling me of something that happened when he served in the navy during WW2. He was in basic training, standing outside the chow hall at his base in the Pacific northwest. It was a bitterly cold day. Snow was falling and dad had his hands stuck in his pockets in a feeble attempt to keep them warm. That is a “no-no” in the military. You never put your hands in your pockets. Well, an officer looked out of his office in the floor above, saw what dad was doing, opened the window and yelled down, “Soldier—get those hands out of your pockets!” Dad yelled back, “They are MY hands and I’ll put them wherever I want!” Well, you can imagine what happened next. A couple MP’s hustled dad up to the Captain’s office where he was given a thorough “talking to.” Then he HAD to take his hands out of his pockets—because he was ordered to peel a lot of potatoes. The idea was to teach him that you never question an order from a superior officer. To hear—is to obey. Well, it should be the same for us. Jesus—our LORD—has commanded us to share our faith and we must obey. Our hands are NOT our hands. Our voice is not our own. We have been bought with a price. As they old hymn lyric puts, it, “Now I belong to Jesus!” So we must do as Jesus has ordered. We must do all we can to wake the dead. Actually, I could stop preaching now—because the orders we have been given should be all the motivation we need. We should realize that as the Apostle Paul put it in 1st Corinthians 9:16, “Sharing the Gospel with others is MY DUTY.” (NCV)
Now, some people say, “Yes, that was Jesus’ command—but it was issued to apostles like Paul, so witnessing is just for church leaders or specially-gifted Christians and that leaves me out.”
Billy Beacheam refers to this way of thinking when he says that many Christians believe soul-winning is reserved for “a select, saintly society of super soul-winners.”
But this is a huge misinterpretation of Scripture because over and over in God’s Word we find admonitions directed to ALL believers—not just disciples or pastors or missionaries—Scriptural commands instructing all Christians to share their faith. For example, 1st Peter 3:15 says, “In your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to every who asks you to give the reason for the hope that is in you.” In 1st Corinthians 5:18ff Paul writes, “All this is from God, Who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us [ALL] the ministry of reconciliation: He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through [each of] us.” And then, in 1st Thessalonians 1:8 Paul spoke of how the message of the Gospel had spread because of the Thessalonian church. Paul commended all the members of this church—not just the leaders—not just the pastors—ALL the members of that church for their faithful witness. He writes: “The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere.”
Okay—how are you doing at obeying this order from above? Are you doing all you can to lead people to Christ, or are you standing there with your hands in your pockets?
Here’s a motivation for obeying Jesus’ order.
(3) People will remain DEAD without the Gospel.
Without Jesus—people are separated from God—and unless something happens they will continue through all eternity that way. The Bible tells us that place where dead people go when their bodies stop functioning is Hell. I know talking about Hell is not popular these days—but we must remember—it is a real place and real people go there. Hell is NOT a myth. It’s not a place invented by film directors to spice up their horror movies—or a story created by parents to scare their children into obedience. No—THROUGHOUT God’s Word, we are taught that Hell does indeed exist. Psalm 9:17 says, “The wicked shall be turned into Hell, and all the nations that forget God.” Daniel 12:2 says, “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Revelation 20:15 says, “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the Lake of Fire.”
Another thing—many people may not realize it but the truth is, Jesus had MORE to say about Hell than all the other Biblical writers combined. The great preacher of yesteryear, Vance Havner, once told of a time he preached on the subject of Hell and after his sermon one of his listeners criticized his message by saying, “Rev. Havner, I don’t think you should preach any more fire and brimstone. You should preach about the meek and mild Jesus.” Havner replied, “But, He’s the one Who gave me all the information about Hell in the first place!”
And Havner is right. Most of what we know about Hell comes from the lips of our Lord.
Jesus REPEATEDLY warned people not to go to this horrible—the place where in Matthew 8:12 He says, “…there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
We read time after time how Jesus was saddened and sometimes would even break down and weep over various evangelistic situations. Jesus grieved when the rich young ruler refused to receive spiritual wealth in exchange for temporal wealth, because Jesus knew he was walking down the road that led to Hell. Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem, because He said He could see them as sheep wandering around without a Shepherd—and that it was only a matter of time before they would go off the cliffs of eternity into the abyss forever. Jesus confronted the Pharisees, the scribes, the tax collectors, and the politicians—He confronted anybody and everybody with the basic message that unless you turn and put your faith in Him you would die in your sins and face condemnation in eternity.
Think about it.
- Why did Jesus teach from early morning until late at night?
- Why did He keep the pace He did?
- Why did He endure the ridicule that He did?
Because Jesus knew that people WERE dead—and they would stay that way for all eternity unless they heard and responded to His message of love. The existence of Hell broke His heart and it motivated Him to spread His gospel of grace.
Do you remember the parable Jesus told in Luke 16 about a rich man, who lived in splendor, and a poor man named Lazarus, who was starving to death at his gate? They both died. The poor man Lazarus had received God’s forgiveness and went to Heaven. The rich man ended up in Hell. In verses 23–26 we read: “In Hell, where he was in torment, [the rich man] looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in this fire.’ But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’”
Well then, forgetting about his own agony, the rich man went on to his second request—and said something very, very difficult to hear and to think about: “Then I beg you, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.” Think of it. In Jesus’ story, five minutes in Hell turned an uncaring unbeliever like the rich man into a committed evangelist! He was motivated. He was saying, “Somebody has to warn my brothers that Hell is real and real people go there!” And in a way, the rich man is crying out to us today: “People of Redland Baptist Church: Pull out all of the stops! Do whatever has to be done to keep others from winding up here with me!”
In his first letter to the Corinthian church the apostle Paul said: “If there is no resurrection, if there is no Heaven or Hell, then let’s eat, drink, and be merry. If there’s no judgment, why do I risk my life? Why do I take beatings? Why do I suffer in prison? Why do I do all of this?”
Let’s make it more personal.
- If there is no Hell—why are we here this morning?
- What’s the point of serving on all the committees and teams that you do?
- Why come to choir practice? Why give your money? Why do all the work required for RBC CAMP?
- Why did the people of this church sacrifice to buy this land and build all these buildings?
WHY? I mean, if there’s no Hell, then let’s just pack it up!
There IS a Hell—and real people are headed there unless we CONNECT with them and tell them about Jesus and why He came and what He came to do. As Paul says in Romans 10: “How can they call on One in Whom they have never believed? How can they believe in One of Whom they have never heard? And how can they Hear unless someone proclaims Him?”
Listen—Complacency when it comes to evangelism is a sin. Thinking this church exists just for our benefit is a sin. We have been given a message that is literally a life and death deal—more accurately an ETERNAL LIFE AND ETERNAL DEATH deal. When it comes to making evangelistic connections with people who don’t know Jesus—the stakes couldn’t be higher!
We’re not playing church! We’re not just going through the motions of religion! People are dead—dying in their sin—they will spend all eternity in Hell—unless we get serious about the commission Jesus has given us.
That leads to a fourth motivation.
(5) We have the CURE.
We have been given the only thing that will WAKE the dead—the only cure for the disease of sin. Do you remember when Jesus fed the 5000? After that miracle He got into a kind of heated discussion with the people. It’s recorded in John 6 where Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from Heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from Heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
Lots of the people in that multitude could not “swallow” that. They left. Many of Jesus’ followers did as well, so Jesus asked Peter, “Are you going to leave too?” And Peter said, “No—because Lord—You alone have the CURE—You have the words of ETERNAL LIFE.”
Jesus has entrusted us with those same WORDS—the KEY to eternal life. We have the cure—we know what will save people from the “hell” of this life—and the literal Hell of the next one.
So we have to share it. We need to do everything we CAN to share it.
I remember in season one of The Walking Dead, the survivors of the plague that had turned the world into billions of zombies, come across a group of three people in a military truck. There’s a sergeant in the army, a woman, and this brainy guy whose name is Eugene. The sergeant tells the survivors that Eugene is ultra-smart and has discovered the cure for this plague. They’re taking him to D.C. to make the cure and distribute it. Well—the survivors are convinced. They drop their plans immediately and join up. They want to do whatever it takes to get the cure to the world. They forget about their own needs. They fight and fight—they do whatever it takes to get Eugene to D.C. Sadly, it turns out that Eugene was lying—he had no cure. He just said he did to get people to protect him.
But we DO have the cure—we KNOW what saves people—what wakes people—and we cannot keep that to ourselves. As Paul said in 1st Corinthians 9, we must use ALL possible means to save some. Here’s one more motivation.
(5) The LOVE of God—that compels us to try and wake the dead.
I mean, if you love someone, you care about the things they care about. And for some reason, the thing that God cares about most in this universe is people—sinful human beings like you and me. Do you remember what John 3:16 says about the motivation behind God sending His only Son into the world? Why did God send Jesus to die in our place? Because, He “…SO LOVED the world!”
Zombies are not pretty things. They are ugly—repulsive—hard to even imagine loving—and people without Jesus can be the same. But God loves ALL people—and we must do all we can to share that love—even if it’s hard.
Lee Strobel tells the true story of a child in Korea—who was the product of a relationship between a Korean woman an American soldier during the Korean war. This little girl looked different than the other Korean children. She had light-colored, curly hair. Her skin wasn’t as dark as full-blooded Korean kids. Well, in that culture, children of mixed race were ostracized by the community. In fact, many women would kill their children because they didn’t want them to face such rejection. But the child’s mom didn’t do that. She tried to raise her little girl as best she could. For seven years she tried – until the rejection was too much. Then she did what nobody in this room could imagine ever doing. She abandoned her little girl to the streets where this little child was ruthlessly taunted by people. In fact, they called her the ugliest word in the Korean language, “tooki,” which means, “alien devil.” And it didn’t take long for this little girl to draw conclusions about herself based on the way people treated her. For two years she lived on the streets, until finally she made her way to an orphanage. One day, not long after she arrived word came that a couple from America was going to come adopt a little boy. All the children in the orphanage got excited because at least one child was going to have hope. One little boy was going to actually have a family.
Well, this little girl joined the other girls and spent the day cleaning up all the little boys—giving them baths and combing their hair—-and dressing them in the best clothes she could find—all the time wondering which one would be chosen—which one would be adopted by the American couple. The next day finally dawned and the couple came and this is what the little girl recalled:
“The father so big—he was like Goliath come back to life. I saw his huge hands lift up each and every baby. I knew he loved everyone of them as if they were his own because I saw tears running down his face—and I knew if they could, he and his wife would have taken the whole lot of them home with them. Then he saw me out of the corner of his eye.”
Now listen to her description of herself.
“I was nine years old, but I didn’t even weigh 30 pounds. I was a scrawny thing. I had worms in my body. I had lice in my hair. I had boils all over. I was full of scars. I was not a pretty sight. But the man came over to me, and he began rattling away something in English, and I looked up at him. Then he took his huge hand and laid it on my face and then he said, ‘I want THIS CHILD. This is the child for me.’”As the man reached out to her she said later, “The hand on my face felt so good and inside I said, ‘Oh keep that up. Don’t let your hand go.’ But nobody had ever shown that kind of affection to me before. I didn’t know how to respond. So, I yanked his hand off my face, and I looked up at him and spit on him. Then I turned around and ran away.”
Well, the couple returned the next day. They understood the suffering this little girl had gone through, the trauma she had experienced. In spite of her initial rejection of them, they went back to the little girl with lice in her hair and worms in her body and boils all over her skin. They said, “We’ve got to have this child. This is the one we want to adopt.” And they did. They named her Stephanie and they got her the medical attention she needed. They loved her just like she was her own biological child. She grew up and became a follower of Jesus Christ. She got married and has her own children now and lives here in the U.S.
I share this story because the actions of this couple are a reflection of God’s attitude and actions toward each of us. Our Heavenly Father looks at all people—and in spite of the fact that they are scarred by the ugliness of sin—-in spite of the fact that they reject His love He says, “I’ve got to have that child!” And God feels this way about ALL people! Because of His great, GRACE-FILLED love more than anything He wants to adopt them as His sons and daughters. He has given us the task of communicating this wonderful truth to the people around us who are not Christians-and, if we truly love God, that’s exactly what we will do.
Well, now do you see WHY personal evangelism is so very important? Surely, we all see that this would be a study that ALL of us would want to be a part of—I mean, there is so much to MOTIVATE us to learn all we can about how to share our faith!