Winning the Right to Be Heard

Series: Preacher: Date: October 17, 2004 Scripture Reference: Matthew 5:13-16

p>Matthew 5:13-16

13 – “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

14 – “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.

15 – Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

16 – In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

A couple years ago I watched a TV movie that chronicled the true story of one of the world’s most successful door-to-door salesmen. The thing that caught my attention about this film was the fact that the trailer spotlighted the physical handicaps of this super-salesman. Don’t get me wrong-his MIND was as sharp as a tack. Mentally and emotionally he was fine. But he had several obvious physical problems. For example, his speech was often slurred. Plus he had facial deformities including huge ears that stuck out of his head-even farther than mine-and he walked with a sort of lurching limp. When I saw the movie advertised I decided to watch, because I wanted to see how someone with all that against him could overcome the prejudices of our culture and make it in that particular line of work-a line of work that can be very difficult even for people who are physically healthy. I mean, it’s not fair but the fact is we live in a fallen world where most people would never even open their doors if they saw someone like this poor man lurching up their drive-way.

Well the film was very inspiring because it showed that this brave soul did in fact succeed. More than that, thanks to his dogged determination he excelled as a door-to-door salesman! He pounded the pavement from dawn until dusk and endured mistreatment and outright mean-ness day in and day out. But he would not give up. And in the end his persistence paid off. Eventually he was able to get his foot in one door and then another and another and when he did he would tell people about his products. They would listen and finally, one day he made his first sale and then a few days later his second. And he kept on getting his foot in door after door and making sale after sale until he eventually became the #1 salesman for his company setting all kinds of sales records.

One thing that made me admire this persistent salesman was the fact that his MOTIVATION to keep on keeping on was not just to make a living-no, this guy really cared about people. He believed in his product-he believed his customers would benefit from what he had to offer. So, his COMPASSION kept him going door to door to door to door.

I decided to tell you about this film because there is a sense in which successful personal evangelism hinges on our ability to “get our feet in the door.” Please don’t misunderstand me here-I’m not saying that we are called to become manipulative salesmen-peddling the Gospel-forcing our way into people’s lives. That’s not Biblical evangelism and we are NOT SALESMEN-we are WITNESSES commissioned by God to share what we have experienced. God has commanded us to proclaim the good news that salvation is offered FREELY to all who will receive it and like the man in this movie, we must remember that all people need to receive it. As I reminded you a few weeks ago people desperately NEED the forgiveness and eternal life that only Jesus offers. But to communicate this vital message-to get a chance to share this good news-we have to live in such a way that we win the RIGHT to be heard. And this morning I want to talk about how to do just that. I want to speak to you about how we can obey Jesus and “let our light shine” in this dark world of ours. I want us to learn how to become the kind of person that can be useful to God in His work, how to live so that people will open “the doors” of their lives and invite us in to tell them about our experience with Jesus and His great love. Today we’ll be looking at three Biblical qualities that we must embrace to do this-character traits that will help convince people that we have something worth listening to.

Now, for those of you who are visiting this morning, let me tell you that we are in the midst of a series of sermons here at Redland designed to help us fulfill one of our five purposes as a church. As the wording in our purpose statement puts it, we believe our experience of the grace of God compels us to, “…reach in the name of Christ.” In other words, we believe in personal evangelism-we believe in doing all we can to join our Heavenly Father-“the Lord of the Harvest” -in leading the lost to respond to His great love. Our conviction about this task has led us to set aside 40 days this fall to hone our skills in this area of discipleship by studying Bill Hybels’ best-selling book, Becoming A Contagious Christian. Two weeks ago I used the first sermon in this series to answer the question, “Why become a Contagious Christian?” – We talked about what motivates us to share our faith. Last week we looked at four of the main excuses we all tend to give when it comes to explaining why we don’t take evangelism as seriously as we should, and as I said, today I want us to try to learn a thing or two when it comes to the attitudes we need to embrace in order to get our “feet in the door”- those character traits that God has called all Christians to seek if they want a faith that is truly contagious. Hybels uses three chapters of his book to deal with these traits…

1. …and, the first is AUTHENTICITY.

Now, the dictionary defines authenticity as, “conforming to what is represented or claimed to be.” In other words, AUTHENTICITY is when there is an obvious consistency between WORDS and ACTIONS-and between CLAIMED VALUES and ACTUAL PRIORITIES. The opposite of authenticity would be INAUTHENTICITY-claiming to be one thing while proving with your day to day life to be something else.

Years ago, when we lived in Wilmington, Delaware, I remember reading about a freak accident involving a gigantic oak tree in a downtown park that suddenly fell over in gust of wind-crashing on top of a parked car, instantly killing the occupant. This was a huge tree-nearly ten feet thick-well over a hundred years old. It looked very strong on the outside, but when it fell it was discovered that on the inside it was filled with disease. In other words, this tree “portrayed” itself as something it wasn’t. It looked good on the outside but it was rotten on the inside, which is why it only took a gust of wind to knock it down.

Well, in a similar way the disease of inauthenticity eats away at the power of many believers. You see, so many times and in so many ways our walk doesn’t match our talk. Our outside doesn’t match our inside because we don’t live what we say we believe. We say Jesus gives us a peace that passes understanding but we loose our cool and lay on the horn when the driver in front of us causes us to miss a green light. We say we believe in the grace of God but we are hateful and unforgiving toward the sinners of the world-people who so desperately need the grace we claim to dispense. I mean, so often we SAY one thing but DO another-our LIVES don’t match our BELIEFS-and this incongruent lifestyle turns the lost away from Jesus. It makes us weak and ineffective tools for God to use in reaching the lost. You see, when non-believers see Christians who don’t live up to the relationship they claim to have with God, they respond by closing the doors of their lives. They are not open to the witness of hypocrites.

And, believe it or not non-believers DO watch the way we live to see if it matches our beliefs. This is why in Titus 2:7-8 Paul wrote, “In all things show yourselves to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond approach, in order that the opponent may be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.” By the way we go about our daily tasks, we are either telling these curious onlookers that our walk with Christ is a dynamic relationship with the living God or that it is a meaningless religion with nothing to offer them. You see, they know that a faith that is worth having will impact the way you live. It influences your decisions and actions.

Before he became a Christian, former-atheist Lee Strobel watched Christians to find an excuse for not becoming one himself. He writes, “When I walked into church as a skeptical unbeliever my ‘hypocrisy antenna’ was scanning the place for signs that people were just playing church. In fact, I was aggressively on the lookout for phoniness, opportunism, or deception, because I felt that if I could find an excuse for rejecting the church on the grounds of hypocrisy, I could feel free to reject Christianity as well.”

Well, friends, all around us here in Montgomery county, co-workers and neighbors, and commuters, and shoppers are using the same “hypocrisy antenna” to examine your life and mine. They are not interested in committing their lives to Christ unless they observe attractive and consistent patterns of living in the Christians they know. That’s you and me! Joe Aldrich, author of the book, Life-style Evangelism, puts it like this: “Christians are to BE good news before they SHARE the Good News.” In other words, before we can become highly contagious Christians, we must first live in a way that convinces the people around us that we actually have the “disease” ourselves. Well, how do we demonstrate an authentic faith? I want us to look at a portion of Larimore’s new book, Going Public with Your Faith and suggest three ways:

A. First, authenticity involves a commitment to COMPETENCE…or doing our very best.

I think this is what Colossians 3:23 is referring to when it says, whatever we do we must “work at it with all our heart.” Ecclesiastes 9:10 also refers to this principle by saying, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” I believe God put these admonitions to excellence in His Word because He knows that when we do our best, whether it be in an office or in the home, people notice. They respect US-and this leads them to respect our BELIEFS.

Consider the Old Testament example of Daniel. He worked HARD at his job-even though he was a captive forced to work in a pagan government far from his home in Israel. If Daniel hadn’t been so competent…if he hadn’t “worked with all his heart” it’s doubtful we would know of him today, no matter how godly he was. But his integrity in the work place caught the eye of King Nebuchadnezzar. Referring to Daniel and his Jewish peers Daniel 1:20 says, “In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.” Seventy years later, King Darius discovered the same extraordinary competence in Daniel. Listen to Daniel 6:3: “Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.” (Daniel 6:3) So the fact is, Daniel’s commitment to excellence on the job put him in a position to share his faith with pagan kings. It opened the door for him to impact an entire empire!

And then there’s the example of Jesus Himself in His years of working as a carpenter. Can you imagine our Lord using substandard materials, doing shoddy carpentry work, or overcharging His customers? Picture a former customer sitting in the audience after Jesus began His earthly ministry. If He had done poor work, can’t you imagine someone turning a deaf ear and muttering,

“I’m not listening to this Guy anymore. I can’t trust Him. The table He built for me fell apart after only a few months of use.” I’m sure that kind of thing would have been said. I mean, if Jesus had done substandard work people would have concluded that His theology was just as unreliable as His tables. In fact, I think the furniture Jesus built became collectors items not just because of Who He was-but because of the quality of His craftsmanship. Now, I’m not saying we have to BE the best-but rather that we do have to DO our best. In their book William Carr Peel and Walt Larimore put it this way, “If we want people to pay attention to our faith, we must first pay attention to our work. Before we introduce co-workers to God, we must introduce God into our work.”

I hate to say it, but over the years I have seen church members-fellow Christians-who drove others away from Christianity because of their shoddy and even dishonest work practices. So, let’s all do a little self-examination here. Let’s ask ourselves, do people see God in the way I work? Do my work habits compliment my faith or contradict it?

B. This leads to a second thing that is involved in Biblical authenticity: CHARACTER.

You see, it’s not enough to be good at WHAT you do. Integrity and Godly character must also govern the WAY we do it. The fact is, an absence of CHARACTER has canceled out the competence of many great leaders. For example, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton both were skillful men. Regardless of which political party you claim you must admit they were both very competent leaders-but they also had character flaws that diminished their influence. On the other hand other men like Billy Graham and C. Everett Koop, have an integrity that has compelled even their toughest ideological critics to respect and admire them.

Well, the fact is, authentic, Christlike CHARACTER consistently impresses non-believers. It gets their attention because God designed men and women to admire the virtue and character traits that He possesses. Think of it. Unbelieving men and women who were repulsed by the religious leaders of the first century were attracted to Jesus. Why? Because whenever they observed Him they saw the Godly traits described in Galatians 5:22: “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” This means if we want to be contagious Christians, we must embrace those same character traits. We must allow God to make us into Godly people. We must spend time with our Lord, communicating with Him through prayer and Bible study and worship such that His character rubs off on our own and we are then recognized as being His followers. This is what Jesus was talking about in our text when He said that people should be able to “see our good deeds and praise our Father in Heaven.”

Well let’s each ask ourselves: Do I have a Christlike character? Am I living like a child of God? Or do my actions do more to indicate that I am a child of the adversary?

C. And then, one third aspect of authenticity I want to mention is COURAGE…specifically the courage to stand up for what we believe-even if it is costly to do so.

Centuries ago the philosopher Tacitus noted, “The desire for safety stands against every great and noble endeavor.” And that is still true-so many times we don’t do the noble thing, the right thing because it is painful or costly to do so-and if we want to win the right to share our faith we need to get over this cowardice because non-believers are not impressed with spinelessness. No-seekers respect and admire Christians who aren’t afraid to take a stand. Jesus set the example for us in this. Remember? He continued to maintain that He was the Son of God, the Savior of the world even while being brutally beaten and crucified. The Bible tells us there was a Roman centurion who witnessed our Lord’s ordeal and after seeing His courage firsthand he concluded, “Surely this WAS the Son of God.” Well, like this centurion, the onlookers of our lives will be impressed by our bravery-our willingness to do the right thing no matter what.

A few weeks ago, early one Monday morning, Angela called from the office to let me know that a man had come in off the street, saying he wanted to see the pastor. I had just gotten off the treadmill and was running a little late, so I quickly showered and dressed and drove to the office.

And I must admit, I had kind of a bad attitude, thinking this was probably one of those local con-artists who go from church to church asking for money that they really don’t need. I mean, I didn’t look forward to beginning my work week by having to deal with that kind of uncomfortable situation. Well, when I walked in, the man was patiently sitting there in the reception area. I introduced myself and invited him up to my office. We sat down-and he told me his story. As he did I discovered that I was completely wrong in my presumptions.

His name was Will Baker and he told me that he had been in the army, stationed at Walter Reed nearly 20 years ago. At that time he was not a Christian and one night he got drunk and drove up I-270. His erratic driving ended up in a high-speed chase involving several state troopers. They eventually pulled him over and charged him with several counts of DUI and resisting arrest. He posted bond and was released from jail in a few days but while waiting for his court date his stint with the army ended and after his discharge he decided to leave and go home to Ohio. That’s what he did. Will never appeared before a judge-to face punishment for his crimes. Maryland tried to get him back but Ohio would not extradite him for something like this-mainly because no one was hurt-all they did was take Will’s license away and he went about his life. Well, eventually Will became a Christian. He got active in a local church, married, and had a family. And the more he matured as a believer, the worse he felt about avoiding the punishment he knew he rightly deserved. He told me he had recently been laid off from work and felt this was a God-given opportunity for him to come back to Maryland to finally make things right. So, he didn’t want money. All he was asking me to do was let him leave his car in our parking lot for a few days so in the event that he was locked up-which he fully expected to be-his car would not be impounded. He assured me his wife would pick it up in a few days.

Well, I called his pastor and checked his story out and found that it was just as he told me. Will had confessed all this to his church recently and they had prayed for him as he came back to pay for his crimes. He knew it was wrong for him to go on living the way he was living. By the way, it took Will 2.5 days to wait while officials tracked down his 20-year-old paperwork, and he ended up not having to do any jail time just pay a modest fine. He called me this week from his home in Ohio to thank me for my help and to tell me he had just come from their MVA where he was given a legal drivers license. He told me about a new church start his church is sponsoring and of his involvement in it-and he sounded so happy-so free!

Now, Will Baker impressed me. Think of it. Because of his faith-a faith that gave him convictions about right and wrong, this young man was willing to risk imprisonment and separation from his family. That took courage. And I’m sure it impressed a lot of other people in the Montgomery County court system those two and a half days as well. In fact, if I weren’t a Christian, I’d want to know what gave him the courage to do what he was doing. He definitely would have won the right to share his faith with me.

Well, that’s the way AUTHENTICITY is-it melts hearts-it opens doors. So remember…if you want God to be able to use you in sharing the Gospel you must strive to walk close to Jesus, so close that His character and courage shines through you in the way you work and live.

2. And then, to win the right to be heard we also need to embrace COMPASSION.

Compassion is defined as “sorrow for the sufferings of another.” It means caring enough about people to feel their hurts.

This week I visited Dorinda Petrolle in the hospital and when I arrived I found her in tears. I asked if she was okay and what had upset her. She explained she had just been watching the news where it told of the horror that the people in Sudan are even now enduring. The pain experienced by people on the other side of the world, caused Dorinda to weep. She apologized for her emotional outburst and said she had to stop watching the news because every time she heard about someone else’s misfortune or heart-ache she internalized it and cried for them. Well, to get a chance to tell someone about Jesus we need to be more like Dorinda. We need hearts like hers that break for the pain of others. We need to weep with those who weep. Our Lord wept for the lost and hurting and He calls us to do the same. Remember? In His Sermon on the Mount, He referred to those tender-hearted people who do so as “blessed.”

Caring enough to feel the hurts of others makes a lost world pay attention because that’s not normal. Most people in our culture callously ignore the pain of their peers. This reminds me of a true story that Gary Ingrid shares about a court case that once came up in Massachusetts. It concerned a man who had been walking on a boat dock when suddenly he tripped over a rope and fell into the cold, deep water of the bay. He came up sputtering and yelling for help and then sank again, obviously in trouble. His friends were too far away to get him-but only a few yards away, on another dock, was a young man sprawled on a deck chair, sunbathing. The desperate man shouted, “Help! I can’t swim!” But the young sunbather, an excellent swimmer, only turned his head to watch as the man floundered in the water, sank, came up sputtering in total panic, and then disappeared forever. The family of the drowned man was so upset by that display of callous indifference that they sued the sunbather. But they lost. The court reluctantly ruled that the man on the dock had no legal responsibility whatever to try and save the other man’s life. In effect the law agreed with Cain’s presupposition: “I am not my brother’s keeper…” ruling that he had every legal right to mind his own business and refuse to become involved.

That is the way of our world these days. In our haste to keep up with our hectic, lifestyle most of us live by the philosophy of “every man for himself!” And, unfortunately I think that many times the church contributes to this busy-ness. Our Christian calendars are so filled with events and meetings that we become like that Levite and priest who, in their haste to get to the temple in Jerusalem, hurried by the wounded man lying beside the road to Jericho. I mean, ironically some Christians pass right by needy people on the way to a church seminar designed to help them know how to find and minister to needy people! I hate to say it but so many times we live with self-righteous blinders on our eyes that prevent us from seeing and feeling the pain of those around us.

In her book, Out of the Saltshaker, Rebecca Pippert refers to this by saying, “We act as if those around us were not really people like us. If we see them bleed, we pretend they aren’t really hurting. If we see them alone, we tell ourselves that they like it that way.”

Well, to do our part in fulfilling the Great Commission we need to let Jesus heal our tunnel vision.

We need to see and feel the pain of others. I mean, we SHOULD cry when we watch the nightly news. We need to embrace a Christlike compassion for ALL people. Like that Good Samaritan, we need to stop and get involved in helping people. Doing so not only obeys the law of God Who said, “I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers ad toward the poor and needy in your land.” (Deuteronomy 15:11) Compassionate action ALSO makes non-believers want to hear about our faith. I think this is because they have an innate awareness that as James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as PURE and FAULTLESS is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.”

In Eternity magazine, Olga Wetzel told of a time she was riding a bus from Flagstaff, Arizona to Albuquerque on cold February night. They stopped to pick up a young Indian boy and in the heat of the bus he soon fell asleep. He woke up after 30 minutes though and walked to the front of the bus to ask if they were anywhere near his destination. The bus driver looked at him and snapped, “We passed there a long time ago. Why didn’t you get off?” The little boy’s shoulders drooped. He turned and came back to his seat. He had barely sat down though when he rose again and went to the driver and asked, “Will you stop and let me off? I’ll walk back.” The bus driver angrily replied, “No! It’s too far and too cold. You’d freeze to death. You’ll have to go into Albuquerque and then take a bus back.” Disappointment showed in the boy’s walk as he came back to his seat. Olga leaned across the aisle and asked him, “Were you asleep?” He replied, “Yes, and my sister was waiting for me back there.” She asked, “Are you afraid?” And in a hate-to-admit it kind of way he said, “Yes.” “Stay with me,” Olga said, “and I’ll help you get on the right bus back.” Then she talked to the driver and said, “Will you please check with the return driver so he need not pay return fare?” “OK,” the driver reluctantly agreed. “Everything will be alright.” She told the boy. His eyes said, “THANK YOU.” They rode on for possibly ten more minutes. Then the boy tapped her on the shoulder and asked, “Are you a Christian?” Contagious believers like Olga know that often all the lost need to motivate them to ask us about our faith is for us to give them Christlike compassion-to make their pain our responsibility.

3. This leads me to mention one final quality that gives us opportunities to witness: personal SACRIFICE.

And sacrifice is basically COSTLY compassion. It’s paying a personal price to help another individual. It could involve a financial sacrifice or the sacrifice of our time or whatever. But, when we pay a PRICE to minister to people it stops them in their tracks and compels them to ask, “Why? Why would you go out of your way to help me. What motivated you to put my needs above your own?” And it doesn’t take a big sacrifice to get people to ask this question. Hybels writes, “In our day and age when narcissistically ‘looking out for number one’ has been elevated to an art form, almost ANY kind of sacrifice will cause a stir.”

Mark Mittleberg tells of a time when he decided to buy his wife, Heidi, some flowers. While waiting to pay for the bouquet, he struck up a conversation with an elderly woman. She said, “I remember when my husband used to bring me flowers…” Then with emotion in her voice she said, “…but he died many years ago.” It was obvious to Mark how much she still missed her husband, even after all these years and so he tried to say some things that would cheer and encourage her as she made her purchases. After she left the store, Mark suddenly had a thought enter his mind, “Go and give her your wife’s flowers.” So he hurriedly paid and ran outside and found the woman walking slowly across the parking lot. Then feeling a mixture of excitement and embarrassment he held out the flowers to her and said, “Your husband isn’t available to do this so I’d like to give you these.” Well, that small sacrifice made a deep impression on this lonely woman. In fact, she insisted that he come to her home for tea and they had a wonderful time getting to know each other. Their friendship has continued for over ten years now because sacrifice-even a small one-has great power. As Hybels puts it, “Sometimes AUTHENTICITY fails to grab people’s attention; COMPASSION is occasionally written off as the opiate of do-gooders who may have some ulterior motive. But SACRIFICE motivated by genuine love and concern, is extremely difficult to discount. It just screams for a response of some kind.”

When we sacrifice for the good of others it almost always gives us an opportunity to tell them of our faith in Jesus Christ-Who sacrificed His life for us all. Friends, in order to fulfill our purpose-in order to REACH in the name of Christ-we need to understand that witnessing is not JUST sharing the Gospel-it is also LIVING the Gospel. It’s looking at people and treating people as God would. I mean sometimes joining God in His work of seeking and saving the lost is simply being kind and thoughtful in a sacrificial way. Hybels points out that it often takes several Christlike acts like this before a person is open to hearing our witness. Sometime this is the result of a team effort of several compassionate believers. One Christian does one sacrificial act for a lost person. This moves him from a -10 to a -5 when it comes to his openness to the Gospel. Then other Christians come along and do sacrificial things that move him from +10 and then finally they ask, “What must I do to be saved?”

So-to summarize. In order for us to win the right to share our faith-in order for us to become useful evangelistic tools in God’s hands, we must each embrace the character traits of AUTHENTICITY, COMPASSION, and SACRIFICE. This morning YOU WILL LEARN (8:30)-WE LEARNED (11:00) about how to start spiritual conversations with seekers. Well, I want you to understand that before we do that we must mature spiritually because discipleship and evangelism are intertwined. You see, to win the right to bring up Jesus in conversation, we need to become like Jesus-in these three ways. Ask yourself-am I living in such a way that I can be an effective witness? Am I an authentic person-a compassionate person? Am I someone who is willing to sacrifice to help someone else? Am I enough like Jesus to be His representative?

Let us pray.

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