TEXT: Acts 15:36-16:6
Do you know anyone who cannot sit still? They always have to be doing something. Even when sitting, their motor is running [leg shaking]!
The Apostle Paul was like that…he always had to be preaching or witnessing or discipling or visiting. He could have settled down comfortably in the large church at Antioch, but he didn’t…not as long as there were more people who needed to be reached, he had “itchy feet.” He didn’t view the church as a parking lot, but as a launching pad!
The passage that we have read a while ago speaks of the beginning of Paul’s 2nd Missionary journey…And we are going to learn from him the important elements to be effective in evangelism. In effective evangelism, we must have:
1. THE RIGHT PASSION
Today we would say “drive.” Some people are just driven…some have a passion for money…some for fame, but Paul’s passion was reaching the lost. (1 Cor. 9:16), “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!”
He’s saying, don’t pat me on the back because I witness and preach and proclaim…I have to do these things…it’s in my bones! He’s saying, for me, witnessing is not an option…reaching the lost is not a suggestion…for me, it’s a command! He was passionate about it.
Another word for it is enthusiasm, which comes from 2 greek words: en and theos… “in God”! We can’t go wrong w/ enthusiasm. It helps us do anything and do it better. (Col. 3:23) “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord…”
You can’t have too much enthusiasm.
One man may have had too much enthusiasm. He ran an open air fish market in NYC…he had a very good day and had sold almost all of his fish…matter of fact, he only had 1 small fish left in a barrel. He was closing up shop when a lady came by and said, I’d like to buy a large fish for my husband’s supper. He looked down in his barrel at that one little fish. He reached in and threw it up on the counter… “how’s this?” “It’s a little small” she said. “have another?” He took the fish, swished it back around in the barrel and lifted it out and said, how’s this? “Still too small” she said. He tried a 3rd time, and w/ all the enthusiasm he could muster he got excited and said, “ooooh, take a look at this guy!” She replied, well…they’re all a little small…I believe I’ll take all 3!
But spiritually, we really cannot have too much passion…the opposite of spiritual passion is spiritual sleep. (Romans 13:11) “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.”
That’s a spiritual sleep he’s referring to, and he was right…the church is sleeping in a noisy room full of lost people. A vast majority of our city doesn’t know Christ as Savior…but we walk right past them in stores, at work, on the street…and we’re “sleep-walking!” 7 billion people are alive on this planet but most are spiritually dead. And there’s a small minority of us which are supposedly spiritually alive but we’re in some kind of a stuper…stumbling around spiritually at best! Once in a while we trip over some sinner accidentally, and we have one saved now and then…but it’s time to wake up…imagine what we could do w/ some passion! Alive! Alert! Awake! Enthusiastic! We come by it honestly. Here’s some of our predecessors from scripture:
• Jonah—he was a good sleeper…he slept the sleep of unconcern.
God told him to preach to the wicked Assyrians in Nineveh…but he went the opposite direction. He boarded a ship and went to sleep…a sleep of unconcern. It wasn’t just that he didn’t care if they went to hell…he WANTED God to punish those people! I could get riled up thinking about what Jonah did…but what about us? Aren’t we sleeping the sleep of unconcern? When we can talk to our neighbors about ANYTHING BUT the gospel, aren’t we sleeping the sleep of unconcern? Is there a hell or not? Do we care or not? If we saw their house on fire, we’d surely run get a hose or grab a phone, right?
Soldiers heading to an almost hopeless battle on a great ship cornered their chaplain and asked him if he believed in a literal hell. He was a liberal who didn’t believe the Bible completely and he said “absolutely not…take courage and don’t worry. I do not believe that a loving God would send anyone to such a place as hell.” They then asked him to resign saying, “if there is no hell…we don’t need you…and if there is a hell…we do not wish to be led astray!”
Do we REALLY believe God? Do we believe the Bible is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Or do we approach it “cafeteria style”…picking and choosing what is tasteful to us?
You might say, Pastor with your words, “You’re trying to scare people.” Yes, if they need scaring, then that’s exactly what I’m doing.
Another Bible example of spiritual sleep:
• Peter, James and John in the Garden of Gethsemane—they slept the sleep of the unpreparedness.
Jesus was in the most desperate spiritual struggle of his life. Facing Satan in the desert 3 years earlier was nothing compared to this! Jesus knows that just a few hours ahead of Him is the cross, where He would literally become sin! He was being tempted not to go thru w/ it…and He asked His 3 most trusted buddies to go w/ Him and pray. He said to His inner circle, I cannot explain how I feel or what lies ahead, tho’ you could never understand the anguish in my soul…just know I need you to come and pray w/ me now. What an opportunity! The chance of a lifetime…to pray w/ the Son of God in His greatest hour of need! But guess what they did…they fell asleep! They acted as if they had no idea what was going on. They must not have sensed the fact that what was about to happen would change history forever…Heaven and Hell hang in the balance…eternity is at stake! And they fell asleep…the sleep of the unprepared. For 3 years they had followed Jesus. It was all leading up to this moment, and now they had the chance to get in the game and carry the ball, and they decide to go to sleep!
Once again, we can get really miffed at these guys as we talk about it…but how about us? How many believers right now know in their hearts that this is them!? This is you! You have opportunities, but you don’t take them, because you feel unprepared. And so, you drop the ball! But eternity is at stake…major things are happening…but still, Christians get up every day but unprepared. S.S. Teachers and youth leaders and children’s workers decide they can just “wing it”…and fake their way thru it. The sleep of the unprepared! Singers need to prepare, yes, but we’re all on stage in life, and Christians are asleep and unprepared! I believe God’s work is the most important work in the world, and we need to be prepared. The Boy Scout motto is Be Prepared, and as children of the Most High God, that should also be our motto in reaching others for Christ! I believe Christians today are much like those disciples…sleeping the sleep of the unprepared!
• Samson—where did he fall asleep? In Delilah’s lap! He slept the sleep of the unaware.
Once he revealed the source of his strength he lost his power, but he didn’t know he lost it. The Philistines came upon him during naptime, and he sprung up to flex and rip and tear and watch them run like always, but the Bible says “he wist not the Spirit of the Lord had departed from him.” He was sleeping the sleep of the unaware. He was overconfident…and too comfortable! God help the pastor and the church that starts feeling like the well oiled machine… “we don’t even need to pray—the way God is blessing”. We don’t need to visit and invite people—they way they are pouring in the door!” “We have lots of money in the bank, we don’t have to depend on God!” Nobody would say these things audibly, but so often we act that way!
Before the Titanic struck the iceberg she received 5 telegraph warnings about icebergs, and all were ignored. The crew and even the captain must have grown too confident in all the press and hooplah surrounding this new ship. Before she launched, people were saying, “even God couldn’t sink this ship!” 35 minutes after the final warning they were sinking, and history records that the entire crew was “criminally complacent.”
The 1st essential to effective evangelism is passion, and we need to wake up to the needs of the hour!
2. THE RIGHT PRIORITY
The Apostle Paul had the right priority. He knew that the main thing is keeping the main thing the main thing…we get off track in churches way too easily! (We get sidetracked with the wonderful activities and programs in the church) But let me remind us all that the main thing is winning souls…keeping people out of hell! Everything else is subservient to that one goal.
Paul never forgot that Christ was born to die, to rise again, to save that which was lost…He came not to be ministered unto but to minister and to give His life for His priority!
Once upon a time a community of people who lived along a stretch of dangerous sea-coast where shipwrecks often occurred eventually organized a rescue operation. They decided to do something about all the drowning people near their city. And so a small life-saving station was built, and the devoted members of the rescue team kept an ongoing watch over the sea…ready to man their little boats to search for survivors in case of shipwreck. As a result, the town became famous for the many lives that were saved. More and more people joined the team, and soon a new building was needed. It was much larger than the 1st building, and was beautifully furnished and decorated. But as more and more amenities were added for the members pleasure and comfort, the building was slowly transformed into a kind of clubhouse. Some of the members then began to lose interest in the rescue operation. But then a shipwreck occurred, and many survivors were rescued and brought to the clubhouse for first aid. During this several day period, the frenzied activity caused the elegant clubhouse to be significantly marred, by such things as blood stains and the smell of the sea. At the next meeting there was a split in the membership. Most members felt that the life-saving operation was a hindrance to their social life. And those who disagreed were told they could go to another operation further down the coast. As years went by, history continued to repeat itself, and today, that seacoast is lined with a number of exclusive clubhouses lining the shore, but no one in the area seems too concerned w/ the rescue operation.
You know, there’s a church on almost every corner of this city, but it’s so easy to lose our priorities, and even we are not immune.
I like what Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, “If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap into hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish w/ our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, let not one go there unwarned and unsprayed for.”
3. THE RIGHT PRESENTATION
You have to have passion, you have to have priority, but ultimately, you have to have the right message. We’re put to shame by some cults w/ much more passion and priority than we have…what a shame the message, the presentation, they are communicating!
The right message is that salvation is by grace alone, thru faith alone, in Christ alone, plus nothing, minus nothing. That’s the right message, and when you couple that w/ love, souls WILL be saved.
Psalm 126:5-6, “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.  He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”
Fanny Crosby, that blind hymn writer, wrote so many hymns we love to sing. When she was up in years she visited the Macaulay Rescue Mission in NYC. She stood before a crowd of homeless, drug-addicted, alcoholic men. She said, “is there a young man here who doesn’t have a mother?” One young man timidly raised his hand. He explained she died when he was very young. She asked him to come to the front. She gave him a big hug and kissed him on the cheek. It touched her heart so much that she went home that night and wrote these words, “rescue the perishing, care for the dying, snatch them in pity from sin and the grave, weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen, tell them of Jesus the Mighty to save.”
Years later Ira Sankey was singing for D.L. Moody in St. Louis. He rose to sing that song, but before he sang he told that story. As he told the story a middle-aged man jumped up and shouted, “it was me! I’m the young man she wrote about. She kissed me. I could never get away from that moment.” He explained that as a result he became a Christian and straightened out his life.
When we take the right message and couple it w/ love, people will be saved. We have to have the right passion…it’s time to wake up. We have to have the right priority…it’s time to put first things first. We have to have the right presentation, the right message.