Reconciled (Part 2)

Last week, we learned of how we are all called into the evangelical ministry of reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.
We found that this simply means that we are called to serve others by bringing them the good news that the debt that they owe to God for their sins has been paid in full and that they have the opportunity to receive God’s favor!  It’s a ministry that all believers are called to and one that is incredible fulfilling and fun to do.  In fact, there are countless ways to perform this ministry.  This morning, we’re going to dig into just a few of these ways.
As a disclaimer, it is important for us at all times, but especially while actively engaging in this ministry of reconciliation to remain filled with and guided by the Holy Spirit.  Each person and every situation is very unique and so timing along with our method of presenting of this good news is important.
Here’s an example of sharing good news at the wrong time and in the wrong way.
* Geico Committee Hearing video *
You can see how inappropriate it was to share the good news that he had saved a lot of money by switching his car insurance at the conclusion of this committee hearing.  However, we can just as easily share the good news of Christ’s salvation in an inappropriate time or in an inappropriate way based on the surrounding circumstances.
For example, the Holy Spirit may lead you to share the good news of Christ’s salvation to someone standing behind you while standing in line on black Friday.  However, choosing to do it on the spot and hold up the customers behind you is inappropriate.  Not only is it disrespectful and dishonoring to the customers standing in line, it is also disrespectful and dishonoring to the business as well.
The first and foremost value in any time of ministry is God’s agape, unconditional love as we find in 1 Corinthians 14.  This love honors and respects not only the person being ministered to, but also the others involved in the circumstances as well.
On the other hand, when we share the good news of Christ’s salvation in an appropriate way and at the appropriate time, it is powerful and effective!
We can trust that the Holy Spirit will go ahead of us and prepare people to receive the good news that we have to share and will place us in the right place at the right time with the right way to go about sharing it.  We will absolutely miss it from time to time, but as we learn from our mistakes and keep trying, this ministry will get easier and easier.  We also know that not everyone will accept the good news that we’re sharing, however, we still strive to pave the highway to His salvation and not to be a stumbling block to them accepting it.
Throughout scripture, we see not only the word of God being proclaimed, but also actions that go directly along with it.  We see this especially in the ministry of Jesus and the early church and should be expecting it to happen in the church today as well.
After Jesus rose from the grave, He appeared to His disciples and gave them the great commission to go out into all the world and preach the good news to all people.  We see that as the disciples were obedient to the great commission, that something awesome happened!
Mark 16:20
Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.
It’s understandable why this is the case as well.  Consider this analogy.
You come across a man who is starving and dying.  You know that the solution to his problem is simply for him to eat.  However, you have good news to share with him!  You describe to him this awesome burger that a restaurant just a block away has in complete and mouthwatering detail and ask him to come with you to go pickup one.  The man explains that he has no money and is too weak to walk.  You tell him how wrong it is for him to choose to just lay there in his misery and urge him to go to the restaurant.  After a bit of arguing, you then walk away frustrated that the man made such a poor choice not to go to the restaurant with you, but instead chose to just continue lying there.
Of course, we see what the man should have obviously done.  Instead of just describing the burger and pushing the man to come with him, he should have just brought him the burger to eat.
Psalm 34:8
Taste and see that the LORD is good
Too often, we do the same thing with the good news of Christ’s salvation.  We preach and preach at people and push them at Jesus.  However, that’s not exactly the ministry of reconciliation.  It’s not about us doing what we are supposed to do in telling people, but ultimately, about others accepting Christ’s salvation.  It’s not about us, but about others.  Paul said it this way.

1 Corinthians 9:22
I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means some might be saved.

We can tell somebody about how much God loves them and how awesome He is, but it is far more effective to show them and bring them into an experience of it.  In 2 Corinthians 5, right after we are called into the ministry of reconciliation, we are told:
2 Corinthians 5:20
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
Since we are ambassadors, we do not need to push and shove people into the kingdom of God, but we bring the kingdom of God to them.  Just like our earlier analogy, we take the burger and bring it to the starving man to taste and see that it is good.  We don’t just tell someone that God can provide for their needs, but we allow Him to use us to do it.  We don’t just tell someone that God is our healer, but we administer God’s healing to them.  We don’t just tell people about our faith, we show them our faith through our works.
James 2:15-18
15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.  18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”  Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.
Alright, to just about all of us, evangelism or sharing the good news is scary.  You might be thinking of past experiences when you confronted someone and shared with them.  In that moment, an instant adrenaline rush comes on; your palms get sweaty, thoughts go racing through your mind of the countless possibilities of how it might go, your nerves are on end, and you’re not quite sure if you can do it.  You share briefly and make a break for another topic or to physically escape the situation.
Although this is common when you share your faith at first, it shouldn’t be something that stops us.  After all, we experience these emotions frequently when we try something new for the first time.   However, as you share your faith more frequently, these emotions become less intense and it becomes easier to do and far more exciting.
This is actually where it gets fun!  Sharing this good news doesn’t necessarily have to mean that you have to carry around your Bible and start preaching to complete strangers.   The best place to start is actually by doing what you normally do, but doing it for Jesus.  Whether it is to fix a car, build a shed, cook a meal, fix a computer, write a blog, go hunting, go shopping, dig a hole, cut up wood, quilt a blanket, pray, fill up your tank at a gas station, go fishing, or give generously; just about everything that you can do can be a way to share this good news.
We were created in the image of a creative God and so we can be quite creative in how we present the message that we have been given!  We see this being the case especially during Jesus’ and the early church’s ministry.  They took the circumstances around them and used them to creatively present the gospel message.  For example when Jesus met the Samaritan women at the well and told her that she could have living water and could never thirst again or Paul when he told those in Athens about the unknown God that they had built an altar to along with their other gods.  We also should always be looking for opportunities to creatively share the good news that we have.  There is no right or wrong way to share this good news or to serve others so long as we’re within scripturally moral bounds.
For example, it can be as simple as to do a simple act of service for someone and when they thank us, just say “No need to thank me.  This is nothing compared to what Jesus did for us, which is why I’m doing it.”  Not only did we serve someone as we’re called to, but we also just proclaimed the good news to them.
These acts of service can be small practical things such as giving someone a bottle of water or calling to see how they are doing or fixing their flat tire.  Or it can also be a spiritual display of the power of God through the gifts of the Spirit such as healing them or freeing them from the bondage of the enemy or sharing a word of knowledge with them and praying for them.  All of these things are equally effective at showing them the love of Jesus and introducing them to Him.
Bill Hybels reveals different approaches to evangelism, or sharing good news, found in the New Testament in his book “Becoming a Contagious Christian”.  These approaches reveal styles of evangelism generally used by different personality types.   These approaches allow you to be yourself and still take part in this ministry of reconciliation that we’re all called to.
(1) Confrontational Approach – Peter was a confrontational person. He revealed who Jesus was (Matthew 16:15); he challenged Jesus; and he was the one who walked on the water. As an evangelist he showed the same directness and boldness as he confronted people with the fact that they had crucified the Messiah (Acts 2).
(choleric personality types, sandwich board, street preaching)
(2) Intellectual Approach – Paul was highly educated; an intellectual, as evidenced in his letter to the Romans. As an evangelist he presented a well reasoned argument to the philosophers in Athens (Acts 17). Seekers need to hear the gospel not only declared but also defined and defended. (apologetics, debates)
(3) Testimonial Approach – When the Blind man was healed by Jesus, he had something worth talking about (John 9). He did not enter into theological debate with people, he simply spoke from his own experience with confidence.
(4) Interpersonal Approach – After Matthew was called to be a follower of Jesus he put on a banquet for his tax collecting friends (Luke 5:29). He invited them into his home, spent time with them and ate with them. He genuinely cared about them and wanted to influence them towards considering the claims of Christ.
(sanguine personality type, parties)
(5) Invitational Approach – After the woman at the well had encountered Jesus, she went into the town and brought a bunch of people to hear Jesus for themselves (John 4). This approach involves asking people to a church or youth event that is seeker-orientated. Andrew was an example of the invitational approach (John 1:41 42).
(6) Service Approach – Dorcas was a woman well-known for her loving acts of service which she performed in the name of Christ (Acts 9:36). She was using a service approach to evangelism as she made clothing for widows and needy people in the town.
So we can see that no matter what our style or personality type is, we can all actively engage in the ministry of reconciliation; serving others by sharing the good news with them that through Jesus, God no longer holds their sins against them.  Whatever your ability or talent is, it can be used as a tool to share the good news.  Taking full advantage of these opportunities is a fun and extremely fulfilling as you work together with God to serve as we’re called to do!  Let’s all rise up and start having fun seeing lives transformed and God use ordinary us to do supernatural and extraordinary things and encourage one another in this ministry!