Pastor Scott Andrews | August 1, 2021
One of our primary responsibilities as followers of Jesus is to tell others about Him so they, too, can become followers. It is, after all, part of the Great Commission and our church mission statement: “We are called, by the grace of God, for the glory of God, to become and multiply fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.” That’s more than just a cutesy statement that looks good on stationary or a website – we really believe it. But, in addition to being one of the primary responsibilities, this sharing our faith is also one of the most daunting challenges.
According to a Barna survey, a group which specializes in ascertaining the spiritual climate in America, about half of all adults who identified themselves as born again Christians shared their faith in Christ with someone over the previous twelve months. That’s good, isn’t it? But, that means about half, didn’t. Oh, and according to the survey the most popular method of evangelizing was praying for another’s salvation. Meaning, about half of those who say they evangelized the previous year did so by praying for someone to be saved. Now true, praying for someone to receive Christ is critically important and could technically be called evangelism.
But, removing those numbers means only one in four Christians actually opened their mouths to point others to Jesus. Oh, and about half of those who were involved in overt evangelism identified lifestyle evangelism as their primary methodology – which may or may not mean they actually ever got to the gospel. When you boil it all down and synthesize all the data, it’s likely only one in eight professing believers verbally shared the gospel the previous twelve months.
The reason could have to do with another Barna survey: only 39% of those surveyed agreed they had a personal responsibility to tell others about their own religious beliefs – their faith. Did you catch that? Only about 4 in 10 surveyed believe evangelism is a personal responsibility. Wow. Is it possible we believe the lies that religious truth is subjective and personal – that I have no right to push my beliefs on someone else? And that does sound so negative, doesn’t it – pushing my faith on someone else? I mean, everyone has the right to believe whatever they want, right? And that particular thought is grounded in two other damning falsehoods – namely, there is no such thing as absolute truth, and all religions ultimately lead to God anyway.
I hope at Alliance, we are beyond those lies. I hope we know the reason Jesus came – the Son of God took on flesh to perfectly and uniquely reveal the Father to us – so that we could be reconciled to God. And, that reconciliation comes by explicit faith – by trusting Jesus, believing in His name, that is, all He has done through His perfect life, His death, burial and resurrection. And, by believing, we have life in His name, and in His name alone.
If all that is true, and we believe Jesus is the only way to God, then we do have a personal responsibility to share our faith with others. Think of it this way – to not share is the most hateful thing we can do. Why wouldn’t we share? It is the gospel, the good news. Oh sure, it contains some bad news – all are sinners and deserving of eternal hell – but the good news is God loved us and sent His Son to die for us – to bear our sins on the cross so we could be forgiven. Is sharing that good news pushing our faith on others? Whatever. It’s telling them something eternally bad awaits, but something eternally good has been done about it.
Let me illustrate it this way. You walk by a house and you see one side engulfed in flames. You know the other side is where people are fast asleep. Do you wake them to tell them the bad news – your house is on fire; and the good news – but you can still escape through the side door? Or do you say, well, who am I to push on them my belief that the house is on fire? It may not really be on fire – I just may believe it’s on fire – shouldn’t they find out for themselves? And, perhaps there’s another way to escape. I don’t want to seem pushy, like I’m right. And besides, maybe they’re enjoying a good dream in the midst of their slumber on their way to perishing – who am I to wake them?
If there is good news and we believe it, why do we have such a hard time sharing it? I mean, presumably someone shared with us. Somebody overcame the inherent difficulties in evangelism and shared, right? Now, I’m sure there are lots of reasons we don’t share: we don’t see the fire, we don’t really believe the fire is there, we’re not firemen, we haven’t been trained, we might be scorched by the fire, let the professionals do it, we don’t really care about the people soon to be engulfed by the fire, we don’t think it’s our business, after all, it’s their fire, and besides, we’re really busy.
Moving away from the analogy to reasons we don’t share: we’re apathetic, we’re too busy living our own lives, we join the survey and don’t think it’s our job to share. Or, maybe we’re nervous or downright scared. We feel ill-equipped to speak of Christ. We’re not sure what to say. Maybe we’ve not received adequate training, we think – and we’re not prepared to answer all the objections. Yeah, what about those – there are objections, aren’t there?
Back to the analogy – I don’t believe you – I don’t believe there is a fire; how do you know the fire is there; I’ll find my own way to escape the fire, thank you very much. Who do you think you are to push your escape on me. I don’t want to escape. I like my life right where it is – I was really enjoying my slumber.
Or, Christianity is so exclusive, it’s arrogant, how do you know it’s really true, it’s a bit unbelievable, this God dying for sinners, it’s judgmental, it requires faith in the unseen. And then, there’s the ever-present objection not so much to Christianity, but to Christians. The hypocrisy, the Pharisaical judgmentalism, the past painful church experiences, the mean-spirited, objectionable Christians. Let’s be honest, some, having grown up in church, experienced more abuse within the church than without. The words of Mahatma Gandhi ring true for many, “I would have become a Christian if it wasn’t for Christians.”
How do we respond to what seem legitimate objections? What about the deeper, more difficult protests, like the story of creation, or the stuff of miracles like a worldwide flood and Noah’s ark or crossing the Red Sea or a whale swallowing a man, or even the resurrection? Maybe the objection is something more basic like the existence of God. Is it necessary for me to be trained in apologetics to be an able evangelist? Is it necessary to know the cosmological, ontological and teleological arguments for the existence of God? And how much of the Bible and its theological intricacies do I really have to know? What if they ask questions I don’t know – like all those contradictions in the Bible? Yeah, what about those? And what about all the political, moral and social issues like abortion and homosexuality and transgenderism and slavery?
And already some of you have broken into a cold sweat, your mouth has gone dry, and you’re looking for the exit where you can just go and remain anonymous. Especially as it relates to this sharing your faith thing. Oh, I’ll serve here where it’s safe, but sharing my faith with an unbeliever? I shudder to think.
I have a very great passage for us today. And I do say, us – I face those same emotional and mental battles as it relates to evangelism. Last week, we looked at Jesus’ commendation of John the Baptist as he pointed people to Jesus. Today, we’re going to find others, having found Jesus, pointed others to Jesus. And I believe we’ll find an evangelistic method that will work for all people, for all time. In fact, I would suggest it is the method, no matter what strategies we might use – this is the best way to point people to Jesus. Read the text with me – John 1:35-51. Catch the themes as we read the text – they almost jump off the page.
Those who found Jesus found others and said, simply, come and see. It’s been a really good week in John 1 – all the testimony has been pointing to Jesus. The first few days, the forerunner, John the Baptist, pointed people to Jesus as he had been called to do. He started on the first day with the official delegation from Jerusalem – probably the Sanhedrin. They wanted to know who John was. John said, I am not the Christ. Are you then Elijah, or the Prophet to come? No, I am not. Who then are you – what do you have to say about yourself? John answered, I’m the one of whom Isaiah spoke, a voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord.” I’m just a voice – the forerunner. Very simply, John said, my job is to point people to the Christ, to declare His coming. And very quickly, John took the spotlight off himself, and pointed it to Jesus where it rightly belonged. There’s a hint there – the evangelistic method I’m talking about.
The next day, the second day of this really good week, John saw Jesus coming to him, and proclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” That is, by the way, the simple message of the gospel: Jesus is the Lamb of God – that is, He has borne our sins as a sacrificial lamb – to take away our sin. John goes on to tell us how he knew Jesus was the Christ. When John baptized Him, he saw the Spirit of God descend on Jesus in the form of a dove. God had told him earlier – when you see this happen, John, you’ll know He’s the One.
Which brings us to the current day. John has testified to this religious delegation, he has testified to the world. Now on this day and through the end of the chapter, we see him testifying to his own friends, who in turn testify to others. It’s the way it’s supposed to be – those who hear and believe tell others.
And what is it we tell? Here is the evangelistic method I promised – here is the consistent testimony I want you to notice: come and see. We have found Him – come and see for yourself. I can’t convince you, I can’t talk you into this. But, He can – come and see. Even in the midst of objection – can any good thing come out of Nazareth? Come and see. Because, you see, these early disciples believed if they could just get people to look at Jesus – not at themselves – at Jesus, they too would believe.
Let me talk to you right now about that most common objection to Christianity – other Christians. The problem is, of course, Christianity is not built on Christians – it’s built on Christ. And that is the secret to effective evangelism – come and see Jesus – we believe you’ll like what you see. You have problems with Christians? So do we – we’re not a perfect bunch – not yet. But Jesus – come and see – we know if you give Him an honest look, you’re really gonna like what you see.
Remember that story from John chapter 3 I mentioned last week? One day people came up to John and said, “Hey John, people are starting to follow Jesus – He’s baptizing, and He’s got more followers than you.” John, aren’t your jealous – isn’t this about you? How did John respond? “You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. He must increase, but I must decrease.” In other words, John said, “People are following Jesus? Great, my job as His friend is to point to Him. He’s the Messiah – if they’re following Him, I’ve succeeded, I’m doing my job. This joy of mine has been made full.” Listen, if you’ve ever had the privilege of sharing your faith, and seeing someone respond and say, “I believe that – I want Jesus to forgive my sins and be my Savior, too” – then you know there’s nothing like it. It will make your joy full.
This is a great story before us today of what happens, or should I say, what should happen when you point people to Jesus – recognizing it is our responsibility. Here’s the outline of the text – we’re only going cover a little, but let me show you the whole thing, because you see the pattern:
- John Pointing to Jesus (35-36)
- Andrew Following Jesus (37-40)
- Andrew Pointing to Jesus [and implied, Peter Following Jesus] (41-42)
- Philip Following Jesus (43-44)
- Philip Pointing to Jesus (45-46)
- Nathaniel Following Jesus (47-51)
That’s a really good outline. Do you see the point? People invite, come and see, others follow – not everyone, but some will. D. A. Carson, in his commentary said about Andrew, “He thus became the first in a long line of successors who have discovered that the most common and effective Christian testimony is the private witness of friend to friend, brother to brother.” The best method of evangelism is simply to bring people in your circle to Jesus – come and see, and let Him change your life like He changed mine.
Well, let’s make our way through the first part of the text. It was the day following John’s declaration that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Now, John sees Jesus again, and when you’ve seen Him, you can’t keep it in – you can’t help but exclaim to others, Behold, Look, the Lamb of God! I’ve discovered Jesus, and I want you to discover Him. I’ve got to tell you about Him. Behold the Lamb – who has come to take away your sin.
Now, John the writer is introducing Jesus to us. Throughout the entire book, he is demonstrating Jesus is both the Son of God, and God the Son. As such, he says, you can believe the testimony about Him – He’s reliable. And by believing in His name – that is, who He is and what He has done for you, you can have eternal life. In this particular passage, the writer John is showing how the baptizer John, a spiritual hero among the Jews, declared Jesus to be the Messiah. But please notice, through the whole of chapter one, John the writer applies a number of titles to Jesus:
- Verse 1 – He is the Word, God’s self-expression
- Verse 1, 18 – He is God, the one and only unique God sent to reveal the Father
- Verses 4 – He is the Life
- Verses 4, 5 – He is the Light
- Verses 29, 36 – He’s the Lamb of God
- Verses 34, 49 – He’s the Son of God
- Verses 38, 49 – He’s Rabbi, or honored teacher
- Verse 41 – He’s the Messiah, or the Christ
- Verse 49 – He’s the King of Israel
- Verse 51 – He’s the Son of Man [which is Jesus’ favorite self-designation – almost every time it’s used in the New Testament, He’s referring to Himself – it speaks of His condescension and humanity.]
Put all that together with verse 45 which says He’s the one that both Moses and the Prophets wrote about and the point is this: Jesus deserves to be pointed out – look at who He is. So, John says to two of his disciples, “Behold, look at the Lamb of God.”
- Which lead us to our second point in verses 37-40, Andrew Following Jesus.
As John pointed to Jesus, two of John’s own disciples heard him and followed Jesus. The word for follow is often used in this gospel to refer to following as a disciple – to become a student. These two followers of John became followers of Jesus. But that’s the way it was supposed to be, John was to point people to Jesus – John was to decrease, while Jesus was to increase.
I find it very interesting. John had enjoyed a degree of popularity. People from all walks of life had turned out in droves to listen to him, to be baptized by him, and to follow him. But, John knew he was a forerunner. He was just a voice directing people to One greater than himself. He didn’t let the fame go to his head. When it was time, he turned his disciples over to Jesus. Which is an important lesson for us. As a church, we are not in the business of building our own kingdom and our own notoriety. When I say, it’s not about me, I mean me individually, and us corporately. We are to be exalting Jesus and pointing others to Him. We are not here to build a monument to Alliance Bible Fellowship. If we become that, it’s time to close the doors.
Well, these two disciples followed Jesus. One of them is named, Andrew. The other is very possibly the writer John himself, since he knew so many details about this event – for example, it was about the tenth hour, or four in the afternoon. We read when they followed, Jesus turned to ask them, what do you seek? First words out of Jesus’ mouth in this gospel – what are you looking for, knowing full well He had what they needed. What is it you really want? To which they responded, uh, Rabbi, uh, where are you staying? It’s possible they didn’t really know what to say – they just knew they wanted to follow Him. They called Him Rabbi, which was a way of acknowledging He was their teacher. So – where are you staying? How can we get close to you and learn from you? You see, the disciples of Jesus want to be close to Him – to be where He is to learn from Him. We do that today, primarily through His Word and prayer – there are no substitutes for spending time with Jesus.
You can imagine their excitement when Jesus answered, Come, and you will see. Come and see – that’s the consistent invitation in this passage. You see, Jesus never turns anyone away who seeks to follow Him. He once said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” You see, you don’t have to worry about whether or not Jesus will accept you – you just need to accept Him. There is no one beyond the grace of God. People just need someone to point Him out. Come and see – you’ll like what you see.
We see these two spent the rest of the day with Him. That, coupled with the testimony of John, was enough to convince them Jesus was the Messiah. Which is the way it works. Jesus is declared to be the Son of God, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. And if you’ll just spend time with Him, examine His story through the gospels, come and see, if you study the evidence, you too will become convinced He is the Messiah, the Christ. (Frank Morrison) That’s the point of this book. He said in John 20:
30 Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;
31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.
If you’ll give Him an honest look, you will believe – and by believing, you will have eternal life.
- Well, what then did Andrew do? The same thing John the Baptist did – he began to point others to Jesus, which brings us to our third point in verses 41 and 42. He goes and gets his brother Simon – we know him as Peter. And implied is this: Simon Peter follows.
The process had begun. John told Andrew, Andrew went and got his brother. By the way, every time we run into Andrew in this book, he’s bringing people to Jesus. He brings the little boy with his lunch so Jesus can feed the five thousand. He brings some Greeks one day who wanted to see Jesus. That’s what we need to be – little Andrews, bringing people to Jesus.
Here, he says to Peter, we have found the Messiah, the Christ, and Andrew brought Peter to Jesus. Please see the pattern – we, having found Him, find others. Now, did Peter continue the chain – did he tell others about Jesus? Of course he did. He ended up being the so-called Apostle to the Jews, he wrote I and II Peter, he told Mark all about what was written in the gospel of Mark. He was the first evangelist on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came, Peter preached, the church was born, and 3,000 people were saved. Yeah, I’d say he pointed others to Jesus.
And that process has continued to the present day – the process of world evangelization. John the Baptist was the forerunner – he told people the Messiah was coming – and when He appeared, John pointed people to Jesus. Then, Andrew, one of John’s disciples, pointed his brother to Jesus. Peter pointed others, who pointed others, who pointed others, who pointed you to Jesus. That’s the way it works. That’s the plan God intended from the very beginning – that those touched by grace would go and tell others. We’ve found the answer to life – let us take you to Jesus.
In verse 43, Jesus finds Philip, and said follow Me. He did. Then Philip found Nathanael, and said “We have found Him of whom Moses and the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” In other words – the whole OT pointed to Jesus. Jesus told them in John 5, “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life. It is these that testify of Me.” Even the Bible points to Jesus.
Of course, Nathanael questioned whether Jesus could be the Messiah, because can any good thing come out of Nazareth. That’s an objection, right? Philip’s response? Come and see. And Nathanael did – he went and saw Jesus. The result? Rabbi, You are the Son of God, the King of Israel. Give Him an honest look, and you can’t help but believe.
Before He ascended, Jesus said in Acts 1:8, “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” He said it this way in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Here’s my simple question as we close today. Who will you tell to continue the chain? Who will you invite to come and see Jesus? You don’t have to know all the answers – you’re not Jesus. Tell them who Jesus is, what He has done for them, let God do His work of drawing disciples to Himself. Who will you tell?