Sharing the Gospel starts with realizing what’s at stake.
Joel Hutchinson treaded water as he watched the plane his father was piloting sink into Lake Erie. He was only seven years old the night he survived the plane crash that killed both his father and his brother. As the boy struggled to keep his head above the waves, he began to pray that God would send someone to help him. And He did.
Chuck Herndon, a resident of the island, was sitting outside that night when he saw the small plane plunge headlong into the lake. Knowing something had to be done immediately, he pulled out his small boat and rowed 700 feet to the crash site, pulling young Joel out of the dark waters to safety, (“The Blade,” Tuesday, May 31, 2007).
That night, Chuck was on a mission. The stakes couldn’t have been higher. Lives were on the line. One boy was in desperate need and praying for help. In the same way, joining Jesus on His mission begins with a burden for people far from God. It starts with realizing that the eternities of men and women are on the line, and there are people right now praying for God to send someone who will help them find hope and forgiveness. Just as Chuck made a decision that night to throw his boat into the water and start rowing, men and women who follow Jesus make the decision every day to reach out with the Gospel to people who are desperate and drifting far from God.
It was nighttime and a visitor had come to talk to Jesus. He had waited until dark so no one would recognize him. After all, he had the reputation of being a prominent leader in Israel, sitting on one of the most prestigious and powerful councils in the nation. This night, he came with personal questions.
During their conversation, Jesus spoke these famous words, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life,” (John 3.16 ESV). He went on to say, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God,” (John 3.17-18 ESV).
Did you pick up on the words Jesus used? Circle them with your pen… Perish! Saved! Condemned! Those are all serious words. They are life and death words. Jesus clearly understood that people’s lives and eternal destinies were literally hanging in the balance, and His mission was a matter of eternal life and death!
If you think what I’m saying is a bit dramatic, then reflect on the way the Apostle Paul described people who are far from God, “In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope,” (Ephesians 2.12 NLT). Those last few words take my breath away. They are so final. Every person outside of Jesus Christ is … “without God and without hope.”
Apart from Jesus, there is no life. A person may be existing, but they are not really living.
Paul said in this passage that at one time, each one of us lived apart from Christ and excluded from God’s people and God’s promises — as well as condemned by God under a mountain of evidence pointing to our own sin and waywardness. Each of us has offended God. We have violated His laws. We have rebelled. Now we are sinking into the dark waters of our own sinfulness.
The Apostle John makes the same point in (1 John 5.11-12 NLT), “And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.”
Without Jesus there is no real life here and no life in the hereafter. Think about it for a moment. People far from God are truly condemned, truly in peril and truly headed to an eternity without God. Heaven is real. Hell is real. And in this moment, their lives hang in the balance.
It was this disturbing reality that moved Jesus to action. When all hope was lost, Jesus plunged into our World — stepping out of eternity and into time — and take on human form to rescue us. He endured the cross, suffered our punishment, and died in our place so you and I could be forgiven, cleansed and restored to fellowship with God.
Jesus put it plainly, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost,” (Luke 19.10 NIV). Jesus came to this earth on a search and rescue mission. Those who love Jesus and join in His mission share that same search and rescue mentality.
In February 1952, a massive storm hit the East Coast of the United States, crippling an oil tanker off the coast of Cape Cod. Four members of the U.S. Coast Guard battled the seventy-foot waves to rescue the ship’s captain and crew. In the movie that depicts this heroic rescue, “The Finest Hours,” one rescuer says, “We have to go out; we don’t have to come back.”
Jesus instilled this same mindset in His men. They went out carrying the hope of the Gospel, oftentimes in the face of great danger. All but one faced a martyr’s death because they would not keep silent about this Jesus who had changed their lives! Still today, men and women travel into countries hostile to the Gospel to tell people about the hope they have found in Jesus. Why do they take such risks? The answer is simple; because someone needs to tell the lost about Jesus.
In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul makes the case that it’s up to us to tell the message of Jesus, “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? … So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ,” (Romans 10.14-15,17 NLT).
Do you follow his logic? Faith in Jesus comes by hearing the Gospel. But for someone to hear, someone must tell. For someone to tell, someone must be willing to go. If the people in your office or neighborhood are ever going to come to faith in Jesus, someone will have to tell them about Jesus. Someone will have to go to them. Someone will have to care enough to do something. That someone is you.
To live on mission means we must get out of the mindset that says, “I can’t talk about Jesus or I’ll be ostracized or made fun of.” We have to leave behind the fleeting concerns of being embarrassed or even labeled a Jesus freak. You and I need the mindset of Jesus, who saw the peril, saw the pain and dove in with the Gospel.
Photo Credit: Luc Tribolet