“Three Evangelism Pointers: Point, Invite, and Find” (John 1:29-42a)

Second Sunday after the Epiphany
January 19, 2020

“Three Evangelism Pointers: Point, Invite, and Find” (John 1:29-42a)

The Epiphany season traditionally is a time for emphasizing the church’s work of evangelism and missions. Why is that? Well, think of what happened at the Epiphany itself: Wise men from the east were led by a star to find the Christ child. This was the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles. Or think of the word, “Epiphany.” It means “manifestation,” “appearing,” a “shining forth.” In the Gospel readings for the Epiphany season, we see Jesus shining forth into a sin-darkened world. And now Christ uses his church to do that shining forth into the world. What Isaiah prophesied about Christ applies also to his church: “I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Today we’ll see how Christ will use us to be that light shining forth. Only we’re not going to talk about bringing salvation to the end of the earth. We’ll talk about bringing it to places right nearby. Local evangelism, personal witnessing–that’s our focus today. In today’s reading from John, there are several examples of personal witnessing. Of course, we need to first receive the good news for ourselves. Then, with our faith and forgiveness firmly established in Christ, we can hear God’s word for what it says about witnessing to others. But the gospel is powerful enough to do both, to bring the good news to us and to help us bring the good news to others. Today, then, we’ll pick up “Three Evangelism Pointers: Point, Invite, and Find.”

The first point then is to point! The “pointer” in our text is John the Baptist: “John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” John the Baptist points people to Jesus. John’s ministry was as a “pointer.” He pointed people to Jesus, to Christ crucified as the sacrifice for sin. That’s what John was doing when he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

There’s both law and gospel in this. Law, because John says, “the sin of the world.” Notice, he says “sin,” not “sins.” One commentator writes: “The singular ‘sin’ raises attention above individual sins (which people attempt to play down and excuse) to the abominable condition of the entire human race in its state of rebellion, separation from God, and spiritual death. It is this whole deadly mess which the Lamb of God removes, lifting it off us by his sacrifice.”

John says, “the sin of the world.” And we are the world! It is our sin, our part of the whole deadly mess, that’s included in “the sin of the world.” Think of a big ball of mud and dirt, as big as the world itself, and each one of us has contributed our part. It’s that whole world of sin, the sin of the world, that would crush each one of us and all of us together under its weight.

And so John preaches gospel, beautiful gospel, when he points us to “the Lamb of God, who takes away” the sin of the world! That huge boulder of guilt and death, weighing us down–Jesus comes and takes it away! Christ picks up that big ball of sin, lifts it off us, and puts it on his own shoulders and carries it to the cross. My friends, Jesus takes away all your sin, the whole deadly mess. Trust in him. In Christ, you are forgiven and free.

Jesus takes away the sin of the world, and he does it as “the Lamb of God.” What all the sacrificial animals of the Old Testament pointed ahead to, Christ fulfilled and accomplished. He shed his blood as our substitute, as our atoning sacrifice. Jesus died that we might live. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him”–on Christ, the Lamb of God–“the iniquity of us all.” This is what John is saying here when he calls Jesus “the Lamb of God.”

So our first evangelism “pointer” today is simply to be a John-the-Baptist kind of pointer. Point people to their Savior, Jesus Christ. “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” You and I know Jesus to be our Savior. He has taken away our sin. And this is why we want to point others to Christ also.

The first point is to point. The second evangelism pointer is to invite. And the one doing the inviting in our text today is Jesus himself. Two of John’s disciples hear John calling Jesus “the Lamb of God,” and they begin to follow Jesus. Then this happens: “Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, ‘What are you seeking?’ And they said to him, ‘Rabbi, where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and you will see.’ So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day.”

The curiosity of these two had been aroused, and Jesus took note of it. He stopped what he was doing and engaged them in conversation. He drew them out with an open-ended question: “What are you seeking?” They wanted to know where Jesus was staying, to go and find out more about him. Jesus simply says, “Come and you will see.” This is his invitation. Once they get to where Jesus is staying, then they can spend some time getting to know him better.

Now this is an example for us in our personal witnessing. In your daily encounters with people, you have opportunities to engage people in conversation. You can draw them out with open-ended questions. Or they may approach you with questions of their own. When you recognize those open doors, when the other person’s curiosity or interest has been piqued, what can you do then? Well, you don’t necessarily have to launch into an hour-long lecture on the person and work of Christ and the doctrine of justification. Although, if the interest is there, and you can do it in words the person will understand, who knows? But you might simply be able to invite the person and say, in effect, “Come and you will see.”

Invite people to come and see. Invite them to the place where Jesus is staying, where they can find out more about him. That would be the church. This church. Jesus is staying here, where his gospel is. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Jesus is here, really present, with us in our midst. And through the preaching and teaching of the gospel, Jesus is giving out his gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. So, one of the best things you can do is simply to invite your friend or family member to come and join you here in church. And you can do that with confidence, because this is where Jesus is staying.

Be an inviter. In a book called “The Inviting Church,” the author reports the results of a survey of newcomers in congregations from around the country. The survey asked, “What brought you to church?” The results? 2% had seen an advertisement; 6% came through an organized outreach program; 6% had been invited by a pastor; 86% came by invitation of a friend or family member. Did you catch that? 86% came because someone they knew invited them! A week ago, I heard results from a similar study: 3% joined a church because of the pastor. 85% joined because someone they knew invited them. It’s no surprise that friends and family members influence other friends and family members. And this is how the church grows.

So, who are the people you know–your friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors? Who are the people you have a relationship with? Are there people you know who don’t go to church? They may live right under your roof. Is there someone you know in your family or at work or in your neighborhood that you could invite to join you here at church or for Bible class? Wouldn’t it be great if St. Matthew’s could be known as “The Inviting Church”? That will happen when we invite the people we know to join us here at our church. Because this is where Jesus is. “Come and you will see.”

Point. Invite. And now our third evangelism pointer: Find. The “finder” in our text is Andrew, one of the two who came and saw. Andrew “first found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah.’” The invitee becomes the inviter! Andrew had been invited to come and see, and now he in turn finds someone else to invite. That’s often the way it goes. Jesus has invited us to come to him. We have been here where Jesus is. And what we’ve found here is so wonderful we can’t help but go and find somebody else to share our happiness. That’s what Andrew does. It’s the first thing he does. Andrew is excited and enthused because of his encounter with Jesus. He can’t wait to tell somebody what he found.

One day the Greek scientist Archimedes sat down in his bathtub to take a bath. He noticed that when he put his body in, the water rose and overflowed the tub. Suddenly the light came on in his mind. He had just figured out what in physics is called the principle of displacement. Well, old Archimedes was so excited that he got up out of the bathtub and started running down the street naked, yelling “Eureka!” which means, “I have found it!”

Well, I’m not advocating that you run up and down the streets of Bonne Terre in your birthday suit yelling, “Eureka!” I’m not sure that would be the most effective form of evangelism. But I am saying that you and I have found something much greater and way more exciting than what Archimedes discovered. It’s the good news of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Let that gospel be news for you once again! Think of how wonderful your Savior is. Think of all the great things he already has done for you and what he has in store for you in the future! For eternity! Do that, and you can’t help but have some of the enthusiasm of an Archimedes or an Andrew.

Andrew “first found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah.’” Note, Andrew found two people. He found the Messiah, and then he found his brother. As to his “finding” the Messiah: Who found whom? Of course, it was really Jesus who found Andrew. Just like Jesus finds us. We were lost and wandering in our sin, and Christ the Good Shepherd came and found us. Now in our excitement and sense of discovery, it may seem like we found him. And because of the joy that we have found in Christ, we want to go and find somebody else who needs Christ. So we go and we find our brother, our sister, our neighbor, our friend, our co-worker. And we say, “Wow, listen to what I have found!”

Today we have picked up three evangelism pointers: Point, invite, and find. We point people to Jesus and say, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” We invite our friends, saying, “Come and you will see.” And we find our brother and say, “We have found the Messiah.” Point, invite, and find. But the beginning point–and the ending point–is that Jesus has found you and invited you. Christ, the Lamb of God, has taken away your sin and invited you to his wedding feast! And through you, this same Jesus Christ continues to do the pointing, the inviting, and the finding. The Epiphany light is shining today! It is shining for us. And through us the light of Christ will shine forth to the people in our lives.

Published in: on January 18, 2020 at 10:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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