Evangelism Rooted In Election
2 Timothy 2:9b-10
Pastor Duane Smets
August 5th, 2018
I. God’s Master Plan
II. God’s Messengers
Good morning neighbors! I’m so excited to be with you this wonderful morning! I like being with you all. I like you.
For those who have been around here for a while, they know our normal practice during this part of our service is that we simply go through books of the Bible. So three weeks ago we finished our ninth book of the Bible together, going through the book of Luke, which took us a year and a half. Typically when we’re between books we’ll do a short topical series on something we feel would be good for our church for the season we’re in.
So last year when we were planning this month we thought it would be good and helpful for us to do a series on mission, providing some practical and doctrinal training on how God has designed and called us to reach the people in our city with His good news. And when we were thinking and praying about this I couldn’t help but think about what was hands down my favorite TV show growing up as a kid, “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood” and its theme “Won’t You Be My Neighbor.”
At the time I had no idea, honestly that there was a documentary film in the works with the same title that just came out in theaters last month. Which if you haven’t seen yet, you should check out. Our staff went to see it this week and it was wonderful.
Now I realize I’m getting old, turning 40 in three weeks and that there are some of you here who didn’t grow up watching Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, so I’ll just give you a really, really quick sketch of it. Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood was a half hour kid's show that is the longest running television series in history, running for thirty-three years, from 1968 to 2001.
It was a simple show, stripped down set, with a different topic each episode that Mr. Rogers would talk about, talk with his neighbor friends about and do a puppet show about. And the theme that ran through every episode was that every person has value and needs to know and experience love from another person.
Many people didn’t know that Mr. Rogers was also an ordained minister from the Presbyterian church who graduated from Pittsburg Seminary. Rogers explained his mission in life this way,
“Everyone longs to be loved. And the greatest thing we can do is to let people know that they are loved and capable of loving.”
“I believe that appreciation is a holy thing--that when we look for what's best in a person we happen to be with at the moment, we're doing what God does all the time. So in loving and appreciating our neighbor, we're participating in something sacred.”
Rogers believed everything was about love. So much so that he made the number 143 his number. One because “I” is one letter, four because “love” is four letters and “you” because its three letters. And get this, no joke, he stayed at 143 pounds for the entirety of his adult life, swimming every morning.
Jesus explained things very similarly. He also weighed 143 pounds His entire life and said the entire Bible and mission of God can be explained very simply and He said it this way,
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…and love your neighbor as yourself.” - Mark 12:30-31
So the heart and goal of this series, for the month of August is for us to learn how to love our neighbors well. We’re doing four weeks and what we’re going to do is focus on four different major biblical doctrines, election, regeneration, sanctification and glorification and see how everyone is inherently bound up in the mission of God for us to love our neighbors.
Today, the first week of it is election, so I titled my sermon, “Evangelism Rooted In Election” and we’ll look at one primary verse each week, this week’s verse being 2 Timothy 2:9-10 in the Bible. So why don’t you stand with me as I read it and then we’ll thank God for it and ask for His blessing in it.
2 Timothy 2:9b-10
“The word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”
First what I want to do this morning is explain this fancy ten letter word “evangelism” and then I’ve got just two points for us to walk through together, “God’s Master Plan” and “God’s Messengers.”
First this word, “Evangelism.” It’s actually just a fancy way of saying mission, but a very particular kind of mission. I actually did my whole Master’s thesis on one word, “Evangelist” and so I studied all the evangel words, their origin, background, meaning, and every place they showed up in the Bible. So I’m an expert on this, like a real expert. I wrote a book on it.
To be an evangelize or to do evangelism, is simply to bring or share the good news of Jesus with another person. Evangel is the good news or Gospel of Jesus and when you “ism” it is when you give it to others.
Now I like evangelism, a lot. I actually consider myself an evangelist. I really like hanging out with people who are not Christians yet. They’re usually a whole lot more fun than Christians and I really like talking to them about God and most the time they like talking to me about it. And I really like preaching. I love my job. I love that almost every week I get to get up here and tell you all how good Jesus is. I’m an evangelist.
But here’s the thing. Evangelism is not something God has only called people like me, people who are pastors, or who may be more naturally gifted or good at it, to do evangelism. Jesus calls all of His followers to tell others about who He is and what He has done.
“Go make disciples of all nations.” - Matthew 28:19
“Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” - Mark 16:15
“Repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed to all nations.” - Luke 24:47
“As the Father has sent me, even so, I am sending you.” - John 20:21
“You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” - Acts 1:8
So evangelism is clearly something Jesus has told His followers to do. Which means if you’re not evangelizing other people you’re not being obedient to the commands of Jesus. And if you’re not being obedient to what Jesus has asked you to do is it really fair to call yourself a Christian, a person who believes in and follows Jesus?
I’m not trying to be mean, I’m just saying evangelism is for everyone. In our primary passage for today, Paul talks about His evangelism, but he’s not talking about it to sort of prop himself up and say, “look at me and how great I am.” He’s saying it because he says he wants everyone else who reads this letter to follow his example. He even gets really explicit about it a few verses later in verse 14 and tells Timothy, the pastor of the church in Ephesus at the time, “Remind them (the church) of these things.” Remind them to do everything for the sake of the elect. Remind them to do evangelism.
Now here’s the thing. I know, because I’ve talked to a lot of you about it, both in my Leadership Development cohort and then most recently in our Theo 101 class that just wrapped up, I know evangelism scares most of you. I asked, pretty much every week, who had a conversation with someone this week about Jesus? And every week in class it would just be crickets.
As I probed deeper and have tried to listen there’s kind of two main things that I heard. One, many of you feel burdened by evangelism. Like you know it’s something you’re supposed to do but it just sounds and feels hard and weighty. And then a second thing, which is probably connected is that many of you feel scared and intimidated by it. Maybe you’ve tried and conversations haven’t gone well and it’s just frustrating and difficult.
Here’s what I want to say. Those are real feelings. Sometimes the call of Jesus to evangelize can feel like this really kind of ugh thing we rather not do. I hear you. That’s a real feeling. And feeling scared is real too. Sometimes people are really mean and harsh or emotional and when they are our natural tendency is to go into protective mode and avoid those kinds of conversations.
One of the things Mr. Rogers was really good on was emphasizing that our feelings matter, that it’s really important to acknowledge and face our feelings. He said this,
“Confronting our feelings and giving them appropriate expression always takes strength, not weakness.”
“I must be an emotional archaeologist because I keep looking for the roots of things, particularly the roots of behavior and why I feel certain ways about certain things.”
So that’s one of the reasons why we’re doing this series because those are real feelings and as your pastor, I want to help us to deal with our feeling and then learn how to respond to them. Ephesians 4:12 in the Bible says my job is to equip you for the ministry, particularly in this case the ministry of evangelism.
I think those feelings are normal. We read several times where Jesus’ disciples felt things like that. So what did Jesus do? He taught them and trained them and equipped them with how to be and do evangelism.
And I’ll just say this. Really everyone is an evangelist of something. Just think about it, whatever you’re into, you naturally try to get other people into it, evangelizing them into what you’re passionate about. I have a friend who’s really into golf he’s been trying to evangelize me to go play golf. My wife has really gotten into this health supplement that’s been really good for her so she’s been trying to evangelize everyone she knows to take it too. Another friend of mine is constantly trying to get me to convert to the Pixel phone instead of Apple.
You see we know evangelism. And it’s not bad to evangelize about those things. What Jesus is calling us to make sure that at the same time we evangelize Him.
So we know evangelism right? You guys get it. Alright. Let’s get into these two short points, one’s on doctrine, the why and one’s on practice, the how to. First the doctrine one, which I’m calling “God’s Master Plan.”
I. God’s Master Plan
No one is ever going to really do anything, at least for any sustainable amount of time, that they don’t really believe in and are convinced of. And I think one of the main, no not one of, but the main root of evangelism has to be anchored or rooted in election, what Paul, the author of 2 Timothy calls in our passage, “the elect.” And I think if we can understand that and get our heads around that it will give us great confidence to evangelize.
So let’s look at our passage again, 2 Timothy 2:9b-10-
“The word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”
That word, “elect” is a special Bible word and theme. It occurs all throughout the Bible whenever God talks about choosing people or electing them to be saved and to know Him and the Bible says that God selected or elected these people before the foundation of the world. So before He even created anything, God already decided and knew those who would be born who would come to know Him as His beloved sons and daughters. I’ll just give you a few passages so you can see it, there are literally hundreds.
“Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heavens of heavens, the earth and all that is in it; yet the LORD delighted in your fathers to love them and chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as to this day.” - Deuteronomy 10:14-15
So God chose who would be His people, both the people of old and all after believers in God after them, which includes us. This why the Israelites always referred to themselves as “the chosen people.” Jesus agrees and on one occasion told His disciples straight up in John 15:16- “You did not choose me, but I chose you.”
This is important when it comes down to it, none of us ever chooses God. If it were up to us we would always choose ourselves and not choose Him. It’s only when He chooses us and changes us that we then turn to Him.
And when did God make this choice? Ephesians 1:3-4 tells us in the Bible,
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world.”
Now if you really want to dig into this deeper, probably the best chapter you can read in the Bible is Romans 9 where it says and explains that God had a purpose and a plan in this election or in this choosing beginning with the very first two sons of Adam and Eve, Jacob, and Esau. So the elect is not just some ambiguous group, but a group of specific individuals God has determined out of all the fallen and lost people of the world to know Him and His eternal love.
Here’s why this is important in regards to evangelism. If it’s true that there are elect people then it gives great confidence to our evangelism because then the pressure is not on us to do or say everything right. The gospel, the good news of Jesus is not based on our lives and our works but Jesus’s.
I’ve got a friend who I been sharing Jesus with for years now, a surfing buddy of mine. We have some very deep conversations about God. I’ve actually prayed with Him a number of times. But he hasn’t become a Christian yet. I’m still praying for him.
One day he was telling me about some crazy lady who was trying to shove some Jesus flyer in his face and trying to pressure him to say some prayer. I think he said he told her to “F” off. So he was telling me the story and then he asked me, “Hey Duane, how come you’re not like that. I mean I know you’re a Christian and you’d like me to become one but how come you’re not all high pressure and we’re just friends.”
I laughed and said, “Well dude, I figure if you’re going to become a Christian you’re going to become a Christian because ultimately that’s up to God. It’s just my job to talk to you about Him, but He’s the one that’s got bring you to the place where you believe.” He goes, “Huh, I like that. Let’s keep talking about this.”
You see when I look around at all my neighbors and my friends and I just figure they’re all probably elect because I get to come in contact with them and tell them about Jesus. Once you hear about Jesus it’s pretty tough to get Him out of your head. Now I don’t really know that but I think it’s important to think that way.
Everyone is a potential. You see it’s only God who knows who is elect are. We don’t. Probably one of my favorite books of all time is this little book called, “Evangelism and The Sovereignty of God” by J.I. Packer and he addresses this question and says,
“The non-elect in this world are faceless people as far as we are concerned. We know that they exist, but we do not and cannot know who they are, and it is as futile as it is impious for us to try and guess. The identity of the reprobate is one of God’s ‘secret things’ into which His people may not pry. Our calling as Christians is not to love God’s elect, and them only, but to love our neighbor, irrespective of whether or not he or she is elect or not.”
Some people think, “Well if there are elect people then God is just going to save them anyway and we don’t need to do anything.” Oh no no no. That is a major misunderstanding. You see God not only determines who the elect are but how they come to know and experience their election. It’s the difference between ends and means. Election the end and the means is how they get there.
And there are two major means. The first and most important one is Jesus. Our passage says the elect must “obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus.” It’s only through Jesus.
So if you’re here today and you’re sitting there and you wondering, “I’m I elect?” There’s an easy way to make your calling and election sure, just grab hold of Jesus. Grab on to Jesus. If you’re doing that, then that’s a pretty good sign. If you’re holding on to some other hope then I’d be concerned.
The second major means is mentioned in the little piece I stole from the end of verse 9, “the word of God is not bound.” God means for people hearing about Jesus is through us sharing what the Bible says about Him, sharing the good news of the Word of God.
Our job is simply to believe in and trust the Word of God to do the work of God. We’ve got to remember it’s not us who saves anyone. Only God can. Our job is to simply talk about God with our neighbors.
We kinda of cut in, in the middle of the chapter in 2 Timothy and even cut into the middle of the sentence. The situation and what it talks about before is how Paul, the author is actually writing in prison. He actually could have gotten out if he just dropped the whole Jesus thing, but he stayed and it was a trial for him. That’s why verse 10 says sometimes when you’re evangelizing you’ve got to endure some things.
It’s not always going to go well. Or at least seem like it’s going well. Sometimes you’ve got to endure and put up with some angry upset people, who say and do stupid things when you bring up the gospel. And that’s okay. Our confidence is not in it going well but in the word.
When we speak the word and share the message of Jesus I believe there is power in it. Like Romans 1:16 says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes.”
You see sometimes I think we don’t really believe the Bible. Wait, I’ll include myself because I’ve been challenging myself with this, sometimes we don’t really believe the Bible is God’s Word. We might say we do but when it comes down to it, we don’t really think so.
I’ll tell you a story. I go to the gym almost every morning and there’s a small group of us that are pretty much always there. A couple of months ago when we were having the Men’s Retreat I really felt like God wanted me to invite them but I was having a hard time. So I finally got up the courage to invite one of the dudes and he was actually pretty cool about it and interested but couldn’t make it.
A number of weeks go by and there were a number of times during those weeks when I felt like I should invite him to church but I didn’t. Then one day he came up to me and he said, “Hey Duane, does your church have anything for kids?” And right away I just felt this little stab of conviction in my heart. I shared with him all about our church and stuff and then I literally apologized to him. I said, “Hey Drew, I’m sorry I should’ve invited you before, I’d really love to have you come.”
You see, sometimes even I, for whatever reason get scared and intimated about doing something as simple as inviting someone to church. And what that boils down to are these pockets of unbelief in my heart about whether God and His Word and its message are really good and powerful and that God will work through it if I just open my mouth.
But the Word of God is not bound. It will work. When we share the goodness of Jesus and His church God will work. God’s master plan is His election and His word. God has elected people, so we can go out with confidence sharing the Word knowing that some will actually respond!
Election is the theological ground of evangelism. If God didn’t elect anyone and it was all up to us to somehow win arguments and convince people and twist their arms to believe then it would be a hopeless project and mission. But if He did then we have great confidence to go out in assurance that some will believe and obtain salvation!
Alright. That’s the doctrine piece. Now let’s just talk some practicals in this second and final point, “God’s Messengers.”
II. God’s Messengers
One of the ways that Jesus talked about the mission of evangelism is in this way, He says in John 10:16,
“I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
So there are other people out there, lost sons and daughters of God, elect sheep that must be brought in. And Jesus work, His mission, that He gives to us is to bring them in. It’s what Jesus is all about. He said in Luke 19:10 that He "came to seek and to save the lost.”
So just for a couple minutes, I want us to talk about our neighbors and what it looks like to apply this stuff and be a church on mission. It’s my heart and desire to constantly put the mission in front of us because I know how human nature works.
We have a wonderful thing here, this is a great community isn’t it? I love our church. And I see you loving one another. It’s beautiful and amazing. But there’s a danger in it. Pretty much all churches face it if they get past 5-7 years and that is this gravitational inward pull where we can so easily just focus on us and who we are as a church and what we’re doing.
The danger is that then we become a come and see church instead of a go and be church. Jesus has called us to go out. Yeah, we’re to gather on Sundays together, but then we’re to go out and scatter and spread the goodness of Jesus.
So here’s what I want us to think about. Think about two spheres, literal neighbors and friend neighbors. First, your literal neighbors. Do you know your neighbors? I mean the people that live to the left and the right of you and the people across the street from you. Do you even know their names? Then beyond that, do you know them? Do you know any of their stories? Have you spent time with them? Have they been in your house? Have you been in theirs? Do you do things for each other?
You see, some of you have neighbors but their not your neighbors? Are you not neighborly? And I want to invite you to turn to your neighbors and say in your heart, “won’t you be my neighbor”?
I’ll tell you about some of my neighbors. Across the street are Alan and Monica. Alan is an engineer and a mechanic. He works on and fixes up Baja style trucks that he takes out to the dunes. They’re like trucks that you can jump and he’s always working on them, buying and selling them. He’s pretty quiet so I’ll go over there and ask to borrow tools I already have just to try and get to know him. Monica is in insurance. She recently got in a car accident. She’s pretty quiet too but has this little black dog she loves.
Next to them is Adam and Carrie, who’ve become good friends. They’ve been over to our house and us to theirs multiple times. About four months ago Adam ended up in the hospital for pancreatitis from alcohol, cause he likes to drink. Carrie showed up on our doorstep crying one night so my wife and I just held her and prayed for her. We’ve been able to share the Gospel with her multiple times. For a while, it didn’t look like Adam was going to make it but he’s finally starting to recover. We’ve been helping her out taking her dog for walks or when she’s at the hospital. My youngest daughter is always praying for them to know Jesus and every morning looks out the window and once Carrie comes out and says, “Hi Carrie!” Carrie says it’s her favorite part of every day.
On the left side of our house is Sue. Sue came to the US from Japan a number of years ago. She’s become very dear to us. Last year she had a boyfriend who moved in who I started to make friends with. Turns out he was battling some serious depression and hung himself in her garage. When it happened there was a group of neighbors knocking on my door asking me what to do because they said, “you’re the pastor.” So I said, “Okay, well, let’s all hold hands and pray first” And they did. We’ve had multiple opportunities to share Jesus with Sue and she simply loves us and our girls. When we were on vacation she took care of our bunny and mail and we simply love Sue.
Then there’s Mario two doors down. Mario is a kick. He’ll just come over randomly to hang out and talk about whatever. He’s become a good friend. He works for the Port of San Diego and loves to drink beer, smoke cigars and laugh. He’s just a good time. We’ve served on jury duty together and he’s become a good friend. He’s told me he’s not into God but I’ve invited Him to Easter every year anyway. This last year, he said he couldn’t come because of some previous thing going on but he said, “Next year Duane I’ll come because I love you, man.”
These are just a few of my neighbors and my heart breaks for my neighbors to know the goodness of Christ. I think they’re elect, it’s just a matter of time. And I’m not telling you all of that to brag. I’m just saying like Paul did, follow me as I follow Christ. Get to know your neighbors and invite them into your life and invite yourself into theirs. And look for opportunities to bring up Jesus.
And it’s not just our physical neighbors. There’s the second sphere, the neighbors who may not live close to us but are people you know or regularly see and can invite into your life. They’re my neighbors at my gym I'm on mission for, Brandon and Jason. I met this dude at the beach named Chris and the following week we had him over to our house. He’s from Colorado and told his parents he found his new family. I don’t why he likes us. He just sits around smoking his weed pen, but Chris is great! He actually told us he thought when he came over we had invited him to Bible study!
My wife and kids are on it, going to the pool with friends and moms from school. Amy simply kills it by building relationships with people. The other week we were invited to this pool party at one of her hairstylist friends house and there were a bunch of people there and I got to share the gospel with like 10 people there who had never heard it before. I’d say about half of the people we hang out with in life are people who are not Christians or a part of our church yet. Elect people on their way in.
Is there room in your life for neighbors? God’s heart and desire is to draw people in. Our passage says it gives Him glory. Everything is about relationship and if you open up your heart and your time to people opportunities will come up to talk about God. I find that most people actually want to talk about God.
You don’t have to have all the answers. Sometimes just asking questions and asking people what they think is the best. Mr. Rogers said it this way,
“Listening and trying to understand the needs of those we would communicate with seems to me to be the essential prerequisite of any real communication.
“Listening is where love begins: listening to ourselves and then to our neighbors.”
“The best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.”
Everything that happens through relationship. Evangelism happens through relationship. Relationship happens through listening and then talking. With people in our day and age and culture so many need to be listened to first before they’re ready to listen to us. But when we listen first then we’re able to share the love we have.
Rogers says, someone talked you into talking, sung you into singing and if you’re going to love is because someone loves you into loving.
This is what Jesus did. He came down to be in relationship with us so we might know His love and share it with others. We are God’s messengers and there is tons of opportunity out there. Sometimes I envy you all because you have jobs where you get to be around unbelievers every day! That’s awesome. So many people who could be your neighbor. I have to work hard to go out of my way to find neighbors. There is so much opportunity for us as a church.
So here’s what we’re doing this month. I’m calling it the Be My Neighbor Challenge. I really want to challenge you to “be doers of the word and not hearers only (James 1:22).” So here are a number of ways you can participate in the Be My Neighbor Challenge, pick at least one to do this month!
- Prayer: Pick one person you know who isn’t a Christian and pray for them every day this month.
- Invite Cards: Pick up a stack of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” invite cards at the Connect Booth and make it your goal to give out at least one a week.
- Party: Throw a party for your neighbors at your house just to get to know them and enjoy them.
- Dinner: Invite someone over or out for dinner who you’ve never eaten with.
- Gifts: Show up at your neighbor’s house with a gift for them just to let them know you care about them.
- Clubs: Join a club (supper club, book club, drink club, game club) or sports league to make some new friends.
- X-Factor: God may put something else on your heart, be open and obedient to His calling!
Join in and see what God will do. I’ll conclude with one last Mr. Rogers quotes,
“Imagine what our real neighbors would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person. There have been so many stories about the lack of courtesy, the impatience of today's world, road rage and even restaurant rage. Sometimes, all it takes is one kind word to nourish another person. Think of the ripple effect that can be created when we nourish someone. One kind empathetic word has a wonderful way of turning into many.”
Imagine what God might do by opening our hearts to bring elect neighbors into His fold.