I find evangelism hard.
The problem with being an evangelist is that people assume you find evangelism effortless: but I don’t find it easy, and never have. For me, telling people about Jesus has often been nerve-wracking. But it has been joyful.
So here are three truths that have helped motivate me over the years:
1. The glory of Jesus
The glory of something is its weight, its unique worth. It’s what sets something apart in an inimitable way. God’s glory is too much to take in, but in Jesus we see the nature and presence of God flood out. What is our response to be to this glory? When John saw the risen Jesus in his glory on Patmos, he says, ‘I fell at his feet as though dead’ (Revelation 1:17.) The theologian Abraham Kuyper put it like this: ‘There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, “Mine!’’’
But the glory of Jesus is not just in his power and authority, supreme as those are. To hallow his name is to be overwhelmed by the sweetness of his sacrifice. Can you see what the one with all authority was doing for you? Can you see how he loved you? He was dying for you. And the only response to the one with all power being crushed in our place is to echo the chorus of the hymn we sing each Christmas: O come, let us adore him. So it should grieve us when Jesus is not adored, not worshipped, when his glory is not acknowledged – when he’s ignored, sidelined and derided. It should grieve us when that happens in our hearts and lives, and when it happens in the hearts and lives of those around us. The closer you get to Jesus – the more you read of him in the Bible and see him at work in your life – the more glory you will see and the more you will long for him to be treated as he deserves. This needs to be personal. This needs to be emotional. When we see Jesus’ name dishonoured, we need to pray against apathy. We need to pray for the heart of Paul, who was greatly distressed to see the godlessness of Athens, and so he spoke.
‘Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities” – because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.’ (Acts 17:16-18)
2. The grim reality of death and hell
Hell as Jesus describes it is final, and fixed. There are no more chances – God gives people this life to make their decision. Life with him or life without him. Jesus talked about hell because he doesn’t want people to go there – he died so that people wouldn’t have to go there. The only way to get to hell is to trample the cross of Jesus.
We must beware of living as functional atheists. Deep down, I know hell is real and terrible. And on a Sunday I sing about faith in Jesus being the only way it can be avoided. But Monday to Friday, interacting with those who are rejecting Jesus, I live as though it isn’t true. I live as though hell isn’t where they’re heading and so I don’t say anything. This came home to me clearly when I was at university. A friend played a sermon I’d preached on John 1:29 to another friend of mine, Dave, on our rugby team. In it, I simply and starkly said that either we pay for our sin in hell or the Lamb pays for us on the cross. Dave got very upset. He said: ‘If that’s what Rico believes, the fact he’s said nothing to me in months means he’s really not my friend.’ And Dave was right. If I’d really loved him, I’d have warned him about hell, shown him the cross and invited him to trust in Jesus and spend eternity with him in the new creation.
3. The guarantee of the new creation
Are you certain about eternity? And perhaps more importantly, are you excited about eternity? In your mind, is the new creation wonderful? And why? If it isn’t, then we won’t be excited about telling other people that they can enjoy it forever too. Evangelism is like pointing a parched friend to the fountain. You and I have found the fountain; many others have not. Our joyful privilege is to tell them where it is to be found, by telling them about Jesus.
So why witness? Because the new creation is wonderful and the future is certain. Maybe we should read Revelation 21 and 22 each day when we get up. If we’re excited about where we’re heading towards, we’ll be motivated to tell others that they can be heading there too.
‘Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.’ (Revelation 22:1-5)
This article - which first appeared in Changing London - is a compilation of excerpts from Rico Tice's book, Honest Evangelism, available to order from The Good Book Company (www.thegoodbook.co.uk).