Norman Cates shared the humorous story of a guy who prayed this prayer every morning: "Lord, if you want me to witness to someone today, please give me a sign to show me who it is."
One day he found himself on a bus when a big, burly man sat next to him. The bus was nearly empty but this guy sat next to our praying friend. The timid Christian anxiously waited for his stop so he could exit the bus. But before he could get very nervous about the man next to him, the big guy burst into tears and began to weep. He then cried out with a loud voice, "I need to be saved. I’m a lost sinner and I need the Lord. Won’t somebody tell me how to be saved?" He turned to the Christian and pleaded, "Can you show me how to be saved?" The believer immediately bowed his head and prayed, "Lord, is this a sign?"
Are you looking for a "sign" to start sharing the gospel? Far too many are seeking signs, aren't they? If I recall, our Lord had a bit of a problem with that (Luke 11:16, 29-30).
“It is not what men eat but what they digest that makes them strong;
Not what we gain but what we save that makes us rich;
Not what we read but what we remember that makes us learned;
Not what we preach but what we practice that makes us Christians.”
- Sir Francis Bacon
Ecclesiastes 3:11 - "He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart..."
Take time to work -
It is the price of success.
Take time to play -
It is the secret of youth.
Take time to read -
It is the secret of knowledge.
Take time to laugh -
It is the music of the soul.
Take time to be kind -
It is the hand of God.
Take time to pray -
It is the privilege of faith.
- Author Unknown
There’s a story told of a country church which had a creeper - maybe an ivy plant - growing up by the porch doorway. Over the doorway was a text carved in stone, "We preach Christ crucified." Over the years the plant grew steadily, and a branch gradually spread over the doorway. The first word of the text covered by the leaves of the plant was "crucified" which reduced the text to "We preach Christ." Well, we might think, that’s unfortunate but the essential part of our faith is still there. As time went on the branch spread further and covered over the word "Christ." Now, this was serious, but no-one seemed to notice, as the advertised message of the church to the world outside was reduced to "We preach." We preach. No one in the church thought a thing about it – because it was true. They preached. Every Sunday morning, every Sunday night. A Spring meeting, a Fall revival. Every year, they preached, and they preached a lot. And the plant continued to grow – even if the church was not. Soon it obscured the second word of the phrase – and now all the sign said was “We.” We. And the message remained true. It was all about them – on the sign, and in the church, and in their hearts.
We know what Paul wrote about that to the Corinthians, right? 1 Corinthians 1:21 “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
We preach Christ crucified. I think that is what you want, what you expect. I know its what I want and what I expect. Both in my work as a preacher and in my day-to-day life as a Christian citizen. I hope we all feel the same.
But it is not easy today, is it? We look around and we don’t see people flocking to our assemblies to hear Christ preached, do we? Even baptized believers sometimes! But certainly not the public in general. There are no great crowds to hear the message, and it is not easy to invite someone these days and to get a “yes,” is it? I’ll assume we haven’t given up, that we are still inviting, that we are still faithfully living Christ before the world, and often inviting others to hear the gospel, to study the Bible. If not, why not? The Lord’s commission to us has not changed – I have not got that memo yet, have you? When you are in the fishing for men business, there are season when they do not bite. That does not mean we quit fishing.
We preach Christ crucified.
30 years ago, two shoe salesmen were sent to Nigeria to survey the country for the possibility of building a shoe factory. The first salesman came back and said, "Almost nobody here wears shoes, so there is little need to build a new shoe factory in Nigeria.” The second came back to London and said, "This is the greatest opportunity we have ever had. Everybody I saw needs a good pair of shoes."
Now I want you to think about that for a minute and compare it to how you and I look at our evangelistic task. We are surrounded by people, are we not, who do not wear shoes? What do I mean? You remember Paul’s “armor of God” image in Ephesians 6? The sword of the Spirit, the breastplate of righteousness? Remember what went on the feet? “The gospel of peace.” Not many people that we pass by every day are wearing the gospel on their feet. They are walking around without spiritual shoes. A bunch of barefoot people in Vienna, and Parkersburg, and Wood County, and West Virginia – and all across our country. Most everyone you meet is without shoes…
You are a shoe salesman. How do you look at it?
Nobody wears shoes here! Better close up shop and look for something else to do!
Or…Everybody around here needs shoes! I’ve got the very thing they need!!
We say – we say – we want it to be what it was like in the first century. In the first century, when Paul went to Galatia – no one wore shoes. In Thessalonica, no one wore shoes. In Corinth, in Ephesus – no shoes. Paul and his team had exactly what they needed – what everybody needed - the gospel of Jesus Christ. And they put gospel shoes on as many as they could.
We preach Christ crucified. What about us? Is that still the message over our door? Or has it become, maybe, “We preach,” or worse, “We.” The answer can be found in your shoe supply.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Quickly, God was faced with a class action suit for failure to file an environmental impact statement. God was granted a temporary permit for the project but was stymied with a “cease and desist” order for the earthly part. Then God said, "Let there be light!"
Immediately, the officials demanded to know how the light would be made. Would there be strip mining? What about thermal pollution? God explained that the light would come from a large ball of fire. God was granted provisional permission to make light, assuming that no smoke would result from the ball of fire, and that he would obtain a building permit. To conserve energy, He would have the light out half the time. God agreed and offered to call the light "Day" and the darkness "Night". The officials replied that they were not interested in semantics.
God said, "Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit." The EPA agreed, so long as only native seed was used.
Then God said, "Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth." The officials pointed out that this would require approval from the Department of Game coordinated with the Heavenly Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society.
Everything was okay until God said the project would be completed in six days. The officials said it would take at least two hundred days to review the applications and the impact statement. After that there would be a public hearing. Then there would be ten to twelve months before...
And at this point, God created Hell.